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Republicans Survey the Ruins
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gestures as he delivers remarks during an election night rally in Phoenix Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. John McCain gestures as he delivers his concession speech at an election night rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP)

Listen to Republicans talk about their morning-after nightmare — looking at the map of Tuesday’s election results — and you know they’ve got trouble:

“Drubbing” … “Deep wilderness” … “Steep hill to climb” … “Ruins.”

After decades of dominance in American politics, the GOP is on the outs in the House, the Senate, and the White House. Back on its heels in state after state it once owned. Uncertain that its old alliance of cultural, economic, and security hawks still works. Talking rebirth, but around who? Palin? Pawlenty? Jindal?

On Tuesday, the new face of America, the young and minorities, came out to vote Democrat. Today, top Republicans are convening in Virginia to talk about the party’s future. How do they grow the ranks? Bring in new voters? Create a new message that resonates?

This hour, On Point: The Republican Party in defeat and debating how to rebuild. We’ll talk to conservative thinkers about the way forward.

You can join the conversation. In what direction would you like to see the Republican party go? What can they do to regain the trust of conservative Americans?


From Arlington, Virginia, we’re joined by Jonathan Martin, senior political writer for Politico. His piece today looks at the “GOP in dire straits.”

Also with us from Arlington is Tony Fabrizio, partner with Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, a research and consulting firm. In 1996 he served as chief pollster and GOP strategist to Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. His recent analysis of the Republicans’ 2008 troubles was titled, “Top GOPers: It’s Bush and Rove’s fault.”

From Washington we’re joined by Peter Berkowitz. He’s a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He served as a senior advisor on foreign policy for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign.

And with us from San Diego, California, is Roger Hedgecock. He’s a nationally syndicated talk-show host based in San Diego. For more than a decade he served as Rush Limbaugh’s top fill-in host. He’s the former mayor of San Diego and author of a series of campaign issue books called “The 2008 Conservative Voter’s Field Guide.”

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  • Bobako

    Let’s stop the blame game and simply recognize like the rest of the world: Obama was a much better candidate.There is no school for presidents. He has displayed some brilliance during his political career, rarely seen in the public arena. He will make mistakes, of course, but at least nobody will question the soundness of his thought process. After those last eight years, isn’t it refreshing?

  • John Petesch

    Bobako, you seem optimistic and level headed, but I have to disagree with part of your plea.

    “Blame Game” is euphemistic Republican code for ignoring history and not holding their feet to the fire for screwing up our country.

    Republicans have been ignoring the lessons of history since the Republican revolution began under Reagan, repeating mistakes historians had long identified as textbook cases of what not to do.

    I look forward to thoughtful discussions and insight into exactly how Republicans screwed us, and hopefully we will once again find deserved respect historical context.

    Every time Republicans foul things up they say that it’s no time to play the “blame game.” In fact, assigning blame is the first thing to do in moments of crisis… first, to help pinpoint the exact cause of the problem; second, to take action to stop the bleeding; third, to obliterate the cancer pinpointed as the cause.

    Republicans will quickly lay blame on the rare occasion THEY find legitimate cause, and it is usually exactly the right thing to do.

  • Sam E.

    One of the great untold stories of this election was about how McCain the antithesis of Bush-Gingrich era partisanship became the man who took the fall for the Republican party. Some will say that he transitioned to being a partisan during the second term of the Bush administration but I think the overall story is more complicated than than this. McCain is a person who as late as early this year Rush Limbaugh referred to by saying that a vote for McCain was equivalent to a vote for Hillary Clinton.

    I found it interesting that in his Meet the Press interview Colin Powell referred to the McCain campaigns if it was separate from McCain the individual. While I think that Powell’s implication may have been somewhat hyperbolic I think that McCain probably did cede more control to the Bush wing of the party than he should have.

  • Kathryn Bishop

    I find it hard to believe that the Reps can possibly tout “personal freedom” when they would deny me the right to control my own reproduction.

    Not to mention the basic right to marry whomever one pleases.

  • Joanna Eldridge

    Will Sarah Palin become the Repubican Ralph Nader – forever viewed as the spoiler of the 2008 election?

  • Potter

    Listening to your show … so far these guys don’t get it. We have had enough of mean-spirited partisanship and religious righteousness. Obama’s message of our commonality was uplifting and made us feel good again about ourselves.

    The GOP started going off the rails in this direction with with Nixon. Reagan, Bush 1 & 2 continued by drilling “liberal” a dirty word. it’s been a long haul. We are in a new day.

