As last Tuesday’s election results made clear, over $1 billion in campaigning spending created 17 minutes of election night uncertainty. Last Tuesday, Fox News called the presidential election at 11:17 p.m. — 17 minutes after it called the 2008 election.

This wake-up call to the Republican Party came 17 minutes too late as the party watched Ohio, then Virginia, then every single swing state go to President Obama. In response, conservative politicians and pundits have initiated conversation on how to reinvent a party that is so obviously disconnected from America’s electorate.

The GOP’s fundamental disconnect, however, lies not with America’s voting preferences but rather with the deep themes of the American experiment.

During my lifetime, I have watched the Grand Old Party (an incredibly magnificent name for a party so narrow) evolve into a sounding board of cynicism inclined to negativity, intolerance and obstructionism: “No, the government can never help.” “No, you can’t get married.” “No, abortion never makes sense.” “No, you can’t have any path to citizenship.”

Frighteningly reactionary, the Republican Party has lost its sense of an evolving narrative, choosing instead to continually retell Ronald Reagan’s story without Reagan’s faith in the narrative.

Precisely because the GOP neither believes in nor tells the American story, the American people have flocked to Obama, this century’s great political narrator. Ironically, Obama’s story succeeds because the tale he spins — one of individual initiative helped along by limited, logical government intervention — dovetails with America’s right-of-center temperament. Obama has stolen this wonderfully hope-filled vision from the party that wrote it, from Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech to Reagan’s declaration that it is “morning again in America.”

Meanwhile, George Will, David Brooks, Marco Rubio and others fight over where and how to change the Republican platform without returning to the core message of this party Grand and Old. Until they see how that vision plays out in the 21st century, Republicans will fail to recapture the electorate’s imagination — step one in recapturing their vote.

Although I hardly consider myself a gripping storyteller, I will still present a sketch of how that story might play out, with the hopes that those more eloquent within the GOP (perhaps Rubio) will continue the oration.

“America has flourished for 200 years and will continue to flourish because of its commitment to foundational principles: justice, liberty, the relentless pursuit of happiness and a fair chance for everyone.

“America, however, has not always succeeded in realizing this dream. The American experience tells of striving to realize these principles against ingrained prejudices. Lincoln fought slavery; Eisenhower sent troops to integrate schools. Indeed, history tells of the central role that incremental improvement plays to correct imbalances and overcome historical failings.

“In that fight, the government can play a crucial role. Government itself is not bad — wasteful government is. When the federal government alone can provide necessary corrections, as when Teddy Roosevelt broke the market-failing monopolies of his time, the federal government must step in to preserve equality for all. Today, the government can correct modern market failures — bloated healthcare, for example — not by takeover but through market-oriented restructuring.

“This is because nothing could replace the unconquerable American spirit. This spirit manifests itself in the striving individual, the loving family and the close-knit community. America’s government should never eclipse these building blocks, nor should it infringe on the freedom that allows for both success and failure, whether social or economic.

“To protect these wellsprings of prosperity, America must continue to be a land of deep moral virtue tempered by the demands of reality. For example, abortion is morally reprehensible but becomes necessary in certain circumstances.

“Likewise, tax law and expenditure must favor investment in the future done by individuals and not the government. However, continued investment in education and select social programs liberate people from the twin captors: ignorance and poverty.

“This vision of a people equal under the law and free to choose their lives has provided a beacon to the world. Drawn to these ideals, the immigrants that constitute this nation have flocked to America to pursue this dream. At times, they have taken great risk to do so. Such people — dreamers and entrepreneurs in their own right — deserve a path to naturalization and citizenship even as America strengthens its border security.

“Abroad, America must continue to advance these principles. This will come as America seeks both to maintain the world’s most powerful military and to strengthen enduring relationships with people of the world. Just as a good neighbor works together with his community while still maintaining the wherewithal to protect his home, America must humbly accept its role as leader in the international realm.”

Who wouldn’t vote for that kind of story?

THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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