If you want to know why Barack Obama was able to win ... well, I don't want to say "easily" since it could very well have been messed up, but handily, just ask your conservative friends their reaction to the election. Outside of a few stragglers, you aren't going to hear them say, "I can't believe Romney didn't win." Their reactions are probably going to range from "That was a terrible campaign" to "Crap. Now Obamacare is coming."
The major reason it wasn't close, as much as Democrats would like it to be otherwise, is that Romney essentially used the tortoise strategy, not realizing that it works as a parable precisely because it doesn't work in real life. The hare always wins.
Naturally, though, Republicans are going to wonder what the heck is going on. For the next few months at least, their attitudes toward the US election results are going to range from depression to anger to acceptance. During this time, they are going to wonder if their country is doomed, they are going to talk about every younger Republican politician like they are the next big thing. They are going to become obstructionists, and are going to work really hard to take back the Senate in 2014.
Essentially, they are going to turn into Democrats circa 2004. And people are going to wonder if they need to dramatically change their attitudes, positions, or ideology in order to effectively regroup.
I am going to tell you what I think should happen over the next four or so years within the Republican party if they want to rebound. While I think there is going to be a significant shift within the ranks, I actually think they will change much less than we might think.
For starters, the Republicans need to realize they don't need to do very much right off the bat. Their major goal should be 2014, not 2016. The one thing they do need to do is put out one, consistent message. Making the message about the economy right now is probably a waste of time, since the economy will either still be blah in 2014 or it will get better. I'll come back to this.
The second thing they need to do, and this is half of the major shift I am talking about, is come up with a reasonable heuristic solution for the "entitlements" they love to rail about. I think that Republicans tend to talk about how evil the "entitlements" are so that they either sound calloused or impotent when the entitlements exist. However, if they came up with a reasonable plan for providing basic services like, say, women's health, they would be able to enter the conversation and give off a much better vibe.
Finally, the second major shift would be to drop some significant issues down a few pegs. Being an anti-abortion, tax-cutting fiend is probably going to have to stop being the standard of Republican politicians. They need to reframe these same points in language that doesn't connote such a strong sense of economic hierarchy based solely on white dudes. By doing this, they would be able to bring back into the fold many disaffected Republicans and newer independents.
So what the Republicans need to do is a pretty significant trick. They need to become quite a bit more libertarian and less evangelical in their language. At the same time, they need to take just a little wind out of the liberal sails by coming up with a real plan to provide services heretofore unpopular amongst conservatives. They also, I think, have a real opportunity to pursue higher education reform.
The shift that I think the Republicans need to undergo is already happening. But they need more than just a big dose of libertarianism. They need to be able to discuss the issues with a plan of action rather than a language of exclusion.
— Greg Bearringer is a graduate student in history. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.