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Jul 17

Past Event

The Future of the Republican Party: Is the GOP DOA?

Event Materials



  • Liberal Fundamentalism, Voter Mobilization, and the Congressional Bastion

    Elaine Kamarck: 25 years ago, the Democratic party was living with three myths: that liberals alone could win a Presidential election, that enough minority voters could lead to election wins, and that Democrats will always have a majority in Congress.

    Elaine Kamarck

  • Today’s GOP Echoes the Democratic Party From 25 Years Ago

    William A. Galston: Today’s Republican party is much like the Democratic party 25 years ago. It is the victim of adverse demographic trends, takes unpopular positions on key issues, has a demanding base far from the center of political gravity, and embraces counterproductive myths.

    William A. Galston

  • The Republican Party Can be the Party of Ideas Again

    Alex Castellanos, Purple Strategies: This moment is a great opportunity for Republicans. It’s a time for new ideas, innovation and a “bottom up” approach, especially now that the global economy is on the verge of an explosion of prosperity.

  • It’s Not the End of the GOP, but the End of Power for the Right

    Robert Costa, National Review: When I look at the state of the GOP today, I don’t see the end of a party. I see the end of power for the Congressional right.

  • The Republican Party Is Struggling with Changing Demographics

    Liz Mair, Mair Strategies, LLC: The Republican party has to long list of issues to address on the policy, outreach and technological, image and perception fronts, especially as demographics continue to change so rapidly. It’s a ticking time bomb.

  • Who Is the Republican Party Appealing to These Days?

    Sean Trende, Real Clear Politics: For the first time in about 100 years, the working class white vote does not have a natural home in the Republican party, and the party’s outreach to Hispanics needs to be reexamined as well.

Full Event


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Following the Republicans’ loss in the 2012 presidential election, a new wave of reformers both outside of and within the GOP is pushing for party renewal. Critics have called on the GOP to rethink not only its messaging, but more importantly its policies and fundamental vision. Political observers and operatives are now asking how the Republican Party can reconcile contemporary conservative positions with the day-to-day concerns of ordinary people.

On July 17, the Management and Leadership Initiative at Brookings hosted a forum on the future of the GOP and the opportunities and challenges the party faces. Elaine Kamarck and William Galston, pioneers of the New Democrat movement and authors of “The Politics of Evasion,” gave introductions and comparing the state of the current GOP to the Democrats of the late 1980s. Afterwards, a panel of leading political analysts asked whether the success of the GOP is a matter of changing policies, changing messages, or changing tactics. The panel also discussed how demographic changes are shrinking the party’s base And what strategies are available to cope with these long-term challenges.

Do Republicans compromise what they believe and become Democrats lite and lose? Or do they keep talking about things the way they do now and lose? Neither of those seems very attractive. – Alex Castellanos, Purple Strategies

Elaine Kamarck and Bill Galston said the Republican party today faces challenges similar to those that Democrats encountered 25 years ago. The party has been weakened by adverse demographic trends, its base has grown more demanding and shifted the party farther from the country’s “center of political gravity,” and its leadership has evaded the fundamental reforms required to take the party in a new direction.

Sean Trende said the Republican party was weakened in the 2012 elections by the dropoff in turnout among working class white voters. He noted that 75% of the American electorate is non-minority white and a conscious strategy aimed at increasing turnout and Republican support among swing state working class whites could contribute to the party’s success in the years ahead.

Alex Castellanos argued that the GOP’s current crisis presents the party with valuable opportunities to generate new, innovative solutions to the country’s most critical issues. Rather than simply criticizing Democratic economic policies, Republican leaders can propose ideas for empowering American workers and helping the economy to grow from the bottom up.

Liz Mair said she rejects the idea that Republicans have to adopt increasingly liberal economic policies in order to attract minority voters. Instead, she argued, the GOP has to commit itself to more targeted and sustained voter engagement techniques, particularly with the Hispanic and African American communities.

Rob Costa noted that as Republican leaders in Congress, particularly Speaker of the House John Boehner, have lost control over the party’s direction, conservative discourse becomes increasingly shaped by grassroots groups rather than by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

I really don’t feel like I’m covering the end of a party or the end of the GOP but rather the end of power. And that’s what I really see in Congress every day when I’m covering the House and the Senate. Power for Republican leaders has really diminished. – Rob Costa, the National Review

Event Agenda


July 17, 2013

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EDT

The Brookings Institution

The Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications


SERIES: Strengthening American Democracy | Number 5