Three Ways Republicans Can Suck Less

The GOP doesn't have to abandon conservatism to win elections. It just has to abandon the crazy.

So, Republicans, you lost to President Obama. How are you going to win the next election?

Yes, two weeks have passed since the election, and yes, Mitt Romney appears to have begun his post-election shame spiral. (Look away, kids, look away.) And yes, all kinds of liberal commentators are out there giving you free advice about how to improve Republican prospects in the next election—especially among the non-white-dude voters who provided much of Obama’s coalition—most of which boils down to “be more liberal.”

Me, I’m liberal, but I think the GOP can expand its appeal by being true to its own beliefs and core philosophies. And I think three big efforts will go a long way toward expanding the party’s appeal.

• Pass The DREAM Act. You hate being called racist. Hate it. But look at the poll numbers again—Mitt Romney got the support of the white dudes and President Obama got everybody else. Those non-white-dude voters think you’re not on their side. You can gripe about the unfairness of it all, or you can resolve to win elections and address this.

And the easiest way to start is by passing The DREAM Act, which paves a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States, by requiring them to serve in the military or get a college degree. A big concern among anti-immigration conservatives is that the recent wave of Hispanic immigrants isn’t assimilating like previous generations did. That concern is way overblown, but the truth is that the kids covered by The Dream Act already have assimilated to a large degree—they’re Americans, they just don’t have the paperwork. You can continue to punish them for the sins of their parents (and perpetuate the idea that you just don’t like brown people) or you help them build better lives through service to the country.

Is this actually conservative? Well, The Dream Act originated with Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican. So I’ll say it can be conservative, if conservatives want it to be.

• Be pro-free markets, not pro-big business. Republicans spent a lot of the recent election cycle accusing Democrats of “crony capitalism,” cozying up to favored businesses and industries and helping them with the power of government. But the attack never caught on—even though it was sometimes fair—because everybody knows that the GOP is just as guilty of this particular sin.

Being pro-market means being against banks being “too big to fail.” Being pro-market means keeping banks small enough that the failure of one won’t upend the entire economic system—which means government can allow it to fail. Being pro-market means fixing copyright law so that it benefits more idea-makers and entrepreneurs instead of just protecting the revenue streams of giant corporations. Being pro-market means that if you really hate crony capitalism, you immediately weed out the system of corporate welfare before you ever again complain about the 47 percent of Americans supposedly looking for handouts.

Americans are fair-minded. They’re not prone to class jealousy, even when they maybe should be. Convince them you’re for a real level playing field, Republicans, and you might win their hearts back.

• Stop being crazy. Stop hanging out with Donald Trump. Stop hanging out with members of congress who believe President Obama has secret mind-control powers. Stop giving your approval to members of the Georgia Legislature who believe the U.N. is undermining American freedom with “Agenda 21.” Stop letting your followers rest easy in the idea that President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. Stop with the secession talk. Stop doing a million other things. Just stop.

This might be the hardest one to pull off, because it appears from the outside that the GOP identity is so closely tied to the most outlandish beliefs of its base. But the rest of the country looks at those beliefs and flees. But there’s no reason that “limited government” means “insane.”  There’s no reason that favoring a strong military means believing boogety-boogety-boogety. If you want the power and responsibility to govern again, then for the love of God stop hanging out with your weird friends.

If conservatism is what it says it is—colorblind, pro-market, pro-limited government—then these fixes shouldn’t be too hard. There’s no reason that Republicans can’t win elections again. They just have to be true to their best selves.