Surveying the smoldering wreckage of the Republican Party, Republicans and conservatives are looking to rebuild. But we must pay careful attention to planning what to do. More of the same won't cut it.
This series of posts will try to lay out "the right agenda" to get Republicans and conservatives back on track.
At the top of the agenda must be new leadership. The same people who have failed so disastrously must not be rewarded by putting them in charge again.
The Bush administration is leaving Washington, so there is no need to spell out their failures just this moment.
How about Republicans in Congress? Their leadership has been mediocre at best. Perhaps the most significant failure was the fact that they supported the 'crap sandwich' trillion-dollar corporate welfare bailout of failed banks. A majority of house Republicans actually voted against the first version of this wildly unpopular bill, but House Republican leader John Boehner urged them to vote for it, and even coined the term 'crap sandwich' to describe it. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell similarly supported the bill.
More Republicans actually voted against the bill than democrats, but it was widely associated with the Republican party since it was proposed by officials in the Bush administration. A Club for Growth survey found that when asked which party was "The party that supports taxpayer bailouts for big corporations", voters 43.4% identified Republicans, 15.9% said Democrats, and 25.8% said both.
McConnell and Boehner should both be replaced. In all likelihood, neither will be. There is some good news in the House, though. Roy Blunt is stepping down as Republican whip, and will likely be replaced by his deputy, Eric Cantor. Mike Pence, a leader of fiscal conservatives, is currently running unopposed for that position. Jeb Hensarling, the leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee is running for conference chairman, the number four position in the leadership.
Republicans also need to replace the chairmen of their campaign committees. This is not only due to the widespread losses under their watch, but due the inept way that they very publicly 'pulled out' of certain races, effectively saying that thought candidates in closely contested races would lose.
The position of Chairman of the Republican National Committee will be filled through a wide open race. According to John Gizzi, the leading candidates are GOPAC chairman, former lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and former Maryland Republican Party chairman Michael Steele, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzius, and South Carolina Republican Chairman Katon Dawson. There are plenty of others considering running, including current RNC chairman Michael Duncan and former Michigan RNC Committeeman Chuck Yob.
In the Michigan House of Representatives, Republicans selected Kevin Elsenheimer as their new leader to replace the term-limited Craig DeRoche. Elsenheimer is a staunch conservative who is not likely to let democrats pass liberal legislation without a fight.
Michigan will see a heavily contested race for state chairman. There are a number of candidates running, but this field will be narrowed before the state convention in February.
Republicans should also be very wary of nominating any members of the Bush administration for office. The same goes for nominating any member of the least popular congress in history to any offices other than those they currently hold.
Republicans cannot keep doing the same things and expecting different results.