AFTER keeping their divisions tightly under wraps during the election campaign, Republican disagreements sprang to the surface in the days after their election defeat. In television appearances, tweets and blogs, Republicans of every shade aired their analysis of what had gone wrong.
Tea Party members attacked Mitt Romney for being insufficiently conservative, failed presidential candidate Herman Cain called for conservatives to split off and form their own political party and renegade billionaire Donald Trump called for “a revolution in this country”.
How the Republicans emerge from this period of soul-searching essentially comes down to how they view their defeat: was it because they were too right-wing or not right-wing enough?
In the longer term, the Republican Party must face up to the fact that it has two fundamental problems to overcome: demographics and demagoguery.
The demographic shape of America is shifting dramatically. By 2042, whites will no longer be a majority in the US. Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in the US, and if Republicans are to win the presidency in future, they need to re-examine their position on immigration reform, which has alienated Latino voters.
The second problem is demagoguery. The issues that fire up the Republican base, such as tough views on immigration, and opposition to abortion and gay marriage, turn off a large and growing segment of the American electorate, especially young voters and working women, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama. These are voters the Republicans need, but the tone and content of many of their policies are driving them away.
Insiders say the party will soon go through its own demographic shift, which they say will provide a generation of candidates more in touch with today’s electorate.