The GOP Must Seize The Center Or Die

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013 

2012 was a disappointing year for Republicans. The failure to win key swing states in the presidential election and surprising losses in the House and Senate have prompted some reflection. Was their embrace of small government, low taxes, and a strong conservative stance on social issues at odds with shifting American demographics? Or did the GOP embrace the right platform, but the wrong candidates?

  • David-Brooks90x90

    For

    David Brooks

    Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

  • Mickey-Edwards90x90

    For

    Mickey Edwards

    Former US Congressman (R), Oklahoma

  • Laura Ingraham90x90

    Against

    Laura Ingraham

    Host, The Laura Ingraham Show

  • ralph-reed90x90

    Against

    Ralph Reed

    Chairman, Faith & Freedom Coalition


  • Moderator Image

    MODERATOR

    John Donvan

    Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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David-Brooks90x90

For The Motion

David Brooks

Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

 Became an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times in September, 2003. He has been a sr. editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly, and he is currently a commentator on “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.” He is the author of Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (2001) and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense (2005), both published by Simon & Schuster.

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Mickey-Edwards90x90

For The Motion

Mickey Edwards

Former US Congressman (R), Oklahoma

Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, is vice president of the Aspen Institute and the director of its public leadership program. After 16 years in Congress (1977-92) as a member of the house Republican leadership, Edwards spent 16 years teaching at Harvard, Georgetown and Princeton. In addition to serving as the national chairman of the American Conservative Union, he was one of three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation and chaired task forces for the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. A weekly columnist for The L.A. Times and The Chicago Tribune, Edwards published his most recent book Reclaiming Conservatism in 2008. He is currently a director of the Constitution Project and an advisor to the US Department of State.

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Laura Ingraham90x90

Against The Motion

Laura Ingraham

Host, The Laura Ingraham Show

Laura Ingraham is the most-listened-to female talk radio host in the United States. The Laura Ingraham Show is ranked in radio’s TOP 5, heard in hundreds of markets coast-to-coast, and is the third-most-streamed show in the country. Ingraham is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers including Of Thee I Zing, The Obama Diaries, Power to the People and Shut Up & Sing. She is a one of the most recognizable political and cultural commentators in print and on television, as one of the primary contributors on the FOX News Channel and the permanent substitute host on The O’Reilly Factor. In addition, she is a frequent guest on TODAY and other shows such as ABC’s This Week. Ingraham is a former white collar defense attorney and Supreme Court law clerk. She resides in Washington, D.C. with her three children Maria, Dmitri and Nikolai. Ingraham is a passionate advocate both for our troops and for domestic and international adoption.

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ralph-reed90x90

Against The Motion

Ralph Reed

Chairman, Faith & Freedom Coalition

Ralph Reed is founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Reed served as a senior advisor to George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004 and chaired the Southeast Region for Bush-Cheney in 2004. As chairman of the Georgia Republican Party he led the GOP to its biggest victory in history, helping to elect the first Republican Governor and third U.S. Senator since Reconstruction. Reed is chairman and CEO of Century Strategies, LLC, a public relations and public affairs firm. As executive director of the Christian Coalition from 1989-1997, he built one of the most effective public policy organizations in recent political history. Reed has been named one of the top ten political newsmakers in the nation by Newsweek, one of the twenty most influential leaders of his generation by Life magazine, and one of the 50 future leaders of America by Time magazine. He is the best-selling author and editor of five books, including his latest novel, The Confirmation (2010). Reed serves on the Board of Visitors for The University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs and on the Executive Board of the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He is a member of the Advisory Council of SafeHouse, a faith-based organization helping the poor and needy.

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Declared Winner: Against The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:
 

56% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (45% voted FOR twice, 8% voted AGAINST twice, 3% voted UNDECIDED twice). 44% changed their minds (14% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 4% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 6% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 0% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 14% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 6% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    30 comments

    20|-
    • Comment Link Bastian Sunday, 14 April 2013 19:27 posted by Bastian

      The Republican party has grown so out of touch with the general population that it will take a drastic platform shift by the GOP in order to survive. Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennial Generation have very different priorities than the older generations. Differences in the marriage trends and the birth rates are worrisome, the deteriorating presence of religion is a problem for GOP, and the massive shift of demographics the U.S. is experiencing is not helping the Republican effort. These younger generations have little patriotism or confidence in their elders wisdom, as they have inherited their predecessors' SS debt, a inefficient government, and a struggling economy. That being said, Ron Moore captured it well, "Political opinion can't be accurately expressed on a single left/right dimension with a moderate center... Reinforcing the left/right paradigm reinforces voters tendency to pick the side they disagree with least." This results in the parties having the ability to pursue their own agenda that does not reflect the wants or needs of the American people. It has become ridiculous, case and point: the current agreement to discuss the idea of debating gun control. Really.?.? The parties had to debate the idea of debating gun control. That's productive...

    • Comment Link Nam Friday, 05 April 2013 13:01 posted by Nam

      I think only way for the R to win the next election is to become the D.

    • Comment Link Ron Moore Friday, 05 April 2013 09:50 posted by Ron Moore

      First, thanks for doing so many excellent debates. I've attended several and they are always thoughtful, engaging and fun.

