Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 10, 2008

The future of the GOP

Here we are almost a week after the historic election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first biracial and African-American president.  There has been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere as to whether the election was truly for Barack Obama or against George W. Bush and the Republican Party policies of the past 8 years.  Many will debate the answer to that question and I will leave that in their capable hands.  My concern today is what will the next four or eight years hold and what will the response of the Republican Party be to the Obama presidency?

It seems to me that the republicans have a couple of choices, none of which are ultimately going to please the entire party.

1)  The party can console itself that this election wasn’t really a referendum on republican ideas as much as it was a response to the current economic crisis.  In other words, had economic times been better the party would have held the White House for 3rd consecutive election, something very difficult to do in modern times.  In fact, it has only been done once, in 1988, since FDR won his 3rd term in 1940.  The party controlling the White House has come close on three other occasions, the republicans with Richard Nixon in 1960 (lost by .2%), Gerald Ford in 1976 (lost by 2.1%), and the democrats with Al Gore in 2000 (won popular vote by .5% but lost Electoral College by 5 votes).  So the deck was stacked against the GOP in 2008.

2)  The party can see this election as a repudiation of hard-right politics and policies and move in a more centrist manner.  Governing in America is always done from a center-right oe center-left position anyway.  The pluralistic nature of the American electorate always pulls presidents back toward the center when they drift away.  The same can be said of any party that wants to retain its status as a major player in American politics.  If the democrats were as kooky as the republicans often say they would never be entrusted with the reins of government.  The reverse is true of the republicans.  So option #2 is move to the center, which will anger and alienate many conservative ideologues but attract moderates.

3)  The party can retrench itself on the basis of strong conservative thinkers like the late William F. Buckley.  Doing so means shedding its association with the interest groups that threaten to tear it apart every four years such as the socially conservative evangelicals.  But can the party win national elections without at least paying lip service to the issues these voters care about?  I think it can but it may spend quite a few elections in the wilderness trying to find its way.

4)  The party can resort to being divisive and obstructionist over the next four or eight years and hope that the Obama presidency results in bad times for America.  The surest way to regain power would be to allow the recession to become a depression or have America suffer a devastating terrorist attack.  I’m not saying the republicans WANT either of these things to happen but for the sake of political expediency one never knows.

Now, the question is, which of these paths is the party more likely to take?  I have a hunch but I’ll keep that to myself for right now.  Hint:  It probably won’t be any of the first three options.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  I truly hope I’m wrong but House minority leader John Boehner indicated the direction he would take the party when he launched into an all out attack on President-elect Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel.  For heaven’s sake, John, give the guy a chance to screw up before you dump on him!



  1. I totally agree with your last paragraph Rob. I was listening to talk radio to get a pulse on things and one lady said “I don’t see any change yet”.
    I think this sums up the attitude with many who are not even waiting for mistakes, but judging harshly before any actions have been taken!

    I thought of this after a recent meeting with some of those at my church. They were talking about how extreme Obama’s supporters are and how Socialist he is (never mind Bush’s nationalizing of banks, insurance companies etc). Across the table from this talk was a Kenyan man at our church who is from the same tribe as Obama’s father. I kind of felt for my friend as any hint of this votes historic nature or positive aspects are not seen whatsoever. This type of politics today seems to justify in Christians the freedom to harbor malice in our hearts and words. Didn’t Jesus called for us to love our enemies?

    This isn’t to say Jesus never uttered harsh words but they were usually uttered at those representing God but living for the world.

    I feel angry toward my brothers in Christ who are so taken in by the ideological battles of our day. Not that some battles aren’t worth fighting such as the murder of voiceless children. How do you stand for the voiceless preborn children and at the same time love those who advocate infanticide? How do you speak strongly for truth
    without poison and malice in your words and methods?
    These are just questions I have Rob. I feel many Christians appreciated Obama’s way of holding back criticism and poison as I did. The untold death of many without insurance in our country, the deaths of thousands of soldiers overseas, the immoral support of business and stock holders with no accountability except a worn out evolutionary economic philosophy that everything will just work out because self interest will drive out the bad. Republicans are divided because their hearts are divided. I think Lincoln said something about this . . .

    My hunch is that things like micro investments overseas for the pennyless, crisis pregnancy centers at home for the desperate and hurting, Christians who commit to their marriage partners for life are what will persuade. When we begin judging our personal actions more harshly in the church, then we might have more of a moral fiber to be the salt and light were called to be.

    Too many of us are like ‘pop mechanics’. We know so much about everything be it sex, God, politics, religion. But how much do we really know in the sense of putting the other partner first, walking with God in closeness like Moses, reading and listening to the opponents position with humility and appreciation that we actually might learn something valuable (be it politics or religion). Our times see the fulfillment of the prophecy “The hearts of many will grow cold. . ”

    I’m not sure of the way ahead for those “caught in the middle”. I think part of it is being uncompromising in principal yet being willing to be called a “friend of sinners” in the other sense.

    Thanks for letting me get this off my chest Rob!
    Your in the journey, Phil

  2. Phil,

    I hear what you are saying. As a life long member of the GOP who has been disappointed by them time and time again I finally learned that putting my hope in politicians, laws, etc…, to accomplish God’s work on this earth is futile.

    How will we end the slaughter of voiceless children in this nation? First and foremost, I think, is to reach the women who see abortion as an option with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Changed lives result in changed hearts. Law, unfortunately, only stirs our resolve to be lawbreakers as Paul indicates in Romans 7.

    Second, a substantial increase in education and pregnancy prevention funding, especially in the impoverished communities most affected by abortion. Failing to do this, I believe, will only lead to more and more abortions.

    Soli Deo Gloria

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