Monday-morning quarterbacking is typically the preferred sport of the losing party.
And the post-election GOP is no exception. The chattering class is full of explanations for Mitt Romney's loss: The candidate was too wealthy to be empathetic, too many voters continue to blame former President George W. Bush for the recession, a "pro-life party" is unable to appeal to younger women, Jewish voters will never trust the religious right, an increasingly secular nation will continue to reject a socially conservative party, etc.
Some of these explanations hold water. Certainly, the ludicrous statements regarding rape from senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock played into the Democrats' "war on women" motif. Class warfare remains a time-tested and effective rhetorical tool, particularly when used against a wealthy, private equity CEO type. And younger, unmarried women with children are unlikely to identify with the party of "individualism" and "smaller government."
On Election Day, it was these and other significant factors (losing Hispanics by a larger than expected margin and failure to maximize the GOP base vote) that spelled doom for former governor Mitt Romney. Required remedies for these shortfalls run the gamut from easy to (very) difficult, but a further analysis of "what to do next?" must await next week's column.
Today is about the baseline principles of a political party and movement. And now is the appropriate time to remind the approximately 49 percent of American voters why they supported the conservative candidate. So, put away those crying towels. It's time for a bit of positive introspection amid the general gnashing of teeth. Even the "glass half full" crowd should feel good about a political movement that:
•chooses to respect the American tradition of religious liberty as applied to faith-based institutions;
•believes in a limited federal role (and major local role) in public education;
•understands that open borders are anathema to a nation built on the rule of law;
•welcomes our ethnic diversity but celebrates assimilation into our uniquely American culture;
•would not put up with the official misconduct of President Bill Clinton;
•respects the religious values represented in our Judeo-Christian heritage;
•believes in every adult's right to his or her contraceptive option of choice, but rejects the notion that the taxpayer should be forced to pick up the tab;
•clings to the belief that America's Constitution, democratic institutions, market capitalism, and anti-imperial attitude make it "exceptional";
•advocates for free and fair trade as the cornerstone of our market economy;
•realizes the role "community organizers" played in the mortgage crisis;
•views small business job creators as quintessential American success stories;
•would build the Keystone XL pipeline;
•opposes a culture that requires photo identification to buy over-the-counter allergy medication but rejects such a requirement when exercising the right to vote;
•understands the myriad social ills brought about by fatherlessness in single head-of-household families;
•rejects notions of social promotion and other anti-merit measures of success in academics, business and government;
•supports charter schools, voucher programs and just about any other option that allows poor students to escape the educational dysfunction that characterizes so many of our poorer school districts;
•will not force union-only "labor peace" agreements on publicly funded construction projects;
•does not believe new public-sector jobs produce economic recovery;
•prefers peace but views radical Islam as an existential threat to freedom everywhere; and
•cannot countenance a state (Maryland) that increases college tuition for legal students at the same time it decreases tuition for the children of illegal aliens.
So there you have it. Certainly not a manifesto for overwhelmingly progressive Maryland. But many of us on the right do not want a country that functions like Maryland; we expect far better for our country at large.
Doing better means adopting positions that excite a common-sense majority of the voting public. Accordingly, the foregoing is submitted as a platform for the next GOP nominee. Hopefully, Messrs. Rubio, Ryan, Christie, Jindal and Kasich will take notice — before the "transformational" Barack Obama is able to transform the good ol' U.S. of A. into his version of a declining European social democracy.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics. His email is email@example.com.