Following President Obama’s successful re-election despite the weak economy, political observers are asking what lies ahead for the GOP. Some within the party are questioning whether it needs to change its stance on immigration to realign itself with certain voters. Others disagree. We discuss the party’s future.

Bill Whalen, research fellow at the Hoover Institution
Abel Maldonado, former lieutenant governor of California and former state senator (R) representing the 15th District
Bridget Melson, activist and founder of the Pleasanton Tea Party
Steve Grand, GOP media consultant and president of Wilson Grand Communications, a political strategy consulting firm which produced media for Karl Rove's American Crossroads

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    As a young adult I registered as a Republican because I had grown up in a Republican home which taught me that conservative was related to conserve and conservation. Thus we were ‘green’ before it was popular. As Republicans we believed in fair treatment for everyone and that or Presbyterian beliefs were private and not to be flaunted, but lived out in the walk not the talk. It was a Republican home where education and science were encouraged not denounced.

    In the last four years it has literally scared the bejeevers out of me when I see a ‘Republican’ party that allows sexist, racist, homophobic, anti immigrant, pro theocracy nonsense to be the norm. With NO denouncing of such views from Republican ‘leaders’. Yes, I literally cried Tuesday night because the Republicans are digging their own grave back to where the Wig party was when they became irrelevant.

    My question is this. Where are the sane moderate Republicans who could bring the party back to where it needs to be? Why are they not getting the media attention? Or does the media only want the shock value ratings the nuts provide?

    One of the best comments over the week end was :
    “If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue. The college-age daughters of many of my friends voted for Obama because they were completely turned off by Neanderthal comments like the suggestion of ‘legitimate rape.'”

    — Former Bush adviser Karen Hughes, quoted by Politico.

  • Fred

    Both Romney and Ryan lied so much during their debates and speeches and TV spots, that in a way their bid for power seemed farcical, like they knew they couldn’t win so they wanted to just play to the morons who question nothing. But if lying won’t get the Republicans into office, and being honest about their loopy views on rape and abortion won’t either, and pushing for new wars that we can’t afford won’t, I’d say the party is pretty much done for. Their only assets are gerrymandered districts, illegal removals of voters from voting rolls in Florida, and rigged electronic voting machines. Their party is like the worst lemon at a used-car dealership, held together with superglue, the rust painted over, and sellable only to fools.

  • eriksf

    It’s been amusing these last few days listening to conservatives talk about how they have a messaging problem. As if tweaking their tone and marketing is the problem. The reality is that they are regressive on almost all fronts, science (climate change and evolution deniers), race and sex (anti gay equal rights, anti minority equal rights and coded language aimed at the fringe right wing, demeaning policies on womens health), and bent on dismantling the social systems we’ve built up over the last 65 years. It’s a substance problem not marketing!

  • ItsChippp

    The two GOP Senate candidates were not “two bad apples” in an
    otherwise good basket. They were two awful apples in a bad basket. But more importantly, it’s insulting to suggest that the GOP is losing
    because of some problem in communication. I reject the GOP because I understand their message loud and clear. On the subject of the economy and taxes, here’s what I understand. America’s big businesses are sitting on huge piles of wealth. They’ve actually pulled in considerable profits in the past decade, but profits do not trickle
    down. The wealthiest people in this country have done just fine, decade after decade, including the most recent one. Meanwhile, we have a poverty rate that’s shameful, poor health care, higher infant mortality than other western/industrial nations. When you look at total overall tax burdens (total taxes as a percent of GDP), U.S. rates are at an historic low. We can grow the economy with higher taxes on the rich – we’ve done it before. That was the only way we did it before. We also have lower taxes than most other industrial nations. The GOP is
    entirely beholden to the wealthiest Americans, especially those who
    think they lower classes exist to create their wealth, do their manual
    labor, bend their backs and knees and serve the wealthy, but send their children to poorer schools, get by without medical care, or only on Medicaid (which the rich would cut), and basically earn poverty wages. Progressive voters understand the GOP clearly, and you embarrass us. We’re not waiting to hear a better message. We’re organizing in hopes of pushing you further into political obscurity.

    • anna

      well put!

    • Selostaja

      Beautifully stated.

    • ratatat

      I wonder how come California which has a democratic party in power for decades still has the worst credit rating in the Union.

      a) Highest tax rate in the Union. Among the highest sales tax rate in the Union.

      b) Lowest credit rating in the Union

      c) Among the largest debt per person (~3100$)

      d) Poorest school in the Union (average reading, average math).

      Surely you cant blame the Republican party for obstructing even more higher taxes when CA already has the highest tax rate in the Union.

      • ItsChippp

        Prop 13.