  • John Petesch

    Looking at the demographic breakdown of the election, I was amazed at just how reliable an indicator voter age proved to be. The younger the voter, the bluer the graph.

    Of course the Latino and Black vote was also overwhelmingly blue, across the age spectrum.

    So long as the GOP shows itself to be the party of intolerance with issues like religiosity, immigration, gay rights, women’s rights (choice), etc., the Republican party will continue to lose the youth and minority vote.

    Ultimately, they will be the GOWP, or Generally Old and White Party.

    Either way, the “cultural issues” of intolerance are going to fall by the wayside, and the GOP can face the reality of future demographics or become utterly obsolete.

  • Sonya from Boston

    It is unfortunate to hear your guest speak about banning gay marriage as “standing up for family”. This point of view is what makes the GOP so difficult to get behind for so many Americans. Is it not possible that couples in gay unions also believe in “conservative values” of family and, in many cases, religion?







  • Andrew Shea

    if the gov’t can disincentivize smoking with taxes, and drinking with taxes, and fast driving with tickets, then why not disincentivise the greed that leads people to accepting 9 figure paychecks.

    it’s not going to convince a single wealthy person to make less money just to spite the gov’t if we increase their burden. What are the big houses and showy cars FOR if not to show off their broad shoulders?

  • Bruce de Graaf

    Listening to the program, I am amazed at the poor levels of world knowledge. One guest remarked that she is concerned that the United States would become more like Europe: “taking siestas”. One caller said that he was dismayed by the number of people who are only now proud of their country.

    Do you really think Germans take siestas? What about Danes? Dutch? Welsh? Would you rather buy a used German Porsche or an American Volare?

    Do you really think that somebody who raises the alarm that US-born children are far more likely to die than children born in Iceland? I’m not proud that the US ranks 163 out of the 195 countries in the UN survey (I could understand if we were not at the top but at least in the top ten, but 163?). Does that make me unpatriotic?

    Find out where you got these idiotic ideas. Find out who fed them to you and vow never again to believe anything such jerks say!

  • Ann-marie


    Tony Fabrizio is one of the problems: continue to support the republican leader UNTIL you loose, THEN claim he is not a TRUE conservative. Please. This party is blind, deaf, and dumb to political reality. “Steve” the caller is right, the party is on a one-way train and has left behind it’s members.

    He also mentions personal freedom. The same party that believes the state has the right to enter EVERY woman’s vagina and patrol her uterus. I can’t think of anything more personal or more communist than that.

    They are trying to recruit young members yet are against intelligence, higher education, science, and modernity. Get a clue.

  • Sam E.

    I disagree with much of the Republican party on the issue of gay marriage but that said if strategists are looking for an issue to hang their hat on after this election it is the anti-gay marriage amendment that past in California. I haven’t listened to the hour yet, but if what the Republican strategists were saying was that gay marriage is an issue which most americans agree with the GOP on and consequently it would be a winning political strategy to pursue a national amendment banning gay marriage they are correct at least from a short term political perspective.

  • http://www.danielguidera.com Daniel Guidera

    First principles? Gotta love right wing talking heads. Little more than 24 hours after getting massively thumped, they pick themselves up and they’re rolling out the new gibberish. Who thinks up this stuff?

  • Majawill

    Anybody but Hillary could have beaten whatever Republican candidate was put up. Two unpopular wars and an economy is recession perhaps is about as good as it can get for a challenger party. The fact that a 3% swing in votes gives McCain the popular vote is incredible.

    But it’s your world now Democrats, better make the most of it. You’ve had your backlash election and if you mess it up, it’ll be 1994 all over again. Then you had an even bigger majority and lost it. American voters are fickle and the middle is a toss up.

    With all the hoopla over how many new voters Obama was pulling in, didn’t I see some stats that the youth vote so only up slightly from when Kerry ran. I did see that McCain got more votes than any other presidential candidates except for Obama, Bush and Kerry. I don’t think the Republicans need a complete overall, just a tweaking. That should be enough to get some more independents on board. There goal shouldn’t be to take more of the NPR audience for sure.

  • amanda

    It is surreal to listen to this rhetoric of “personal freedom” and to know that it doesn’t include the freedom to say that I think America is wrong, it doesn’t include the freedom to be gay or trans, doesn’t include the freedom to talk about sexuality or to choose not to carry a fetus to term. No freedom to march in opposition to war without being rounded up and sent to jail. What are these personal freedoms then, that the republican party is all about?

