Republicans, who have won the popular vote in just one presidential election since 1992, need to do things differently if they want to win the White House again. It’s one thing to win a rejection election against the party in charge; it’s another to prove to the voters that you have ideas and are ready to govern. While U.S. demographic changes are important, nothing attracts voters more than an appealing ideology.
The first thing Republicans need is a specific and positive agenda. Everyone knows the GOP stands against President Obama, and it was rewarded for that Tuesday. But to win in a presidential year, GOP presidential candidates, who will define the image of the party, need to be the candidates with ideas. Growth-oriented reform of the individual tax code, corporate tax reform, a replacement for Obamacare, anti-poverty measures that work, exporting energy, a military buildup — all of these areas can be part of a campaign that gives voters a reason to vote for someone, rather than against someone else.
Along the way, Republicans must communicate and act in a more open and inclusive manner. Statements about “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants, for example, alienate voters who would otherwise be open to Republican ideas. It is high time for the GOP to move forward on immigration reform. Immigration isn’t the only issue that Hispanics care about, but a willingness to move forward on reform will be instrumental in letting immigrants know they are important to and welcome in the party. A compromise needs to be found that respects the rule of law while allowing people who came to the United States seeking opportunity to find it.