        • ratatat

          Prop 13 is reset every time one buys a house.

          Many cities just have Melo-Roos to offset Prop13.

          So if I buy a house today I am paying the market rate for property tax + highest sales tax of the Union + highest personal tax of the Union to get the largest debt per person and some of the poorest schools in the Union.

  • Mark SF

    It was a thumping considering historically Presidents where the economy is struggling and unemployment up near 8% get blamed (wrongly or rightly) lose.

  • AllesK

    The Republicans and the Tea Party rally around the Constitution with out respect for the establishment clause. Until they learn to respect the diversity of belief and disbelief they’ll fail.

  • Bob Fry

    Whoa, the woman caller (Ms. Melson?) thinks the Republicans should double-down on the Tea Party? Return to “moral” values? To me and a lot of others that’s just code for return to white power and hatred and suspicion of all non-whites.

    Old White Guy

  • anna

    just divorce the party from the radical right-tea-party-grover-norquist insanity & it would go a LONG way to revamping the party that built our roads and signed into law the EPA and Clean Water/Air Acts.

    • Bob Fry

      It also needs to divorce itself from the Christian fundies and ayatollahs.

      • anna


  • Mark SF

    A root of the problem for Republican’s in general is mot dealing with the fact and believing that if you say something long enough it becomes fact. Prime example is the Republican polls and forecast of how the electorate would vote was way off of reality even with the big voter suppression effort.
    Other delusional stances by the Republican party/ or majority of the Republican party members – trickle down economics, creationism, climate change, that we can be the world policeman, and supply side economics (build it and they will buy).

    • Lara

      Yes. They’ve drunk too much of their own Kool-Aid.

  • Lee Thé

    The GOP’s abortion problem is hardly limited to Akins and Mourdock.. Their radical beliefs are baked into the GOP platform through its support for a Personhood Amendment to the Constitution, which Governor Romney supported unequivocally. That amendment would make a woman who takes the morning after pill guilty of premeditated murder. News flash–even most conservative women are appalled by that.

  • Kathleen31

    Off to a bad start. Please, please, please, do not spend one more minute politely discussing that nonsense about Todd Aiken, et al. being fringe figures or bad apples who don’t represent the Republican party. The problem isn’t that they got so much attention with their offensive language and obscured your wonderful message, it’s that they accidentally revealed your party’s anti-woman platform, ideology, and legislative actions.

    • Bob Fry

      Amen! They simply revealed widespread beliefs among 10s of millions of Americans.

  • Emily

    What about Paul Ryan’s role in turning off moderates with his opinion on abortion?

  • Roy-in-Boise

    Today’s Republican Party is in the same place as the Whig Party during the Jackson years. The clock is winding down on the GOP unless they morph. The only hope for them is a roll back of the AstroTurf funded Tea Party faction.

  • Selostaja

    It seemed Republicans are becoming a party of thinly veiled racists. The everyday Republican on the street often spoke without knowledge on issues, instead emphasizing on the “look” of the 1st family.

  • Ben

    The problem is not the “message”. Many many immigrants come from countries where the political system is corruptly run by big business and the rich. The Democrats are the better fit for people who know what it’s like in a country run by oligarchs. I am thankful to the continuous renewal in our population by people who understand what it is to be powerless and what makes our system special.

  • Lara

    What my friends and I want to hear before switching party allegiance are specific plans to solve our problems. How can the Republicans help us pay our mortgages, pay for our children’s educations, and save for retirement – those of us who are not in the 1%? We need to hear working ideas, backed by actual data and real science, not slogans, much less right-wing craziness.

  • anna

    also, when the GOP is trying to “re-brand” maybe they should stop underestimating the electorate…honestly: immense wealth does not equal intelligence — just as economic struggle does not preclude intelligence. i am so tired of hearing about the voters who do not understand politics. how insulting! try, for once, to not insult us!

    • Lara

      Yes! This is why they have problems with the blue states, which are better educated.

  • Tracy

    How is it that the GOP thinks it can”better target” women and minorities when they have been so clear, for so long, that they don’t like or approve of either one? Anything they say from now on can only be seen for what it is – disingenuous…and a clear effort to pander for votes even though they will never make good on their promises. Women vote in greater numbers than men because, regardless of their political bent or religious faith, women share one powerful thing: the same physical bodies. They are always going to fight against anyone who tells them they shouldn’t have control over what is so clearly theirs to own and make decisions for. If the Republican party wanted to make masturbation illegal (since I’m quite sure the Bible also views that act as sinful), I have a feeling you’d see quite a backlash from the male population as well.

    • anna

      haha: the VIAGRA of push-back arguments! well done!

