Beam: What’s next for Republicans?

By By Jim Beam / American Press

The Republican Party has been getting

plenty of advice following President Obama’s re-election last November,

and Gov. Bobby

Jindal raced to be first in line. After campaigning for GOP

nominee Mitt Romney, Jindal was quick to criticize the former

Massachusetts governor for dividing the country with his comment

that he (Romney) wasn’t concerned about 47 percent of Americans

who wouldn’t vote for him anyway.

Jindal seized on that comment again last week when he addressed the Republican National Committee at its winter meeting in

Charlotte, N.C.

“We must compete for every single vote,” the governor said. “The 47 percent and the 53 percent. And any other combination

of numbers that add up to 100 percent... We are going after every vote as we work to unite all Americans.”

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Republicans have to demonstrate their party cares about the future of the American


Romney received only 47 percent of the

popular vote. Obama clearly demonstrated that reaching more voters was

the key to his

victory. The president got 93 percent of the black vote, 71

percent of the Hispanic vote and 67 percent of the youth (18-29)


It’s obvious those are three areas where Republicans are going to have to do a lot of work to improve their future election

chances. So where do they start?

Jindal said the GOP has to (1)

demonstrate it believes in a color-blind society, (2) quit making stupid

remarks on controversial

issues, (3) stop being known as the party of big business, big

banks “or big anything,” (4) put its focus on the states and

local governments, (5) compete for every vote and (6) deal with

and trust real people outside of Washington, D.C.

None of that will come easily for some.

Remarks made last week by Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana

Republican Party,

prove that is the case. Villere said Vice President Joe Biden

should cancel plans for a fund-raiser with Louisiana’s senior

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

“I call on Sen. Landrieu to cancel this event and to inform Mr. Biden that he is not welcome in Louisiana,” Villere said.

If Villere knew his history, he

wouldn’t make such a ridiculous statement. Biden isn’t a popular fellow

in some parts, but

his office deserves more dignity. And the vice president has been

well-received in Louisiana during a number of trips he has

made here. Consider what Dinah Landry, executive director of the

Cameron Council on Aging, said about Biden’s reception when

the vice president visited Grand Lake in 2010 to talk about

disaster aid after Hurricane Ike.

“They (senior citizens) are very excited, and they are very appreciative,” Landry said. “They feel very important. One of

the ladies told me yesterday that this was the first time in her life that she felt more important than a politician.”

Villere’s comments were exactly what Jindal meant when he said Republicans should quit making stupid remarks.

A number of writers for National Journal, a political news magazine, have devoted considerable space since the election to

how the Republican Party can recapture its national prominence.

Beth Reinhard believes adopting a sound

policy on immigration reform is “the way to bridge the gap with the

fast-growing Hispanic


Ron Fournier said, “In making the

rounds on Capitol Hill, I’ve been struck by the recognition among GOP

lawmakers that their

party must adapt or perish. Some paint a broader picture, pointing

out that both political parties need to be better attuned

to the public will.”

Tim Alberta and Jim O’Sullivan said the

GOP needs to steal some ideas about recruiting, organizing and building

a successful

campaign from the one waged by Obama. They also believe states

have set a good example with their emphasis on education reform,

privatization of government services and budget-balancing efforts.

None of it is easy. There has been stiff resistance to

similar changes in Louisiana.

Matthew Cooper said there are good trends moving in the GOP’s direction, but the party does need to adjust to the realities

of a constantly changing American society.

“The Republican Party has great strengths in a country with a deep libertarian streak,” Cooper said. “It’s not a goner any

more than the Democrats were in 1972. The GOP can be competitive and it won’t take that much to make it so.”

Jindal summed it up well when he said,

“I am not one of those who believe we should moderate, equivocate or

otherwise abandon

our principles... No, the Republican Party does not need to change

our principles ... but we might need to change just about

everything else we do.”

Republicans have been given a lot of

food for thought since losing the presidential election, and that is a

good thing. It

is obvious much of what the party has been doing wasn’t

well-received last November. If GOP officials react positively to

some of the cures that have been suggested, they can once again

become a vibrant political force. The country needs the balance

two effective parties can bring to the table.

• • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or