By Jimmy E. Greene
Michigan Live
December 05, 2008, 10:27 AM

First, let me be clear. I am a Republican.

Not nearly as humbled as my other party members since I saw this coming. And a Republican I will be, fighting to align my party with a new America and to begin the process of getting in touch with it. I don’t find it frightening at all.

I find the word “growth” explains it best. Barack Obama’s win was a validation of so many things I’ve warned our party and its leaders about for years. Our losses throughout the country will hopefully be a “come to Jesus” epiphany for this party, or we’ll be faced with oblivion.

I am thrilled this election confirmed what I have said for years — that this country could and would indeed elect a black man as its president. I have had the ironic task of handholding my Democratic friends, telling them it would be all right and that yes, he was going to win.

No longer can black people question the goodness and the progress we have made as a country. There was no better message to young black men than the picture of Obama and his family on stage as he made his victory speech. Men, take care of your families. There should be more pictures of that coming out of inner cities.

We are in a mess. Clearly the country has entrusted the reversal of this economic crisis to Democrats. I am prayerful that they will lead us wisely and effectively. I am thrilled that maybe, just maybe, their way will work under these circumstances.

Republicans can sit back and not be obstructionist but strategic partners. That’s the role Sen. McCain will play. If they are successful, then we all benefit. If they are not, then the time afforded us in the minority can remind us of our core principles as we re-position ourselves as a party to be trusted. A trust we lost.

So let’s stop being alarmist and shouting we’re headed to socialism and instead let’s play ball and get beyond this crisis. Then you can all play nasty again if you’re so inclined.

I’m thrilled that now the party must recognize the way the country looks. Now we’ll have to ask if our party really wants the votes of blacks and Hispanics or if we just want to appear to want to in order to play to the moderate and independent voter.

Obama won 95 percent of the black vote. Sixty-six percent of Hispanics voted for him too. Democrats elected “firsts” all over the country — Koreans, blacks, women by the dozens. We will never win another presidential election with the wall of faces we displayed over a full week at the GOP convention in Minneapolis. We are to the rest of the world a party of white men. Ninety percent of McCain’s vote was white and reflected a regional preference from the South. We’ve lost the Northeast, the East and, very soon, most of the West.

There are a lot of lost presidential elections headed our way unless we can convince diverse citizens that we mean them well. And we better be ready to show them and not just say it.

I’m thrilled that now our party must recognize its mouthpieces actually reinforce those already in the party and polarize those that aren’t. The Sean Hannitys, Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters serve only themselves and those comfortable demonizing Democrats, gays, women, moderates and anybody who isn’t a conservative. Good luck with that.

Those people galvanize and move voters to Democrats while we continue to look like the intolerant party we’ve been accused of being. No, instead what we learned was this: 50 percent of Obama’s vote was from moderates and conservatives; he received more of the Catholic vote than did Kerry (who is a Catholic); and 25 percent of his total vote came from young people. Think they listen to Rush? Obama even won 50 percent of the suburban vote, the people who he said he’ll tax.

We have to change and, to steal Obama’s line, “change we can believe in.” We’ll have to have ideas that resonate with all of America. We’ll have to bring back to the party champions like Christine Todd Whitman. We’ll have to get younger, browner, blacker, gayer and we’ll have to listen.

We’ll have to follow for awhile to get there, but at this rate how much time but how long is dependent on our ability to bring pragmatic politics to a host of constituencies we’ve lost.

In the meantime, thanks to Obama for kicking my party’s butt back to reality, and I wish you nothing but success throughout your presidency. I would be extra thrilled if you actually enact that tax break for the 95 percent of taxpayers, even though I’m a Republican. I fit into that group.

Jimmy E. Greene is president of Total Solutions Group. He lives in Saginaw Township.