Eric Cantor, former Virginia Congressman and Republican U.S. House Majority Leader who served in the U.S. House from 2001-14, penned an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times suggesting the GOP needed a suburban agenda. In it, he made reasonable suggestions for the future of the Republican Party.
Will anyone listen?
An election provides a certain definitiveness for political candidates, win or lose. I know from experience, having lived through both the ups and the downs. For political parties, elections also provide a chance to reflect, learn and move forward with the business of attracting more voters next time. Or at least they should.
For Republicans, losing the House majority in last week’s midterm elections is a clear demonstration that the party must do more to appeal to suburban voters, especially college-educated women. Once a Republican mainstay, this group has been slowly moving away from us for the past few cycles.
The data is indisputable, and Republicans must address it. We need a Republican suburban agenda.
He laid out the need for Republicans to attract and regain lost voters. It was a reminder of the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” after the 2012 presidential election when Mitt Romney lost to incumbent Barack Obama. In it was a blueprint of what the GOP needed to do to attract and/or keep voters. Sadly, the party didn’t listen.
If not willing to compromise on issues and work with their colleagues across the political aisle, Republicans face the possibility of continued losses as voters become discouraged and continue to move away from the party.
There’s a better way, Cantor wrote:
There is a better way. Two of the most popular Republican governors, each re-elected in a landslide on Tuesday, happen to be from two of the bluest states in the country — Massachusetts and Maryland. They have figured out how to maintain support among base Republicans while still appealing to independents and even Democrats.
In my home state of Virginia, the suburbs throughout the state have been trending blue for some time. Last year in the race for governor, Democrats faced a choice: Double down on the gains they had made in the suburbs of Washington, Richmond and Norfolk or try to hold those voters while simultaneously appealing to rural areas.
In short, he says, Democrats broadened their appeal.
The 2020 election season has now begun. After last week’s niceties of calls and congratulations, what comes next will foreshadow whether these lessons were internalized or ignored. Will Republicans have something to offer suburban, college-educated women? Will Democrats have anything to say to white, non-college-educated men in the rural areas?
There is an added bonus for all the beleaguered voters who aren’t quite ready to dive back into a divisive political process: A campaign where you’re trying to bring more people into your party tends to be more civil and less toxic than what we just experienced.
Read the Congressman’s entire op-ed here.
Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell