We're hearing a lot of political analysts, including many conservative pundits, saying that the Republican Party is at a crucial crossroads. The country's demographics are changing fast -- and not enough voters, as evidenced by the balloting on Nov. 6, see the Republican Party as representative of their views.
Is this a fair assessment? What must the Republican Party do to restore itself? Should it inch toward the center or stand on its conservative principles and simply do a better job convincing voters of its virtues? What can it do to bring in more Latino and black voters? Given the natural pendulum of presidential politics over time, is it even necessary to try?
The Californian asked those questions of the members of its Sounding Board. Here are some of their responses.
An arrow at the fork in the Republican Party's political road reads: Youth vote this way. In California, young voters made a difference in elections, especially in pushing up the percentage of popular vote for President Obama and in passing Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative to stave off additional cuts to public higher education. His and state Sen. Michael Rubio's joint visit to Bakersfield College recently to promote Prop. 30 among community college students suggests that Republicans have something to learn about courting young voters.
Election stats tell the tale. While the Field Poll projected that 12 percent of the electorate would be 18- to 29-year-olds, exit polls suggest the turnout realized a higher figure. Something closer to 28 percent of the Nov. 6 California electorate fit into the 18-29 category.
The Republican Party wants and needs to broaden its base. To do so, Republicans must address the concerns of a growing number of tech- and social-media-savvy young voters who care about their futures. Read that: jobs and education.
These media-agile young voters can tune into the political fray on a moment's notice, and they'll tune out just as fast unless Republicans learn to master the lingua franca of the 20-something set.
Michele Bresso of Bakersfield is the associate vice chancellor for governmental and external relations for the Kern Community College District.
As long as the Republican Party insists on embracing such extreme positions as outlawing abortion; denying the reality of good science, e.g., climate change; advocating the deportation of undocumented immigrants (all 12 million of them); refusing to pay enough in taxes to fund public schools and universities (China and India are not making that mistake); and opposing national health care and other programs beneficial to society, it will continue as a party in decline. The majority of Americans -- especially women and Hispanics -- simply do not subscribe to such extreme-right opinions.
The GOP of my parents was fiscally conservative but socially quite liberal. It would never have advocated any of the above positions. Over the past three decades, that changed. And people are walking away in droves.
If Republicans want to see the national future of their current priorities, look no further than California, where about the only people voting Republican are older whites, most of them men.
Carolyn Ziegler-Davenport of Pine Mountain Club is a freelance writer.
In my view, the Republican Party is not at a crucial crossroads. It is the USA that is at a crucial crossroads. The country has to decide if it is to become a secular, socialist country that embraces murdering millions of innocent babies every year, becoming more dependent on the government, embracing the gay lifestyle as the norm, legalizing marijuana, dumbing down the education system, and embracing unions as the way to a prosperous select class. The middle class is being destroyed by the very policies that have been touted to save the middle class.
The other option is to read and understand the Constitution, adhere to the moral values as given to us by the Ten Commandments, and enforce the rule of law.
The Founding Fathers were fearful that our republic would surely fall if the takers rule and take more and more from the makers of society. We are fast reaching that point and our country as we have known it will be no more.
It is no more complex than that. The entitlement mentality has taken over and will lead us down a very painful and disgraceful road.
Bill Palmer of Bakersfield is semi-retired from a career in an oil-related industry.
I couldn't wait to vote. My family was Republican and there was no other party, or so I was led to believe. What happened to the "Grand Old Party"?
It hit me like a ton of bricks in 1991. My party had turned into a good old boys group and I felt I wasn't invited to attend.
I am sure my parents rolled over in their graves when I became an independent, as none of my thinking no longer related to the Republican Party. In Republican thinking, women were steered to the back of the bus, and to this day I cannot understand why any woman would belong to a group that only wants to control them.
I believe in separation of church and state. (Look at the Mideast and what religion has done to those people.)
If one wants to pray, go to church. I never could figure out why medical and social issues were anyone's business except for the people involved. Yes, I am talking about abortion and women's rights.
So what can the Republican Party do to correct itself?
* Moderate the fanatic religious thinking. Most Americans are religious, but only a slim minority identify themselves with the far right "super-religious."
* Realize there are people in America that are not white, not necessarily Christian and not one-party-aligned.
* Learn to control the word "no." Seems every time the Democrats would suggest something, it was an immediate "no."
* Teach fellow Republicans not to listen to the bloated gas bags on TV. Accept the fact that there are other TV channels besides Fox News.
Betty Stewart of Bakersfield is a former schoolteacher.
Some time ago, I read a fascinating analysis of our two main political parties, which argued that in reality there are actually four parties: conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats. A constant struggle is going on within each party to see which of these groups is in the ascendancy. Looking at recent politics, I would add a fifth: ultraconservative Republicans -- the tea party.
Presidential elections in particular force the subgroups within the two parties to present a unified face after their candidates are chosen, but that unity often quickly dissolves following the election. Remember how quickly after Barack Obama was elected in 2008 some Democrats were refusing to vote for his programs, some saying the proposals didn't go far enough, and others that they went too far?
There is no doubt that it is the ultraconservatives that have been in power in the Republican Party and moderate Republicans have mostly been drowned out. That balance will inevitably shift back toward the center after this past election, when a number of tea party candidates were defeated.
A willingness to work for the good of the whole country, rather than rigid allegiance to ultraconservative positions on "hot button" issues, will significantly help the GOP image, which must become younger, more moderate, and more diverse if it is to survive.
Jenell Mahoney of Bakersfield is a retired Christian minister who served in the pulpit for more than 30 years.