Last night's results were depressing, but in no way surprising. There will now be a serious debate within the Republican Party as to which direction it should go, a debate which should have started after the big losses suffered 2 years ago, but will undoubtedly begin in full force now.
Many Republicans, most of whom are part of the elite media (David Brooks of the New York Times is a prime example) or are part of the beltway crowd, will argue the party has shifted "too far to the right" these past 8 years, and needs to move towards the center and "find common ground" with the Democrats if it wants to return to electoral success. They say the party is too "ideological" and "stuck in the 1980s" and this is why they've lost the past 2 elections. It's time to find "common sense solutions" by working with the other side, and to make peace with big government by simply making it run better. It's time to expand our base by appealing to minorities and their concerns.
Others like myself realize these elitists are the ones who got us into this mess in the first place. The party has actually shifted too far to the left, particularly on economic issues, essentially becoming the Democrat-lite Party. After a trillion-dollar expansion in federal spending and a record increase in the size of entitlement outlays since 2001, one can hardly claim this administration has been "too far to the right" on taxes and spending. We've tried too hard to expand our base by reaching out to folks who aren't going to vote for us anyway. Why would big-government supporters choose diet socialism when the Democrats offer the real thing?
In '84, '88, and '92, young voters (those under 30) made up the most conservative portion of the electorate. They were reliably Republican and supported Reagan by wide margins. Today, the under-30 crowd are the most liberal voters. 66% of them supported Obama. What happened? A lot of it has to do with Bush's dismal failures, but a lot of it also has to do with young people today being a lot dumber and less skeptical than Generation X was of big government and Jimmy Carter liberalism. The flip side of this is that we haven't been actively educating these voters like we used to. This leaves CNN, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert to do the educating instead, which is extremely troublesome.
The end result is thousands of white, gooey-eyed college kids who got 1400 on their SATs but couldn't tell you what the top marginal income tax rate is lining Pennsylvania avenue and filling Grant Park, cheering in jubilation that Washington is going to get bigger, stronger, and steal more of their parent's income. Their limitless faith in one mortal, fallible man's ability to do infinite good with other people's money and magically solve all problems for all people is a religious fantasy far more dangerous than anything Bill Maher attacks every day. I mean at least faith in God is a lot cheaper, and at least going to mass is voluntary. Complying with the IRS isn't.
Long story short, "compassionate conservatism" has always been a defunct governing strategy and its followers must permanently be purged from our ranks. The conservative philosophy should never have to make apologies for itself, nor should it be abandoned in attempt to win over people that aren't going to vote Republican anyway. The Democrats continue to nominate the most liberal members of their party (Kerry & Edwards in '04, Obama in '08). How come we don't get to nominate our party's most conservative members? Here's a starting point for 2012: anyone who supported/voted for the bailout should not be allowed to seek the Republican nomination.
I could go on and on about what needs to be done to reclaim our principles, but I will instead leave you with a speech given by Ronald Reagan in March of 1975. This was in the wake of huge losses Republicans sustained after Nixon's resignation and the Watergate hearings. That situation was so similar to today's, and Reagan's words are so on point they're almost prophetic.