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Republicans need to restore their brand

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By John Barnhart

    Republicans were in disarray at the end of 1974.

    That summer, Richard Nixon became the first U. S. president to resign, avoiding almost certain impeachment and removal from office. Gerald Ford’s pardon, before Nixon was even charged with anything, made matters worse.

    Ford went to his grave swearing that the Nixon pardon was not part of a deal. He even made a video, which was released after his death, denying any deal.

    Ok, I have to believe him, but it sure smelled like a deal at the time. This fishy odor just made Republicans look even worse, and it contributed to Jimmy Carter’s victory in 1976. Nevertheless, the Republicans pulled themselves together and Ronald Reagan evicted Carter from the White House in 1980. Reagan proved to be an effective president.

    Once again, Republicans are in disarray. It’s too soon to pronounce history’s judgment on George W. Bush. His term doesn’t end until Jan. 20 and it takes years before that happens. Nevertheless, it’s clear that history probably won’t treat him kindly.

    Bush isn’t entirely to blame for Republican’s electoral losses. It was a team effort. For instance, Bush presided over the largest per-capita increase in government spending since Lyndon Johnson; he couldn’t have done it without Congress’ help.

    During the time Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, they totally abandoned conservative principles. The only difference between them and “Democrats” is that they replaced tax and spend with borrow and spend. They ran up big deficits, upsetting fiscal conservatives. They skimped on military spending, dismaying conservatives who want a strong national defense. They occasionally tossed a sop to social conservatives, making some of us wonder if it really mattered if they remained in power. Compared to “Democrats,” they are still rank amateurs when it comes to sleaze, but they gave it a good try.

    Republicans have also been slow learners. After coming out of the 2006 election with donkey hoof marks on their rear-ends, they continued with more of the same.

    Now, they have to rebuild the Republican brand. It’s too soon for them to think about who they will run for president in 2012. As an incumbent president, Barack Obama will be even more difficult to beat than he was this year and he’ll probably be reelected..

    Republicans, nationally, need to look at 2010 and Virginia Republicans need to concentrate on 2009. They need to return to conservative principles because, if they act like “Democrat” lite, voters will end up voting for “Democrats.”

    Republicans also need to remember that they cannot win without social conservatives. The fact that Rick Howell, a “Democratic” Party activist counsels them to bring the “religious right” under the control of country club Republicans is evidence of how important social conservatives are to the Republican Party. After all, Mr. Howell has an interest in seeing Republican candidates lose.

    If Republicans stand for conservative principles, they can win. Ken Cuccinelli is proof of that. He’s pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and represents an area of Northern Virginia in the Virginia Senate. Republican office holders are so rare in that part of the state that Cuccinelli believes he may be protected by the Endangered Species Act. It should also be noted that measures that protect the traditional definition of marriage won in every state, this year, where they were presented to voters.

    America remains a center-right country, as the weekly magazine The Economist noted in its issue following our election. Republicans may not be able to unseat Obama in 2012, but if they get to work now, and convince voters that they can be trusted to stand up for conservative principles, they can once again be America’s majority party.