The Twilight of the GOP Establishment: Who Will Save Republicans, Now?

Newt Gingrich nailed it: "If you're not going to be competitive with Latinos, with African-Americans, with Native Americans, with Asian-Americans, you're not going to be a successful party."

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Reuters

Within hours of President Obama winning re-election, two faces of the Republican Party emerged. One impressed me enormously. The other deeply troubled me. Liberals, meanwhile, rejoiced at having averted what they saw as a national calamity.

The time, though, is not for gloating. It is for supporting the Republicans who can rein in their party's far right and help us all. For me, Fox News, of all places, was a hopeful sign.

While Karl Rove questioned whether Obama had, in fact, won Ohio, Juan Williams and Brit Hume courageously admitted the party had lost touch with a changing nation. They embraced exit polls showing that the surge in Latino, black, female and young voters that aided Obama in 2008 was a permanent demographic change, not a one-time event.

"We're looking at a new kind of politics," Williams said.

Hume stood tall as well.

"The demographic factors that Juan referred to are absolutely real," he said.

And this morning Newt Gingrich, of all people, issued a bold mea culpa.

"We have to recognize that if you're not going to be competitive with Latinos, with
African-Americans, with Native Americans, with Asian-Americans," Gingrich said on CBS, "you're not going to be a successful party."

All of these officials should be applauded. I disagree with them in many ways politically. I also question whether this is the latest of many political pivots for Gingrich. But I praise and respect them for accepting the basic dynamics of the race. Publicly admitting you were wrong is never easy.

The reaction of far-right Republicans to the results, on the other hand, was astonishing. They argued that the vast swathes of female and minority voters who supported Obama would have supported an arch conservative.

"A succession of potential Republican nominees - Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich - were bright, attractive, and have compelling narratives," Michael Hammond wrote on Red State, a conservative blog. "Instead, Republican voters (or, at least, enough of them) bought into this Democratic mantra that only a liberal stand-for-nothing Republican can win a presidential election."

One group of Republicans is facing reality. Another is not. President Obama needs to quickly move to further marginalize the extreme Republican right.

His victory speech last night ended on a stirring note, but I wished it had contained concrete, bipartisan gestures. James Bennet of The Atlantic got it right in a message he posted on Twitter during the early part of the speech.

"Give us an action plan," Bennet wrote. "Gang of 8 to the White House for budget talks next week; Romney to be commerce secretary; not stories but specifics."

Obama, who has established few strong relationships with members of Congress, must  personally engage in the effort to avert the "fiscal cliff." The moderate Republican senators who are members of the Gang of 8 should be a particular focus.

Presented by

David Rohde is an investigative reporter for Reuters and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, he is a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. His latest book, Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East, was published in 2013. More

He is also the author of Endgame and, with Kristen Mulvihill, A Rope and a Prayer. He lives in New York City.

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