Another View -- Michael Dennehy, Tony Giunta, and Bryan Gould: The GOP doesn't need to become more liberal to win
Just two years ago, the Democratic Party was "shellacked" nationally and in New Hampshire. Only Gov. Lynch survived the Republican tidal wave, and that was because he is probably the most ideologically indeterminate politician in recent memory. After the 2010 election, did we hear about how the Democratic Party needs to be less female, whiter, and older? Of course not. The Democrats just got busy preparing to win in 2012.
In the aftermath of last week's Republican reversal, however, some within the party have been solemnly intoning that this election proves that the party's demographics and policies are hopelessly out of step with the electorate. Tom Rath has been quoted as saying that the GOP lost the election because it is "too old, white, and male." Fergus Cullen has suggested the party was trounced for the same reason it lost when he was chairman of the Republican State Committee, namely that conservatives are just too conservative. And consultant Sarah Stewart has editorialized that our opposition to abortion and to rewriting the definition of marriage to include gay couples puts us ineluctably on the wrong side of hip.
So what happened in the last two years? Did the Republican Party get older? Well, sure. By two years. Did it get whiter, more male, more conservative, more pro-life, and more opposed to gay marriage? No, it didn't. So how did these attributes cause the party to lose in 2012 when it took Concord by storm in 2010? Obviously, they didn't.
It is troubling to us to see these members of our party contribute to the ongoing Balkanization of our country. Dividing Americans along the lines of race, sex, income, sexual preference and a host of other categories is a Democratic tactic, and a destructive one at that. When prominent Republicans argue that the party is "too white" or that we are "losing" black, Latino and Asian voters, they legitimize the Democrats' divide-and-conquer strategy. We can't beat the Democrats at racial politics, and it is a mistake to try.
Stewart's use of exit polling data from other states to make her case is also largely irrelevant to what we are seeing in New Hampshire. The state has not "gone blue" any more than it did in the last Democratic wave election in 2006. For example, on Nov. 6 in New Hampshire's two most populous counties combined, Rockingham and Hillsborough, Mitt Romney won 63 percent of the towns, 43 of 68, and the total vote 187,912 to 182,445. And just two short years ago senior citizens voted Republican 66 percent to 33 percent, middle-aged voters voted Republican by more than 60 percent, and Republicans won women voters 55 percent to 43 percent. The suggestion that Republicans can't win in New Hampshire without surrendering their principles is simply not borne out by the facts.
The truth is that we have people in the Republican Party who will never be comfortable with its conservatism. For them, when we win it is despite conservatism, and when we lose it is because of it. This "heads I win, tails you lose" mentality must be seen for what it is, namely an attempt by liberal Republicans to make the party more liberal.
We can certainly have the debate again on whether conservatism has a home within the GOP, but the suggestion that we need to downplay or change course on policies such as the sanctity of life or gay marriage needs to be scrutinized in terms of the effect this would have on the party. Most people are Republicans because they want to see their principles translated into policy, not because they want to be part of a club that votes for anyone who happens to call himself a Republican.
In the Nov. 13 edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader, longtime Democratic Party stalwart Kathy Sullivan offered Republicans some advice as to how it can become the majority party again. Sullivan's advice was disturbingly similar to what Tom, Fergus and Sarah had proposed in the week after the election. We have a good deal of personal regard for these three people, but when they find themselves advising Republicans to take the same course Kathy Sullivan advocates, maybe they should ask themselves whether it is really the Republican Party that needs to do some soul-searching.
Michael Dennehy is a former Republican National Committeeman and partner in Dennehy & Bouley. Tony Giunta served as mayor of the City of Franklin from 2000-2004. Bryan Gould, a former legal counsel for the Republican State Committee, is an attorney in Concord.
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