  • Jack Williams

    I’m listening to the evening rebroadcast on XM. When Hedgecock talked about a “muscular” response to threats, I wish Tom had asked: “What branch of the service did you serve in?” If the answer is “none,” the question should be: “Which of your close relatives are in the service?” If the answer is none, he (and others like him) should be called out as chicken hawks like Bush, etc., etc.

    I’d like to see my Senator, Jim Webb, debate some of these guys who think being Liberal means being weak.

  • MW

    Just listened to the rebroadcast on WBUR tonight. What a hoot is was to listen to these Republicans disintegrate before my very ears.

    I particularly liked the part when the Limbaugh stand-in started in on the “Obama is a socialist” meme, and Tom said, “You can’t still be serious.” I liked it even more when Tom was backed up by callers who said that the namecalling and power grabbing led them to vote Democratic this time around.

    May the return to sanity continue. Our long national nightmare is over and, again, a Democratic has to clean up the mess left behind.

  • Majawill

    To show he wasn’t a weak lib, Obama has talked about unsolicited incursions into Pakistan. In January we’ll have a White House with zero military experience. How about them chicken hawks?

    Rahm as Chief of Staff! Looks like change begins with warmed over Clinton rejects.

  • Larry Levinson

    Roger Hedgecock personifies why people are fleeing the Republican party in droves. When Tom asked Hedgecock how he would win back a disaffected Republican caller who used to appreciate the Republican approach to freedom, his response was “you’re gonna find that you’re gonna have a lot less economic freedom under Obama.”

    Well there you have it. His answer to a direct, fair question was based in “you’re-gonna-be-sorry-you-made-Tuesday’s-decision” fear tactics. Of course, he offered no direct response to the caller’s concern.

    We’ve all had enough of polarizing, fear-mongering diatribes. Enough already.

  • Majawill

    Polarizing, fear-mongering diatribes; sounds like both sides in the election campaign we just went through.

  • Larry Levinson

    Barack Obama has pointed out many times that political campaigns are not for the faint hearted. But … listen to what Tom’s caller said … even Republicans are tired of their party’s name calling and fear mongering In fairness, however, I thought it was really good of McCain and Palin to promote Barack Obama from Terrorist to Socialist.

  • http://www.coloden.com Kelly

    Talk about not getting the point! This isn’t about the Republican party needing to be “relevant” to today’s America. The Democratic party isn’t any more “relevant”. What does it mean to be Republican or Democrat anymore? Republicans are anti-abortion and want to give wealth to the wealthy. Democrats are pro-choice and want to give wealth to the poor. That about sums up the differences. Both are for large government, more taxes, government intervention, imperialism, and war! If the Republicans moved back to resemble the party that Ron Paul insists left him behind, they’d find their situation much more palatable. It’s the fact that the Republican party has come to be dominated by Neo-Cons, pandering to the religious fanatics of our country that has hurt them so much!

  • Majawill

    I’m for more straight-talk. Call a wealth distributor a socialist and point out the failings of the opposition.

    Terrorist to socialist, I actually think that’s a demotion.

  • Larry Levinson

    Now you’re talkin’, Majawill. Let’s pull out of Afghanistan immediately and invade Sweden.

  • Majawill

    We’re talking domestic. Remember, Obama’s got no foreign policy experience. So I guess we invade Vermont, hope there’s snow.

  • Larry Levinson

    LOL … good one, Maj.

  • Stephen Alrich Marshall

    Entitlement, to the prerogatives of power, and the spoils thereof, was and may still be the flaw of the Republican mind. Feeling the right to dictate moral coda and to concentrate wealth in fewer hands, there was and must be a righteous “us”, and a flawed, perhaps evil, “them”. Having already split the world into friends and enemies, they could speak softly to their friends the truth, and they could lie and distort facts and ideas to anyone else, as needed, to acquire the power to which they were, after all, entitled. And which they needed to effect their agenda. In a consummate irony, their vision to destroy government was so effectively implemented that they laid the ground work for a complete repudiation.

    Who tells us we do not need government? How, without laws, and without placing the police power in the hands of some accountable agency, do we guarantee that greed, sadism and deceit shall not operate in human affairs? How, without an institution that is accountable to and guided by the people, can we fairly, democratically, set the minimum standards of good citizenship, and enforce them? How, without an incarnation of the community, its institutional memory, and its sole possession of the police power, are we to negotiate the terms of life in society, except by violence and fear? There are yet places in the world without government, and these are dangerous places that armies avoid.

