COEUR d'ALENE - The Republican Party is at a crossroads, and the road map out is a little fuzzy.
Two days after President Barack Obama's re-election, Kootenai Country Reagan Republican President Jeff Ward addressed his political group about what Tuesday's results mean for the GOP, and what the party needs to do to ensure Republicans can earn the Oval Office again.
The results, though, took a toll on the local political group, a fact Ward didn't try and hide.
"I hope everyone has recovered from the election," Ward told the members gathered for their meeting at Fedora Pub and Grille. "It took me a while. I laid around all day yesterday."
"It did not go completely the way I wanted it," he added. "And I suspect you share that opinion."
To fix it, the national party needs to improve on several fronts.
The key to spreading the conservative message is through education, bridging the generational gap, engaging the national media and reaching ethnic groups now considered outside the party's typical demographic. Those are all categories, he said, in which Republicans have fallen behind and Democrats have capitalized, the results of which were evident Tuesday.
"If you only looked at the election from the standpoint of white, non-Hispanic voters, Barack Obama would have had 39 percent of the vote," Ward said, citing a news report figure. "The difference is to me, why did Hispanics and other ethnic minorities vote in such magnitude for Barack Obama? I think it goes back to our own failure as conservatives."
How to engage that electorate is a little less clear, he said, but the party must do something. Also unclear is how it can help install balanced, American exceptionalism teaching styles into more schools. As it stands now, most colleges and universities are "ideological factories" geared to "promote the progressive, liberal agenda" and "European style socialism," he said.
"I think it's a much more long-term situation where Republicans and conservatives have to get engaged in academia, get engaged in the media," he told The Press following his speech. "To be honest with you, I don't know exactly how to do it. As much money as we spend on political races, I'd like to see more (money spent on) things like journalism school scholarships, endowments at schools that teach a balanced curriculum. I think on a local level, Republicans needs to get involved on school boards, which we have."
The KCRR made a name for itself in the last couple of years because of its active role in elections featuring traditionally nonpartisan races, such as city council and school boards. Members say all elections are political, regardless if a party is printed on the ballot. The group campaigned in 2011 for Coeur d'Alene School District trustees Tom Hamilton and Terri Seymour, both Republicans and the only elected members of the five-member board that recently terminated the district's International Baccalaureate School programs, in part because those programs didn't adhere to American values. Another Coeur d'Alene School Board member, Jim Hightower, who was appointed to a trustee position last summer, sits on the KCRR's board.
"I think we're unique and I think that's something I think has to happen nationwide to be successful and have an even playing field for conservatives," Ward said.
Mary Smith, who attended the meeting, agreed.
"It starts locally," she said after the meeting. She also agreed with Ward's opinion that the national media reports are biased toward the left, which influences election results, which Republicans also need to fix.
"We have to have some rebuttal to what's going on," she said.
Ward didn't shrink away from explaining other factors he believed played a role in the election.
He said the electorate has lost faith in self and religion and placed it in the state, and that voters suffered from Stockholm Syndrome - the psychological phenomenon where hostages sympathize with their captors.
"People should have rejected this administration," he said. "It was not about hope, it was not about change, it was about fear. And people react to fear in many different ways. One of the ways people react to fear is sticking to the devil they know, instead of the devil they don't know. I think that was part of the aspect."
Local Democrats, meanwhile, are meeting today at noon at Iron Horse Bar and Grill, 407 E. Sherman Ave. to discuss the election results - undoubtedly with a different viewpoint than Ward's. Since KCRR began endorsing candidates across a variety of races in the last few years, its record has been nearly flawless. How much direct impact it has is hard to say, but 15 of 16 candidates they endorsed prior to the election won Tuesday.
But Obama's victory means the GOP's approach needs to be adjusted, Ward said, and quickly. How to do that is what needs to be decided.
"What bothers me is Barack Obama was not supposed to win," he said.