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Column: Tips From A Democrat To Fix An Ailing GOP

This story was written by Jacob Shelly, The Eagle


After a historic route, the Republican Party seems to have been reduced to a few dead-enders in the South. As a partisan Democrat, I might be out of line offering advice to my ideological opponents. But as a liberal, compassion gets the best of me. Here's the speech Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who just proved the mettle of the moderate GOP brand with a convincing reelection, should deliver to her party:

Today the Republican Party is in undeniable retreat, demoralized and defeated. Our president is discredited, our strength in Congress is crippled and our permanent majority is a hollow fantasy. We have heard the entreaties and exhortations, the (often self-serving) advice that the only way out of this political wilderness is to follow the well-trampled path to the ideological right. This afternoon I want to offer a different path: the path of progress and pragmatism.

Three days after the election, Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center declared "the moderate wing of the Republican Party is dead."

To which I say: I'm not dead yet! And to which any self-interested Republican ought to say: We better hope the moderates don't die off anytime soon.

There are some who say that moderation is a losing strategy, since moderates continue to lose. And from coast to coast, our caucus is battered. In the Senate, we lost Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee and Ohio's Mike DeWine in 2006. This year, we lost my good friends - New Hampshire's John Sununu and Oregon's Gordon Smith. And in the House of Representatives, Chris Shays was but the latest casualty of the massacre of New England Republicans.

But let no one tell you that moderates have a monopoly on Republican losses. In Virginia, former Sen. George Allen has a new buddy in defeated Rep. Virgil Goode. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., can offer coping lessons to defeated Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich. GOP candidates looked for guidance and new leadership; D.C. gave them old ideas and empty slogans.

It doesn't have to be this way. Americans have sent a clear signal that they've had enough partisan sniping and political obstructionism. They see a Republican Party that's more interested in being right than doing right.

Let's get something done during the next sessions of Congress. Let's put down our guns and knives, put down our filibusters and show our constituents that when President-elect Barack Obama asks for an alternative energy bill, we can provide one. Because when we produce results we can earn our constituents' trust.

That's how we as a party can win: by respecting our voters. Less rhetoric about "real America" and more about real solutions. Instead of lecturing, let's try listening. By solving the problems facing America, I am confident we will solve the problems facing our party.

The American tradition of moderate Republicanism is storied and proud. As former New York Gov. Thomas Dewey said, "It is our solemn responsibility to show that government can have both a head and a heart; that it can be both progressive and solvent; and that it can serve the people without becoming their master." This is the vision that I champion. It is a vision embraced by great Republicans from former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to California Gov. Earl Warren. From President Theodore Roosevelt to former Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, whose seat I now hold.

As America's first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, said: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Our party will not endure with infighting that pits centrists against conservatives, New England against the Old South. Ours is a diverse nation, and we must be a diverse Party. Only then will we live to win again.

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