    The Democrats, the Independents, and the apatheticists failed also, having no vision and no story to counter the narcissism of the Right. Democrats and Activists also failed when they lashed out at Republicans, in spiteful words. Hate radio has been baiting us for years and we needed to vent, but hate only feeds hate, so let us hope we cool off and apologize. Democrats, feeling repudiated by Ronald Reagan’s call for personal responsibility, and cowed by the ridicule heaped on the epithet “liberal”, have failed to reclaim the vision of an effective government, as a necessary fulfillment of the vision to “… form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” (preamble, US Constitution), not in denial of personal responsibility, but as a complement to it. The Democrats, like the Republicans, failed to see the validity and necessity of the vision of their ideological opponents.

    The deeper philosophical error was and is to believe that one political and economic philosophy and can guide a nation and its policies. The Republican dogma of personal responsibility, keeping the government out of personal business, and minimized cost of operation, is valid only if seen in contrast with and balanced against a progressive philosophy that reminds us that we cannot live alone, without sharing our streets, homes, businesses, banks, fates, and the Earth, that we have common interests, that the well being of individuals is an inherent interest of the community, and that the government is where communities make their decisions. Likewise, the Progressive dogma that government can be a force for good is only valid when countered by the conservative abhorrence of dependence and interference. The core truth, forgotten by polemicists, is that all views are needed to find the pragmatic middle, and that no one view is sufficient for a complete vision.

    We need a new vision of contest in American Politics, in which the opponent is a representative of a different way of seeing the world and our common business, whom we can question and probe for deeper understanding, and which we ourselves need, to get the policy and the philosophy right.

    These writings are the sole possession of Stephen Alrich Marshall and shall not be used without attribution.

  • Laura Adams

    The dictionary definition of socialism, from Merriam-Webster:

    1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

    I think what critics are thinking of when they call Obama’s policies socialist is actually nationalization, ” 2 : to invest control or ownership of in the national government.”

    Words have meanings, folks. Use them correctly.

  • Alex

    Why invade anybody? As for the military experience, there is plenty of people in the country having plenty of military experience. Obama does not have to have it. Neither Bush nor Clinton had any. Nor Lincoln or FDR. Reading books on American history, I am decidely not impressed by the performance of Republican presidents in this area. Military spending – maybe. But otherwise, the first gulf war and Grenada are the only two examples from the last 100 years that come to mind. Cutting and running from Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon is also their achievement. Dems were actually the ones leading the country through WWI and WWII. A democrat was the only president in history making a decision to use nuclear wheapons. Bay of Pigs was dems, but also Cuban missile crisis. Clinton’s Balkan adventure was successful with virtually no loss of American servicemen, while Bush’s Iraq adventure is a disaster. So as an immigrant in this Country reading history I am a little at a loss as to why Republicans are considered strong on defense, while Dems are not.

  • Majawill

    Nice attempt to rewrite history.
    Vietnam was Kennedy’s disaster, worsened by Johnson.
    Korea was Johnson’s disaster alone.
    Carter had the hostage incident in Iran and the rescue disaster.
    Clinton had disasters in Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. Clinton’s escapade in the Balkan’s was a disaster in that it brought no stability to the region, the ramifications of which would prove to be tragic. His decision to take a pass on Bin Laden was perhaps his greatest disaster.
    By your definition, Obama plans to cut and run in Iraq.

  • AV

    Alex, one reason could be that the Democrats are associated with their last debacle – Vietnam – much strongly than the previous wars. And the first Gulf War associated with Bush Sr. was considered a “success” so maybe a combination of those two factors leads to the (mis)conception that the Democrats are weak on war and the Republicans strong? Just a guess and I think most voters and citizens do not peruse history and look at all the facts before coming to a conclusion. Identity politics plays a huge part in how people perceive “their” party.

    My question would be why the Democrats are considered as peace-loving or anti-war when there’s strong evidence of Clinton bombing the Al-Shifa factory as well as Iraq, continuing the sanctions on Iraq that resulted in thousands of innocent Iraqis killed, and the current Democrats in the Congress voting for the Iraq war.

    When it comes to maintaining the US military-industrial complex, there’s little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, yet somehow, the Democrats are perceived as “better” on this issue, or peace-loving than the Republicans. Go figure.

  • http://www.lit.org/fritzwilliam Fred W. Bracy

    “Here’s Looking At You, Kid”

    It’s so laughably simple. The talk is all about where the Republicam party goes from here. The answer–one can almost never go wrong with Paris.

