The Republican Party is in trouble: In the wake of the presidential election, everybody has said so, and everybody is right. From there, however, a hundred paths diverge and a thousand voices have been heard. The relevant questions are these: How deep is the trouble? How much of it is self-inflicted and how much is a function of circumstance? Can the problem be repaired, and if so, by what means?
The 2012 election was not only a dismal showing for the Republicans but the continuation of a dismal, 20-year trend. Out of the last six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 210 for the Republican. During the preceding two decades, from 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six elections, averaging 417 electoral votes to the Democrats’ 113. In three of those contests, the Democrats failed to muster even 50 electoral votes.
What is the reason for this swift and stunning reversal of electoral fortunes? The answer lies in a variety of factors—and in their confluence.
Michael Gerson, former policy adviser and chief of speechwriting for President George W. Bush, is a Washington Post columnist. Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the last three Republican administrations. He blogs regularly for Commentary.