Jim Gilmore, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, says the GOP is quickly becoming a “permanent minority.”
“I don’t think the party dies immediately,” Gilmore says. “It’s not going to just disappear like the Whigs did, since there is so much law that supports the two-party system. But Republicans will be locked into a permanent minority at the national level unless we seriously rethink our approach.”
Gilmore, a former Virginia governor, spoke with National Review Online on Wednesday. He says he and other longtime Republican leaders have been privately fretting about the GOP’s future since Mitt Romney’s defeat.
“The world has changed beneath us,” Gilmore says. “Shrillness and extreme language are driving away the voters who could help us build a majority. We’re not speaking to them as reasonable conservatives. Republicans have to decide if they want to govern or play ideological parlor games.”
“Young people today have a more tolerant, hands-off perspective,” he says. “Their libertarian philosophy, for example, has to be taken into consideration. Yet we keep projecting anger at the gay community and the Hispanic community, even though they’re open to many of our ideas.”
“It’s a real political problem when Hispanics don’t believe that the Republican party is their friend,” he warns. “You’ve got to fix that.”
In the coming months, Gilmore hopes the GOP will do more to focus on economic issues and push the theme of empowerment.
“The plain truth is that we need more economic growth in this country,” he says. “This must become our new national mission, as well as our party’s mission, and we are not doing it, or even discussing it.”
Gilmore does not think a third party will successfully ascend as the GOP struggles. But that doesn’t mean Republicans should rest easy. “Among most conservatives, there is still brand loyalty to Republicans, but that’s not enough to win national elections,” he says.
Gilmore, who served as RNC chairman from 2001 to 2002, is now the president and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Alexandria, Va. He briefly ran for president in 2007.