      • Tracy

        I know, right? I have a feeling that while you can say “abortion” there will a problem even SAYING “masturbation” – how dare we? But it’s an apples-to-apples argument in my view.

  • timholton

    A large part of the problem is in the nature of political parties themselves, which are self-perpetuating bodies that scoundrels abuse to divert citizens’ natural allegiances to real, not ideological communities. Jefferson knew the moral dangers of parties taking over politics. Parties he called “the last degradation of a free and moral agent,” and said “[I]f I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

    I’m a lifelong Democrat, but take hope in the growing numbers of independents who aren’t rejecting particular parties so much as they are rejecting party politics.

  • energyrich

    The GOP still have their heads in the sand. They keep saying that it’s just a branding issue. They seem to think “If that guy Indiana just didn’t say what he actually thinks everything would be OK” The still forget the facts and that GOP basic values are simply out of step with where we are going.

    • Lara

      But what ARE GOP basic values? If you look at Mitt Romney’s campaign he had to represent himself as all things to all people – in its eagerness to placate the Tea Party and evangelical voters the GOP has lost track of things like science, economics, and arithmetic. No wonder they can’t figure out how to appeal to educated people. They’ve dumbed themselves down too far.

  • CTP

    To say that the message needs a small tweak, or that it is a “branding issue” is insulting. Insulting me is the core problem through and through. 30 years of “less spending and smaller government” without actually doing either insults my intelligence. Saying the number one job of the legislature will be to make Obama a one term president? Insulting. Insulting half the country with the 47% comments. Letting O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh, and the rest deliver the message…and be completely insulting while doing it. The GOP field – Bachmann, Perry, Cain??? Really? Where were Johnson, Huntsman, Pawlenty, Roemer, etc – the people we could take seriously? And then the bald-faced lies that Romney’s campaign was telling…insulting me yet again. Messing with the voting process in such an ugly and obvious way? Also so very insulting. It’s not a branding, or message issue. We got the message loud and clear, and it’s ugly, and it’s insulting.

    • CTP

      Oh and one other thing. When Republicans themselves are now telling you loud and clear why you lost their vote, don’t tell them that they are wrong.

  • Max Thorvald

    Listening to Abel Maldonado, why on earth is he still a Republican? Also, listening to the last comments by Bridget Melson, she mentioned immigration as if it covers everything about Latinos. Reflect upon this statement and you have your answer as to why Latinos will never trust the Republican party. Latinos are not about one, two, or just three issues. If they don’t understand the nuances of the “latino” vote, they’ll never get it. Marco Rubio, a cuban-American, is not going to be trusted by latino voters in Colorado, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and especially California. If both parties do not understand the nuances of each group that makes up the “latino” vote, they are doomed.

    Also, latinos have a better history with the Democratic party (the pictures of Bobby Kennedy with Cesar Chavez still resonate and show a long history) and the talking heads of the GOP (Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann) show just how ignorant the top brass of this party are. Take a look at the younger Democrats who happen to be “latino” especially in Texas and California (the Castro brothers and Villaraigosa for instance). Take a clue from this, and double-check Rubio’s back story against these guys and you have your answer.

  • What I’ve heard over the past week:
    0.) The dark people are criminals and parasites who really have no business voting.
    1.) Mitt was too moderate; let’s double-down on the crazy so that people will truly hear us. Conservatism can never fail, we can only fail Conservatism.
    2.) Wolverines!!!

  • Max Thorvald

    I forgot to mention one other political issue that put a very bad taste in the mouths of a lot of “latinos.” The Sotomayor confirmation hearings, and how the Republicans questioned the term “wise latina”. We will never forget that and never forget just how much these old white men were put off by that.

    Latinos understood what she meant and whole-heartedly agree.

    • Lara

      Just as I will never forget the insulting tone of the Senate judiciary committee questioning of Anita Hill over twenty years ago! These things leave a strong impression, and can return to bite the butt that spewed them.

  • anna

    ask your guests what about the grover norquist pledge??? when will these people get a clue that the fringe element is alive and well within the GOP (and not as the speaker mentioned, just a few fringe elements and a shock jock or two).

  • reich.jonathan

    Hearing these Republicans try to find excuses for why they lost is really very funny. What a joke.

    Bill Whalen maybe unknowingly reveals why the Republican party lost and may continue to lose elections when he says “Hispanics want to be respected.”

    EVERYBODY wants to be respected regardless of gender, race, creed, color, or sexual identity.

    His comments are similar to the clueless Bill O’Reilly who said “people (meaning the “demographic” (read minorities) who Republicans think elected Obama) want stuff.”