      However, this topic misses the point completely. Political opinion can't be accurately expressed on a single left/right dimension with a moderate center. There are at least two dimensions; personal freedom and economic freedom. Traditionally democrats are for personal freedom and against economic freedom and republicans are for economic freedom and against personal freedom. The average person understands personal freedom better than economic freedom and therefore recognizes the errors of the GOP while thinking the errors of the democrats are "helping people".

      Meanwhile neither party is at all effective in the only legitimate role of government: protecting our freedom. They should be more extreme about that - not less. It's not misguided to be extreme about freedom whether it's civil liberties or fiscal responsibility. But the left/right paradigm doesn't capture someone who supports both political and economic freedom.

      Reinforcing the left/right paradigm reinforces voters tendency to pick the side they disagree with least. We need less of the left/right paradigm and more of the excellent issue-focused debates that Intelligence Squared does so brilliantly.

    • Comment Link Mike R Monday, 25 March 2013 03:14 posted by Mike R

      Winston Churchill: "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”

      Polls have shown that Republicans do well with older Americans, but not with the young. The notoriety of a few, a small minority of republicans, who are extreme social conservatives or just plain idiots ("legitimate rape") is part of the problem. But the party could do a better job connecting conservative economic positions -- economic freedom, smaller government -- to what young people care about: jobs, opportunities to excel, quickest path to rising standards of living for all, etc.

      While I think the motion is a healthy self-examination for the republican party, it's a free country and candidates of all stripes will emerge. The best thing for the country, IMHO, is to disenfranchise extremists in both the Democratic and Republican party. The "top-2" open primaries adopted in Washington, California and Louisiana should all but eliminate the possibility of fringe candidates (eg, Sharron Angle) surviving to a primary election. In the longer-term taking redistricting (gerrymandering) out of state legislatures, such as recently done in California, will further help tamp down extreme candidates from "safe" districts.

    • Comment Link Bill Kitsch Sunday, 24 March 2013 08:33 posted by Bill Kitsch

      Patrick S, right on target/

    • Comment Link Phylis Gail Thursday, 21 March 2013 19:29 posted by Phylis Gail

      The Republicans remind me of the Scarecrow and the Tin man -- they need to get a heart and some brains. With a brain they could think how well religion in government works in the Middle East. With a heart they might put good governance before their need for power. Truth is, they just want to Rule -- just be in control again. All that Ditto stuff in their heads won't help them find their way back to relevance.

      So it should be obvious to all but the dead that our 2-party political system has reached the end of its Useful Life, and the Republicans were the first to fall. The U.S. Constitution, too, is obsolete and in desperate need of reform. But, right or wrong, it was built to last. And it will, along with the Gun Nuts who will hold civilization back.

      Our only hope is for some wealthy capitalists to ante up to the majority Independents who would dust off the Reform Party, jump into the fray, speak the truth, and turn this ship around. I'm not holding my breath.

    • Comment Link eric Thursday, 21 March 2013 13:51 posted by eric

      The problem with those Republicans, particularly the farthest from moderate center, is that they have either lost the ability or don't have the ability to tell the difference between righteousness and conservatism.

    • Comment Link R Kozol Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:50 posted by R Kozol

      In order to reach any substantive solutions, we must be clearer about what we are really talking about. We will get nowhere as long as we continue to equate conservative with right wing lunacy and liberal with left wing radical. They are not the same thing. Similarly, we'll get nowhere as long as we confuse health care and health insurance. They are not the same thing either, so we continue to talk past each other without solving the problems.

    • Comment Link Patrick S. Tuesday, 05 March 2013 17:05 posted by Patrick S.

      The Republicans need to be MORE conservative when it comes to fiscal issues, and LESS conservative when it comes to social issues.

      Religion should be a private matter only, and not used to base official policy decisions on. This really is the biggest problem for the GOP. When you want to create laws for others based on YOUR religion, obviously you are not going to get support from people who believe in other religions or who are non-religious and does not share your views.

      The GOP should be the party of limited government, economic growth, job creation, lower taxes, a freer society, individual responsibility, opportunity for all and the american dream, not the party of religious weirdos.

    • Comment Link Pablo K. Ramos Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:18 posted by Pablo K. Ramos

      It isn't a matter of "Seizing the Center". It's a matter of REALLY ceasing to be the "Stupid Party"; only not the way Gov. Bobby Jindal suggests.

      The republican party can perfectly define conservative principles but they need to be based on reason. It is, for example inexcusable how they continue to bury their heads in the sand before incontrovertible evidence in favor of anthropocentric climate change. Science is science, and it doesn't lend itself to subjective interpretations. Their stand on other issues like evolution, genetic research and other things are more a reflection of how they've become hostages of the radical christian factions, than their being or not "Conservative".

      Their knee-jerk defense of everything and anything representing the interests of big business interest groups is not conservative either. It's just corrupt.

      Likewise regarding their myopic stance on economics.

      You can be perfectly conservative in your approach to government, NOT move to the center, but also no be the useful fool for all kinds of special interests.

      The Republican party is facing very serious, survival-serious issues. Pandering to the left will not solve the problem, which is why I voted against the motion.

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