The Republican Party did an internal autopsy in 2012 after losing the presidency to Barack Obama. Again.
The Democratic Party, because they won. Did not.
This is an autopsy of both parties, before election day, and it will probably hold true on Wednesday, when the sun comes up.
Both parties have theoretical schisms. The Republican Party has a schism between their fiscal and social conservatives. Their fiscal conservatives don't seem to really understand the fundamental basis of fiscal conservatism, and their social conservatives have been trending fundamentalist, and extreme for the past 20 years. This is something they have to reconcile if they wish to go further. There is a possibility that they will have to perform surgery to separate these two wings.
The Democratic Party has to deal with a communications problem. The basis of this communications problem is that the process of governing, and managing government is complex, un-sexy and for many, mind-numbing. The most common comment of people who vote Republican, instead of Democratic, is "I don't know that much about politics." But the difference between the Democratic platform (philosophy) and the Republican one, is not politics. It is a philosophical difference - and is complex to explain.
The Democratic philosophy is that government exists, should exist, and needs to exist for a nation to survive. And that government is supposed to work for all the people, not just the chosen few, and even if people believe in their individuality, the nation itself, can not survive without a governance.
The Republican philosophy is that government is a necessary evil. Like a child with problems, it is best to either ignore the problems, push it aside or hide it. They believe in the individual's supreme ability to overcome all odds and come out ahead. Now, if you take out my middle sentence here, the Republican philosophy is much easier to see, and believe in - whether it is true or not. We ALL want to believe that we can triumph as individuals.
As the nation becomes bigger, more diverse, more interconnected and interdependent, the necessity and role of government becomes less and less optional. While Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and the law of Texas Rangers slowly recedes from being the way we ARE, to the way we WERE, the philosophy of Republican fiscal conservatism has to shift from "we don't need that," to "how can we make that work?" This isn't different from a parent making the decision of whether to eat meat and potatoes or foie gras and caviar when a family is young, or whether their child should go to college or go to work in the fields as the child matures. Obviously, there is merit in work (and working in the fields), but there is more future in going to college. The Republican philosophy would have us all working in the fields.
But also, because the Republican philosophy is that government is a necessary evil, the Republican attitude is that they don't want to study, or become good, at evil. So the automatic attitude is to NOT govern, or exert themselves as little as possible, or not impose them themselves at all. That makes the general Republican attitude one of "running" to govern, but never to actually govern. Or, to actively seek to "non-govern."
The Republican problem calls for a shift in philosophy. And that might be the most difficult to do.
For Democrats, the issue is communications. It is easy for people who live in cities and for people with a dependency, to understand how inter-dependency is integral to our lives. We need roads, internet, public transport, cops, firemen, military, schools, governmental agencies, hospitals, science, to make our way through life. We need the roads to get to work, go to the store, cops and fire departments to keep us safe. In cities, a single house burning can become dozens and hundreds and a thousand without preparation and immediate help. We don't get food from shooting a deer or two for the winter, from raising tomatoes, carrots, potatoes or picking apples. These are cherished individual freedoms, but our populations don't have the land to raise blueberries, kiwis, peaches, turkeys, chickens and provide the energy for electricity or gasoline.
For the Democratic Party, the reality of freedom is that the more efficient we become at providing for ourselves and each other, the more free we all are. If we considered the amount of land we need to produce for ourselves, all of our cities would expand outward, across the country to land wars and contentions between people who presently live on the land in rural areas, and urban people, needing the land for survival. That WAS the history of the development of America. The wars between Native Americans and settlers of the West, the conflicts between Texans and the original Spanish, then Mexican, and Comanche and Apache tribes. The Texans were originally from Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Georgia, with some Europeans and people from Ohio and New York thrown in . . . but they were ALL foreign to that western soil. But can our nation presently survive with that kind of individual pursuit of future? Can our individuality survive with those pressures?
For the Democratic Party, and it's belief in seeking a better, more efficient social and governmental answer to our existing present, the need for communication is simple: this is not a minority or sub-sectional problem. It is a problem of explaining what, and why, and how, these answers address ALL of our needs. It doesn't address just the needs of the needy, but of the wealthy and the well-off, as well. Of the aspiring as well as the dependent, not solely black and white and red Americans who's forefathers were the carving out a future in a New World, but of new Americans coming or being born to these shores in a Present Day New World. And how this concept of government provides all of us with the freedom to pursue our individual happiness.
A road built, is not a tax expenditure, but a possibility to find new paths, build new businesses, get to school, go to work, seek a job, find a partner, raise a family, see a future.
The fewer roads we have, the greater our limitations. We are not all going to build a road. We should not all have to figure out how to build a road, just like we should not all have to re-discover "the wheel." But once the wheel is discovered, building another one, and another one, and another one, is less expensive than waiting another thousand years to discover the wheel once again. Time is our enemy. Do we want our children and our children's children, and our children's children's children have to wait for a wheel to be discovered? If it already exists, and all we have to do is make it accessible to everyone? Government exists. But Democrats can't figure out how to explain it.
Finally, in our democracy, personalities come and go. They trend and they fall out of trend. In the past number of decades, we have seen this in the rise of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But a democracy is not built on personality or trend, it is based on people and policy. What people need and the policies implemented to fulfill their needs. It might be more true that the legislation and policies created by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush had more impact (both negative and positive) on the course of our nation, than the personalities. But while people, in this election cycle, think that this election is a choice of "the lessor of two evils," the fact is, one personality is distracting, and the other person is mostly defined by her enemies, rather than by herself. And the cult of personality creates a distinct threat to democracy.
Democrats for the past 50 years, have mostly been defined by Republicans. McCarthy, McGovern, Dukakis, Carter, Kerry, Mondale have all been defined by Republican opponents as liberal, soft, indecisive, earnest, weak, sincere environmentalists, tree-huggers, but ineffectual. However, as tides have changed, Republicans themselves have slowly become married to their self-definition as self-absorbed, out-of-touch, insensitive, ineffectual, dogmatic, arrogant and stubborn. As I consider these qualities, the one word that springs up in both cases is: ineffectual.
And yet, that is something that we need more than the cult of personality. Effective and coherent charting of a national path forward. And the qualities of effectiveness are often at odds with the quality of likability.
For me, when I search for qualities to function at certain positions, I tend to look at government and business the way we would look at sports teams - what kind of person do you need to fulfill the roles of certain positions? Do you look for the same qualities at shortstop as you do in left field? Or manager? Do you look for the same qualities at quarterback as left tackle? Do you look for the same qualities at point guard as you do for power forward? And do you look at likability before any of these other qualities?
We consider the jobs of legislation, administration, commander-in-chief, judiciary, executive to be some of the most important positions possible in our country - yet we are unhappy with the people who hold those positions. Is it them? Or our inability to distinguish what we need to choose? And is it our inability to make coherent decisions (and for presidency, it is only ONE decision per four years), but THEIR inability to communicate who they are, what they want to do, what they can do, how they want to do it, how to make it work, who do they want to work with?
Until we, ourselves, take the responsibility of making good decisions, we can not blame someone else for making bad ones.