First of all, let me say congratulations to President Obama on his victory. While it was not the outcome I hoped for, the people have spoken and now it is time for all of us to come together and govern and address the major challenges we face. Congratulations to Mitt Romney also for a spirited campaign and a gracious concession speech.
Now is also a good time for us Republicans to begin the process of reflection; to understand and absorb the implications of this election. How is it that we lost an election so decisively, against an incumbent when there were so many factors that should have led the electorate to make a change in leadership and direction—high unemployment, stagnant growth, unprecedented level of debt and deficit, foreign policy uncertainties, etc., etc.? How could we have lost so much ground among Latino voters (down to 27 percent in 2012 when it was 31 percent in 2008 and 44 percent in 2004)?
I came of age politically at a time when the GOP was the party of common-sense, responsible, principled, public servants; an era when we focused on fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, individual responsibility and personal liberties. It was not that long ago when we were able to garner massive presidential electoral victories (Reagan won 49 states in 1984 with 525 electoral votes, George H.W. Bush won with 426 electoral votes in 1988). Reagan spoke to people’s hopes and dreams and aspirations, he provided a vision that inspired us and gave us a sense of leadership that wanted every American to succeed. We were the party of ideas, reforms and solutions.
While I don’t agree with every policy position in my party’s platform (in fact I have worked to try to change some of those policy stances), I still believe that by-in-large, the core values of a strong nation, a thriving economy, a respect for the family unit as the fundamental institution of our society and a vibrant environment where every citizen can aspire to reach their dreams and create a better life for their families, are principles I embrace.
However, as a marketing professional, I also know that over the last several years, the Republican brand has suffered among too many segments of American society. We lost among women, among every minority group, among young voters, and among moderates. Too many voters viewed us as intractable, intolerant and insensitive. While these may be perceptions based on messaging from the other side or on ignorant statements made by some of our own candidates, I know that perception matters and that voters make decisions not only on facts and policies, but also on how they feel about the candidates and they think the candidates feel about them.
It is with this notion that I make the following recommendations to my party and urge leaders to receive them with the best intentions. First, let us learn from this election to make fundamental changes in how we address policy issues important to various segments of our population and engage in an earnest ongoing dialogue with them. Second, let us do what every business person in America does—let us pay attention to public perception and take the actions necessary to ensure understand our best intentions. Third, it is time for us to lead again. The American public is starving for leadership and solutions and concrete results.
We may control the House, but not the Senate or the White House. For us to lead we must be the ones bringing forth proposals and finding common ground with the other side, knowing that consensus is not a bad thing, but rather something we should strive for. When Democrats are recalcitrant, we should point that out and let the public know that we were the ones working towards solutions. We can do all of these things without pandering, patronizing or compromising on our principles. But the most important thing we must do is to not bury our heads in the sand and make believe our country is not changing; that all we need to do is more of the same and hope that somehow it will be different. Republicans should stand for a better America for all of her citizens, and proudly re-open the doors of the big tent party and welcome all who still want to see that shining city on a hill.
Danny Vargas, President of marketing consulting firm VARCom Solutions and Co-Chair for the campaign Juntos con Romney in Virginia. Former Commissioner, National Museum of the American Latino Commission, Former National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, regular MSNBC contributor, U.S. Air Force veteran raised in NYC.