The Republican Party has no excuse for its failure to win control of the Senate in this year’s midterm elections. Facing record-high inflation, an unpopular President, and a general malaise across the country, the GOP should have gained control of the Senate, racked up a sizeable majority in the House, and flipped Governorships all across the country. Instead, Democrats remain in control of the Senate, the House majority will be slim at best, and won several Governors’ races that should have gone to the GOP.
Like a football team that blew a winnable game, the GOP needs to sit in the film room and figure out what went wrong. When they figure out where they fell short, they need to change the game plan for 2024. If I may be so bold, I have a few words of advice.
First, Republicans need to have an identifiable message beyond “things will fall apart if the other guys are in charge.” Until recent history, the modern-day Republican Party had been a party of ideas–small government, personal freedom, fiscal responsibility, and a strong military. You knew that this is what you were getting when you voted Republican; until it wasn’t.
At some point, the GOP decided they would double down on grievance and anger. They say the Democrats will wreck the economy, but they don’t have a coherent message to explain what they would do instead. They insist the Democrats are opening up the border so hordes of undocumented migrants can enter the country but don’t have real policy proposals beyond Trump’s border wall. They tell us the Democratic-run cities are infested by drugs and crime but don’t have a plan for dealing with spiraling gun violence. The GOP does not have a message, and they need one desperately.
The GOP must also lose its fascination with celebrity candidates. Republicans have railed for years about Hollywood elites but have no qualms about running unqualified celebrity candidates for high offices. Look at the most recent midterms. The GOP blew their opportunity to take control of the Senate because they chose Hershel Walker and Dr. Oz as their candidates in two winnable contests in purple states.
The only time this strategy worked was in Alabama, which is a place where the Republican Party never loses in statewide races. Voters elected Trump-endorsed former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville refused to debate his challengers and struggled to articulate a platform beyond “I’m with Trump.” With the retirement of Richard Shelby, he is now the state’s Senior Senator. Shelby strengthened the state’s economy by securing federal money for projects that would bring in jobs. Tuberville does not seem to have the knowledge, patience, or political power to deliver the same results, and the state will pay the price in the future.
My third suggestion is closely related to the second. Focus on competent governance. Instead of giving the party to celebrities and people devoted to social media theatrics, work hard to govern competently when in power and let the results deliver elections.
We just saw the power of this principle at work in Florida and Georgia. Governors Ron Desantis and Brian Kemp won comfortably in their reelection bids. This was due in large part to how well they had governed over the previous four years. Desantis expanded his voting block significantly from his 2018 gubernatorial race. He led the state through the COVID crisis, coordinated the response to numerous natural disasters, and took strong but measured stances on culture war issues. This provides a great model for the party going forward.
Finally, the Republican Party has to stop playing footsie with antisemites and white supremacists. This should go without saying, and I had not planned on bringing this point up, but President Trump spent this past weekend dining with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes. (If you don’t know who Nick Fuentes is, let me save you a Google search. He is a 24-year-old with a glorified podcast that attracts a large audience by denying the Holocaust and saying the United States should not be a democracy. He thinks the US should reelect Trump and then cancel all future elections. He also identifies with the “incel” movement and has spouted bizarre beliefs about marriage and sexuality.)
This gets back to focusing on issues. When the GOP deals with kitchen table issues and draws a clear contrast with Democrats, they attract a significant number of minority voters. It broadens the party’s appeal and delivers sizeable victories. Giving racists a toehold in the party is immoral and denies everything that America stands for. To make matters worse, it runs away voters who are dissatisfied with the Democratic Party. Courting racists and antisemites is a lose-lose-lose proposition.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”