Sometimes the best answer is the simplest one.
It’s been a rough 24 hours for Virginia Republicans. The Democrats swept the statewide races and came within inches of taking control of the House of Delegates, with several races likely going into recount in the coming weeks. We lost races we never dreamt we’d lose. While we managed to cling onto a 51-49 majority in the House, it’s a far cry from the near-super majority we had before.
Now Republican circles are busy playing the blame game, flooding our Facebook feeds with a slew of accusations, amateur commentary, and lackluster theories explaining, “how we lost”. Here are some of the more notable ones:
- “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for…” –President Donald Trump
- “DC should annex NOVA…” –Jerry Falwell, Jr.
- The “failure [of the US Senate GOP] to repeal Obamacare hurt us as a country and that inaction specifically damaged our Party with voters last night.” –RPV Chairman John Whitbeck
- “Ed treated the president as if he had typhoid.” –Corey Stewart
- “Ed Gillespie is Donald Trump’s clone.” –Democrats
- “Corey Stewart & Co.” –“Establishment RINOs”
- The “Establishment RINOs”. –Corey Stewart & Co.
- “Virginia’s lack of an Electoral College.”
- Dead Confederates
- Bathroom Bills
- The Latino Victory Fund attack ad
- The Russians
… and the list goes on.
The Republican Divide
Throughout his campaign, Gillespie did a phenomenal job walking a very fine line between the pro- and anti-Trump factions of our party. It was far from an easy feat, but he managed to run a campaign that appealed to both sides. Running to be a governor “for all Virginians”, the Gillespie team seemingly courted every faction of the Republican divide. On one hand, Gillespie ran an anti-illegal immigration campaign and defended Confederate statues. On the other, he focused on addressing the opioid crisis, mental health reform, criminal justice reform, education reform, tax reform, transportation reform, etc.
Ed Gillespie’s platform was jam-packed with a vast plethora of policy stances and a solid policy plans. There was something for everybody. But, in the end, straddling multiple sides didn’t lead us to victory.
Gillespie ran multiple campaigns. Northam just ran one.
Unfortunately for us, a single campaign against Donald Trump was able to bring about a high voter turnout for the Democrats. The rest is history.
So, what now?
In the wake of this Democratic tsunami, Virginia Republicans are frantically searching for answers to “what happened?” When Hillary Clinton asked herself this very same question last year, her list of excuses and scapegoats ran 512 pages long.
We can come up with endless explanations for “what happened?” but we already know the truth, and we need to face it. We lost. Let’s pick up our jaws, scrape our hearts off floor, and fight on.
And instead of asking, “why we lost”, let ask ourselves a more important question: “How do we win?”
A Phoenix Rising
The Republican Party is not dead. Contrary to what many Republicans fear right now, our fight is far from over. While we had all hoped and prayed for a much better result to yesterday’s election this is not the end. It’s only the beginning.
We can choose to revert back into the party that has not won statewide in nearly a decade, or we can reemerge as a stronger, more focused, and more principled Republican Party. Let’s learn from our mistakes, not repeat them.
The Donald Trump model won’t work (Donald Trump lost Virginia, remember?).
Playing both sides of the Republican divide won’t work.
Going back to business as usual, relying solely on our old, worn-out talking points of old (guns, tax cuts, jobs) won’t work.
Focusing on defending Confederate Statues won’t work (Exit polls showed that a decisive majority of Virginians opposes their removal, but these numbers clearly didn’t help Republicans much).
So if these are not winning strategies, what are? I only wish I knew the answer. All I know is that we cannot afford to revert back to the same strategies that have failed us before. It’s time to try something new.
Moving forward, I hope to see a Republican Party emerge that focuses on its ideological roots of small, limited government, individual liberty, and free-market capitalism. A Republican Party that is not afraid to tackle on new, innovative, unorthodox policy solutions. A Republican Party that fully respects the rights of individuals, even those we disagree with. A Republican Party that relentlessly fights for its causes, but still understands how to accept and appreciate small victories when the larger ones remain out of reach. A Republican Party that is patient enough to play the long game. A Republican Party that understands that compromising to get things done is sometimes (not always) better than doing absolutely nothing at all.
When a phoenix is reborn, it burns to the ground before rising from its own ashes. As will we.