    The middle class is shrinking. Where do Republicans think the next generation of GOP voters will come from as everyday people continue to see opportunity–to say nothing of the American dream–steadily slipping away? How prophetic that the Party of Lincoln should should have as a quote from its mentor, “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

    So it’s so long, Republicans. The party’s over. Take the GOP handle with you. . .that is, if you wouldn’t mind. Unfortunately, the (G) doesn’t stand for “grand.” The (O) doesn’t stand for “old” either, at least not as far as you’re concerned. As for the (P)arties–and this is something that no one but a close family member would tell you–we grew tired of your always serving Ripple, even when you certainly could have afforded champagne.

    And now. . .the plane is waiting. Please watch your step.

  • Aaron

    To build on Laura’s comment defining socialism in response to the continued desperate attempts to disparage Obama with inaccurate labels: The most socialistic candidate of the four, in fact probably the only candidate with any strain of socialism running through them at all, was Sarah Palin, whose justification for imposing a windfall tax on oil companies, and payment of $3,200 to every citizen of Alaska, was that the state, i.e. the citizens of Alaska collectively, owned the land and deserved part of the profits the oil companies made.

    But who cares about the meaning of words when we have vague, emotional partisan rhetoric?

  • Alex

    Majawill and AV – I object to Republicans being a default party that is strong on defense. That’s all. History is, of course, subject to interpretations and we can argue till cows come home who owns which disasters.

    I have only been eligible to vote in 2004 and 2008 and I voted Democrat both times. Being from the former USSR I have seen first hand how a big country can be bankrupted by military expenditures. My concern is that Republicans are all too happy to spend billions fighting an enemy that’s probably spending 10 bucks a day or something like that. That’s the surest way to be defeated. I do not want to have another immigration in my life. Thus, I ill not be voting Republican any time soon.

  • AV

    Alex, that’s exactly why I support Green Party and Nader – they are explicitly against the military-industrial complex, unlike the other two major parties.

  • Alex

    Yeah, AV – but the Greens and Nader have no chance. So what’s the guy to do? I already dislike the plan to help mortgage borrowers and car makers being hatched in DC. Who’s gonna help a potential home buyer/saver like myself? Unfortunately, Republicans are capable of wreaking untold havoc upon the country, while Democrats in their populist zeal will alienate many of their supporters by picking and chosing who deserves federal help and who does not. Both parties ultimately devide the population and conquer the pot of money sitting in the treasury. Where the hell is Ron Paul?

  • AV

    Yeah, AV – but the Greens and Nader have no chance. So what’s the guy to do?


    Alex, it’s really simple: support them, starting at the local and state level. It’ll take time to build them up, but without that support, it’s not possible. And supporting those who are not speaking about these issues is not likely to bring about a change for better.

    Progressives in slam-dunk states of either color (red/blue) can easily vote for these party candidates without splitting the vote during a Presidential election and help them get national 5% vote which is essential.

    Progressives can start supporting initiatives to improve our democratic system and call for political reform. We’re living in one of the free-est countries in the world and not a dictatorship, so I see no reason for pessimism or cultivating a defeatist attitude. The only one obstructing us is the man in the mirror – our own laziness and apathy.

    There are a lot of exciting initiatives happening like Common Cause, Fair Vote, Open Debate, National Initiative for Democracy and Nov 5 Movement (http://vimeo.com/2156858) which make me optimistic. Google them, support them and get involved – one step at a time.

  • Rich

    As a few other posters have highlighted, the big reason the Republican party is currently on its way down is hypocrisy.

    You can’t be for “personal freedom” and yet be against Choice and against equal marriage.

    You can’t be for “limited government” and yet double its size.

    You can’t be strong on defense and yet make disastrous mistakes in Iraq, in setting up the ridiculous TSA, leaving our ports unguarded, messing up our image in the world, etc.

    And how does “fiscal responsibility” square with tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts?

    Or energy policy with “drill baby drill”?

    The Republican party from the top down has become a party of hypocrites. They have become a caricature.

    Let me tell you when I’ll vote Republican: when they have sensible fiscal, energy, and security policies. When they uphold the right to marry the love of your choice, and when they recognize that in order to REDUCE abortions they have to keep them safe and legal and educate the public.

Aug 27, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, looks at them, prior to their talks after after posing for a photo in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP)

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Matthew Triska, 13, center, helps Alex Fester, 10, to build code using an iPad at a youth workshop at the Apple store on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Stanford, Calif.  (AP)

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Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, right, speaks with Ady Barkan of the Center for Popular Democracy as she arrives for a dinner during the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyo. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.  (AP)

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