The way forward for Republicans

Obama’s re-election has forced Republicans to rethink their policy positions. And rightly so, because the Republican Party was trounced on Tuesday in embarrassing fashion.

But there is a way forward for the GOP. First, we need the AWOL Republican “establishment” to reassert itself through the Republican National Committee and 501(c) groups like Crossroads GPS. Second, we need to support gay marriage. Third, we need a gentler policy and attitude toward immigration reform. And fourth, we need to stay strong on individual freedoms — i.e., the Second Amendment, the right to life and economic liberty.

Despite all the vilification of the establishment, it has been missing in action since the last Bush administration. This absence has allowed terrible candidates like Sharron Angle, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock to appear on the national stage and be hung around the party’s neck like anvils. To prevent future losses, the establishment needs to involve itself in primaries and aggressively recruit top-tier candidates. Allowing the Tea Party to run amok is a luxury the Republican Party can no longer afford.

The vast majority of independents and young voters — and even many self-identified Republicans — support gay marriage and view opposition to gay marriage as a form of intolerance. Many of these voters are willing to embrace the GOP’s economic message and would if the Republican Party came around to supporting gay marriage. That’s what it needs to do. After all, the GOP is the original civil rights party.

Now, the tougher sledding: immigration. In recent years, a number of Republican politicians have hurt the party’s standing with Hispanics by making vitriolic comments regarding immigration. The party needs to not only soften its tone on immigration, but also alter its policy approach. It may be impossible for the party to offer amnesty, but it should offer the undocumented some sort of path toward citizenship. And the GOP should embrace Puerto Rico’s recent vote for statehood and help make it the 51st state. In many ways, demographics is destiny, and unless Republicans find a way to make inroads with the Hispanic community, the party will soon be irrelevant.

Of course, the Republican Party should never abandon its core principles. Maximizing individual freedom and limiting government intrusion into people’s lives appeals to Americans regardless of their race, religion or generation.

This will be a painful process for the party, but sometimes painful actions lead to healthy outcomes. Fighting the party of “free stuff” — with its advocacy of endless entitlements paid for by others — will be tough enough without extremists and Luddites dragging us down.

David Welch is a former Republican National Committee research director.