Republican Strategists Discuss the Future of the Party

February 8, 2013
By Sarah Abrams, Kennedy School Communications

Top Republican strategists expressed both frustration and optimism for the future of the GOP at a panel discussion in the JFK Jr. Forum Wednesday night (Feb. 6).

Republicans in 2012 failed to connect to voters, according to many on the panel. The Republicans party must shift from one of exclusion to one of inclusion, said Ana Navarro, CNN contributor and co-chair of National Hispanic.

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“I think you take the 2012 campaign and make it a manual on what not to do,” said Navarro. “Somewhere in the process we have lost the heart of the conservatives. Somewhere in the process, conservatives have become and sound to others as righteous judgmental people.”

“A conservative philosophy could be optimistic and hopeful, and I think that’s where we’ve lost our way,” said Karen Hughes IOP 2013, former advisor to President George W. Bush. “We don’t sound optimistic and hopeful.” The challenge, Hughes said, is to show that side of the party. “I don’t’ think we talk about our policies in ways that have been resonating with people in their daily lives.”

John Murray IOP 2013, former chief of staff to Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) echoed Hughes’s concerns. “We’ve gotten away from articulating a vision that is not just a different counter proposal, but is offering a different choice,” Murray said. “What is the option that we’re presenting and how does that dovetail into the larger purpose of the average American family,” he said. “We have to get back to connecting.”

“Republicans should have cleaned the clock of this president based on who we are as Republicans,” said Ron Christie IOP 2011, former advisor to President George W. Bush and CEO of Christie Strategies. “We need to have the courage of our convictions to talk about why our policies are the right way to move the country, what the alternative is . . . and be very truthful about it.”

“We need to come together — not under a big tent because no one is going to give up their identity — but as a coalition of conservatives,” said Kerry Healey IOP 2007, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts from 2003 from 2007. “If we were to be able to harness a coalition of conservatives with a core of beliefs around economic policy, foreign policy, and states rights, I believe that could be a winning strategy that would bring us back to a competitive point.”

There is a silver lining to this, said Navarro. “We have now learned that it is unavoidable to have a wake up call. . . . If we don’t want to be political oblivion, we have to do better with women, with Hispanics, with African Americans, with everyone. We can’t just be a niche party.

Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson, moderated the event.

panel members

Panelists pictured (From L to R): Ron Christie, IOP fellow 2011, former advisor to President George W. Bush and CEO of Christie Strategies; Kerry Healey, IOP fellow 2007, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts 2003-2007; and Karen Hughes, IOP fellow 2013, former advisor to President George W. Bush.

Photo Credit: Katherine Taylor, Harvard Gazette

“We need to come together — not under a big tent because no one is going to give up their identity — but as a coalition of conservatives,” said Kerry Healey.

picture of panelists

Panelists pictured (From L to R): Trey Grayson (moderator), Institute of Politics director; Ron Christie; Kerry Healey; Karen Hughes; John Murray President, Young Guns Action Fund, IOP fellow 2013, Deputy Chief of Staff to Eric Cantor 2010-12; Ana Navarro CNN Contributor; National Hispanic Co-Chair.

Photo Credit: IOP


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