O'Reilly: How the Republican Party can rebrand itself

Chairman of the Republican National Convention Reince Priebus Chairman of the Republican National Convention Reince Priebus addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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William F. B. O'Reilly Portrait of Newsday/amNY columnist Bill O'Reilly (March 28,

O’Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor. ...

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Daniel Boone was asked, near the end of his life, if he had ever been lost in his travels.

"No, I can't say I was ever lost," the American frontiersman replied, "but I was bewildered once for three days."

Good ol' Daniel Boone kept things in perspective.

It's good to see that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has similar sensibilities. He's admitted to some bewilderment from the 2012 elections, but never to being lost. And with that firm mindset, the former Wisconsin attorney is convening the 168-member RNC in Charlotte, N.C., this week to discuss a rebranding of their party.

It's been a long time coming. The Party of Lincoln -- a party steeped in the notion of equal rights under the law and the transcendence of the individual over the collective -- has become a party of exclusionary "angry white men" in the eyes of millions. That's an existential threat in a nation where "minority" births now outweigh white births and where 51 percent of the population is female.

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Priebus has tapped some sharp minds -- Henry Barbour, Sally Bradshaw, Ari Fleischer, Zori Fonalledas and Glenn McCall -- to help him in his effort, which is now formally known as "The Growth and Opportunity Project." The nation should wish them well, because we all benefit from a healthy two-party system.

Voter outreach technology will constitute the lion's share of the discussion in Charlotte-- the Democratic Party has a strong competitive edge in that category -- but it's the content of what is being delivered to those voters that matters most. And Republican messaging in the last few presidential cycles has been pretty stinky.

There are a lot smarter people than me meeting in Charlotte, but just for fun, here are a half dozen thoughts I am willing southward. One or two may actually be worth considering.

1. Speak the truth, regardless of political consideration.

Republicans need to be talking about things that ring true in people's hearts, even if that means angering political allies.

Take business. Americans rightly feel shortchanged by the way a lot of companies are being run today. The GOP needs to acknowledge that.

Yes, Republicans believe in free markets and limited regulation, but that doesn't mean they should be muzzled when usurious business practices are uncovered. Where in the Republican platform, for example, does it say its members need to defend 29-percent-plus interest rates on credit cards?

2. Seize the Reform Mantle

A new Gallup poll finds that 75 percent of Americans now support term limits in Congress. What an opportunity.

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Republican candidates -- all Republican candidates -- should pledge to voluntarily limit the number of terms they will serve. Republicans should also pledge to abolish pensions for political office holders. That should reshuffle the deck.

3. Return to the party's core convictions

The Republican Party was founded on the core premise of equal opportunity under the law (not equal outcomes, as President Barack Obama seems to believe.) That principle, which led to the abolishment of slavery, should logically extend to the right of gays and lesbians to marry under government contract. Religious institutions are free to maintain traditional views. At a minimum, the GOP should take a big tent approach on this issue.

On the abortion issue, too, the party should maintain a big tent. Libertarian pro-choicers should feel welcome in the party, and pro-lifers should be confident that science and ever-improving 3-D ultrasound technology will ultimately swell their ranks.

4. Double down against public employee union abuse

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There is a clear structural imbalance between the salaries and benefit packages of public and private employees. Private-sector taxpayers are losing out in the exchange, and there are a lot more of them. Pounding away at this imbalance is a political winner.

5. Educate young voters

The generation coming of age today is being called "Generation Screwed" for good reason. The nation's debt will hurt them more than anyone. Republicans should be speaking about this at every college campus in America.

6. Don't panic

A half million or so votes in the right states would have put Mitt Romney in office.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.

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