Second, Republicans must manage the difficult task of becoming more socially inclusive without becoming socially liberal. Much of the party's base is in a pew on a Sunday morning, and this isn't going to change. But there is no reward in being the aggressors in the culture war. Any coalition that includes the young will need to accommodate diverse opinions on gay rights. And a truly pro-life party will also be committed to the rights and dignity of the poor and vulnerable. Moral conservatives gain credibility through consistency.
A more sophisticated response
Third, Republicans must manage to stand for long-term fiscal sanity while actively promoting social and economic mobility. There is no economic value or political appeal in austerity for its own sake. Republicans need to accompany proposals for structural entitlement reform with creative measures to encourage education, job training and entrepreneurship.
All of these Republican goals demand a response more sophisticated than simple obstruction. For the GOP, politics is not a zero-sum game — and I don't mean this in a good way. It is perfectly possible for Obama to lose on a variety of issues and for Republicans to lose as well, in ways that make future victories less likely. Supporting a perfectly constitutional expansion of existing gun background checks might have been an opportunity for Republicans to display some rationality in public, even if it marginally aided a lame-duck president. Undermining immigration reform would be terrible miscalculation, even if Obama is hurt.
At the end of eight years, Americans will probably be tired of Obama and perhaps of liberalism. The GOP will get another look. It would be a final victory for the president if Republicans have focused on defeating him rather than on deserving victory.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP