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From the Right: Republicans need to move past Bush era in history

TNH Columnist

Published: Friday, May 3, 2013

Updated: Friday, May 3, 2013 01:05

The recent opening of The George W. Bush Presidential Library has brought the 43rd president of the United States back into the spotlight prompting a reexamination of his eight years in the White House. As an American I have the utmost respect for Bush.

He is a man of integrity who served this country well and made decisions that, while controversial and still criticized today, were made with a strong conviction and not for partisan politics. On that basis alone he earns my respect and admiration.

However, as a Republican it is a different story. His standing with the American people has changed slightly for the better since leaving office.  Yet part of the reason for my party’s political failings especially this past November is due to the legacy of George W. Bush.

The future of the Republican Party does not lie in the past, but instead in future surrounded the sentiments of limited government, respect for the Constitution and more personal freedom echoed by the likes of Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, and Gov. Chris Christie. The future for the Republican Party can be bright, but only by taking a path that is identifiable for all Americans. Appropriately the party must stop running and hiding from the legacy of Bush and instead rectify it; much like what happened following Herbert Hoover’s presidency and more recently, how the Democrats  dealt with Jimmy Carter’s shortcomings.

Ultimately, the first step in correcting a problem is admitting that there is a problem. For the last four years Republicans have attempted to avoid addressing the elephant (pardon the pun) in the room.

I refer to Democrats and their own little failure in Carter. Even today Democrats are not running about praising Carter and rightfully so. The reason? His presidency temporarily put the Democrats into political oblivion and ushered in a 12-year Republican lock on the White House.

In the elections following his presidency the Democrats were still oblivious to their mistakes. It took the emergence of Bill Clinton to reshape, reenergize and renew the Democratic Party in 1992.

Alas, I am not saying the Republicans need to recruit Clinton, though the party needs to undergo the same type of catharsis the Democratic Party underwent leading up to the 1992 election. By modernizing, rebranding and renewing the Grand Old Party, the electoral prospects for the future will be merry and bright.

America is not now, nor should it ever be, a one-party state. The loyal opposition is needed as one side does not have all the answers nor should one side control all the power.

The trouble exists when there is not a compelling reason for the other side to be elected and when that happens the voters simply tune them out.

The 2012 election was winnable for the Republicans. But we blew it, to put it bluntly. All the signs were there: a sluggish economy, a moderately unpopular incumbent and growing sense of American decline.

Yet on Jan. 20, 2013, Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second term. Why? Because of the Republican Party’s failure to present a strong enough reason why Mitt Romney should be president.

Furthermore, simply stating, the economy is bad and blaming it all on Obama is not a winning argument, especially when much of the country viewed (right or wrong) that Bush was responsible for the nation’s economic malaise. Republicans failed to come to terms with the Bush legacy believing it could be swept under the rug and the discontent with Obama would carry them into office.

Sadly that was not the case. In order to have effectively won the past election Republicans needed to come to terms with the Bush legacy, and state loud and clear (much like Clinton and the Democrats in ’92) that this is not the party of Bush. We acknowledge the mistakes of the past, but this is a new Republican Party ready to tackle the problems of today.

Aside from rebranding the GOP must realize the economic policies of Bush could hardly be defined as conservative, for example, No Child Left Behind, a ballooning deficit, foreign adventurism and crony capitalism. The fiscal domestic and foreign policies of the Bush years no doubt have created the bind the GOP finds itself in today, but all is not loss.

Today, the Republicans are like the Democrats of 30 years ago: plagued by the legacy of a failed president, unable to connect with the American people and seemingly caught in the political doldrums. Yet political winds constantly change and soon the GOP will set sail again.  
A rejection of the Bush-era fiscal policies, an embracement of limited, but effective, government and a political tent that is open to all people of all backgrounds and creeds will undoubtedly assure the Republican Party success in the future. A party that moves toward the political center while looking to the conservatism of Reagan, Eisenhower and Coolidge, while preparing the rising stars of the party will make the Republicans a winning and governing party once again.

I still believe the Republican Party has a bright future. I believe our party has the policies to create a robust economy, to lower our deficit, to protect our freedoms and ensure that America must always remain the greatest single nation on Earth.  The Republicans must start acting like Republicans again while embracing the new realities of today.

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