    He and the tea partiers/birthers/1%ers who spoke frequently of “taking our country back” from the “non-Americans” who somehow hijacked America

    expressed the basic, and basically wrong presumption that whites are America and somehow everyone else is lucky to be here.

    Maybe people have become too smart to vote for a misogynist, racist, party that practices deceit and hypocrisy, attempts to prevent eligible voters from voting, celebrates ignorance, values superstition more than fact (or even arithmetic), spews hatred and intolerance, and believes that money (such as the probably illegal contributions received from out of state against Prop 30 and for Prop 32) can somehow buy the truth.

    Every retired white person who receives social security and Medicare (a strong Republican demographic), every veteran who receives VA benefits (which are not nearly enough), every white person who initially inherited their wealth (such as Romney) and avoids paying taxes by whatever means (again, such as Mitt) yet who uses our roads, utilities, benefits of govt. supported R & D, is protected by firemen and police, cared for in their dotage by publicly educated healthcare workers,..- are also “recipients of handouts by the government.”

    Republicans are still deluding themselves.

    To hear Maldonado say “Mitt had a tough campaign and things just didn’t fall his way” is ridiculous.

    Maldonado himself allowed his own campaign message to be run by out-of-state extremists.

    I saved the many ridiculously insulting and inaccurate mailers I received from Maldonado and his supporters and I was appalled at their deceit.

    Perhaps you should ask Maldonado to explain the support he received from “Congressional Leadership Fund,” “Small Business Action Committee,” “Spirit of Democracy America.”

    To hear Whalen say that Obama had a “firewall” in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico is also ridiculous.

    Colorado and Nevada were SWING STATES! or weren’t you paying attention?

    The FOX anchor lady expressed best the self-delusion of the Republicans when she (now famously) asked Karl Rove when he insisted Ohio was not voting for Obama,

    “Is this math you do as a Republican to make you feel better, or is it real?”

    I am very very grateful so many Americans saw through the Republican B.S. machine and voted accordingly.

    P.S. Why was Scott Shafer at the Maldonado HQ on election night??

  • Nick

    As Mr. Shafer is trying to point out, the Republican Party’s problem is not branding or messaging; branding has been the party’s strongest point for it for 40 years.

    Republicans cannot convince Latinos that they are a party for them while Arizona and other states continue to push Republican legislation explicitly targeting Latinos, even if the goal is undocumented immigrants. You cannot be a party for immigrants when every conversation about immigration results in talking about deportation and building electric fences on the border. First of all, 2/3rds of undocumented immigrants today arrive on a plane, not on foot over the border. If Republicans want to convince minorities that you are not the anti-immigration party of the white male, they need to actually come up with immigration reform.

    Republicans will not win the women vote while they remain anti-womens’ rights. There may be many anti-abortion women, but the majority of women are against the government taking away their right to choose.

    The great irony of the Republican party is their message of ‘limited’ government, yet pushing governmental restrictions of abortion rights and gay marriage as well as wanting to expand an already bloated, unnecessary military.

    If the Republican party wants to return to relevance, they need to return to the party of the 60s and 70s. Not one based on social conservatism and broken ideology, not one on dropping the taxes for the wealthiest and corporations that already do not need tax assistance, not one bent on invading every country that threatens Isreal, but one based on fiscal responsibility. That means not trapping the party in Norquist’s insane pledge to not raise taxes, and it doesn’t mean “broadening the tax base” or making the tax system target the poor. It means tackling the deficit in a balanced, creative, fair way. It means listening to scientists on climate change and environmental problems and economists when they agree that cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans will not help anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It means understanding that an expensive military is not synonymous with an effective military, and that the United States does not need to be imperialistic in order to lead the world. It means cooperating with Russia and China rather than vilifying them. It means understanding that no amount of rhetoric or branding will make up for bad policies and ideologies.

    Don’t just change your message, Republicans. Change your policies and ideologies.

  • trite

    As Mr. Shafer tried to point out, the real problem is one of philosophy, and not simply message. Adherence to Grover Norquist’s tax pledge and the shrinking of government is at odds with the fact that government is needed all the time, not just when catastrophe hits. That disconnection with reality is what has cost the GOP dearly.

  • Samuel Chan

    I am a Republican who hates George Walker Bush thanks to his decision to invade Iraq; the invasion with no exit strategy simply wasn’t worth all our sacrifices. In the latest two presidential primaries, I voted for Congressman Ron Paul thanks to his courage to vote, as a Republican, against the invasion. I voted for Obama on Nov. 6 #1) as a payback to Condoleeza Rice for her endorsement of Mitt Romney, and #2) Romney did NOT offer me enough assurance that he would never invade another country needlessly or with no exit strategy.

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