Social conservatives are threatening to revolt against the the Republican Party, in the latest sign that the Republican National Committee’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” has little to no chance of success.
The latest Republican to strike a blow against the RNC’s rebranding plan is Tony Perkins, president of anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council. When it’s not pushing absurd conspiracy theories about ACORN and Obamacare, the FRC keeps busy by using pseudo-science to link homosexuality and pedophilia, and endorsing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill, among other fringe right-wing activities. So naturally, Perkins isn’t thrilled with the RNC’s directive that “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and indeed be inclusive and welcoming.”
Perkins has responded to the GOP reboot by directing his supporters to cut off their financial support for the party.
“Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money,” Perkins wrote in an email to supporters Thursday night. “If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action.”
Perkins went on to theorize that extreme right-wing social policies are not the GOP’s problem, but in fact the solution.
“Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters,” Perkins wrote. “There’s an entire group of ‘Countercultural Warriors’ full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage.”
Perkins’ boycott call comes just days after a group of 13 right-wing leaders (including Perkins) signed a letter warning the RNC that social conservatives will break away from the GOP if the party fails to reaffirm its 2012 platform, which calls for bans on gay marriage and abortion rights.
“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” the letter warns.
Striking a similar note as Perkins, the signatories speculate that “it is the faith-based community which offers Republicans their best hope of expanding their support” among African-Americans, young voters, and other voter groups that have become reliable Democratic bases.
Perkins and his colleagues on the religious right pose a major problem for Reince Priebus and the Republican Party. Social conservatives still make up the majority of the party’s voter base, a fact that is not going to change anytime soon. But these voters are increasingly out of step with the rest of the country on just about every social issue. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds, for example, that 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents support legalizing same-sex marriage — up 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from 2009. Only 27 percent of Republicans support marriage equality, however, up just 5 percent from four years ago.
There aren’t enough “Countercultural Warriors” in the world to make up for that kind of gap — nor is there any evidence that the GOP’s target groups would even be amenable to being lectured by the party’s right wing.
What’s worse for Priebus is that it’s not entirely clear what more the Republican Party can do to appease social conservatives. As Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen points out:
Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.
Indeed, Priebus himself recently penned an op-ed for a right-wing blog accusing Democrats of supporting infanticide by refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. If that type of rhetoric isn’t extreme enough to appease Perkins and his cohorts, then it’s unclear what the GOP’s next step could be.
So the RNC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t afford to lose the support of its base, but the longer the likes of Perkins and Rick Santorum maintain control of the party’s public message, the harder it will be for Republicans to win national elections.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 12, 2013
Since Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus introduced the “Growth and Opportunity Project” in mid-March, the party has proven over and over and over again that it just isn’t ready to change.
The latest example of the GOP being intellectually and politically stuck in the 2012 presidential primaries comes courtesy of one of the stars of those disastrous contests: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. According to Santorum, the Republican Party’s path to revitalization is not a new round of engagement with women, young voters, and other groups that delivered an electoral landslide to President Barack Obama in November. No, Santorum has a different plan for saving the GOP: defunding Planned Parenthood.
The Raw Story reports that Santorum presented his three-point plan to save the party in a fundraising email over the weekend: mobilizing “pro-family conservatives,” “refuting the lies and half-truths that our detractors in the GOP are spreading about us,” and attacking the women’s’ health care provider.
“[W]e are going to push Republican congressional leaders to defund the monstrosity that is Planned Parenthood,” Santorum wrote. “Too many in the GOP want to ignore the millions of innocent lives that have been extinguished by this vile organization. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a winning issue. The polls prove it.”
In reality, polls prove the exact opposite — Americans oppose cutting the organization’s budget, and there’s reason to believe that Mitt Romney’s insistence on attacking Planned Parenthood cost him dearly on election night — but it comes as no surprise that Santorum, who lost his last general election by 17 points, would ignore the numbers.
But Santorum’s plan could signal a serious problem for the Republican Party. Despite the RNC’s effort to moderate the GOP’s tone with an eye towards the 2016 election, it’s clear that extreme right-wing rhetoric will still play a major role as the party settles on a nominee. In fact, Santorum himself may be the messenger once again.
All of the rebranding efforts in the world — even the NRCC’s nifty new website, which features a BuzzFeed-style “13 Animals That Are Really Bummed About Obamacare” listicle (but almost no mention of the word “Republican”) — won’t make a difference as long as the party is represented by ambassadors like Rick Santorum.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 8, 2013
The culture wars are back and this time the left is winning.
More than anything else, the rapid growth in support for gay marriage illustrates the changes in American culture and politics. We are living in a completely different society than we were in the 1980′s and 1990′s. The boomers are on their way out, taking their conservative stands with them, and the millennials are proudly marching in, progressive views in hand.
There was a time when Democrats lived in constant fear of “Guns, God and Gays.” Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to worry as larger numbers of Americans support gay marriage, immigration reform and gun control. The GOP will have to come up with a new formula to win campaigns or the party will become irrelevant. Adapt or die!
Now it’s time for Republicans to fear the culture wars just as Democrats did in the 1980′s and 1990′s. Last week, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio switched his position to support gay marriage. Even Democrats in red states like Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Kay Hagen of North Carolina have seen the light and now support same-sex marriage.
In 2003, according to an ABC News/Washington poll, a majority of Americans opposed gay marriage by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent. Ten years later, most Americans are onboard with same sex nuptials and the numbers are exactly the opposite of what they were in 2003. In the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, four of every five (81 percent) Americans under 30 favor gay marriage. As the millennial generation becomes a greater and greater proportion of the population and the electorate, opposition to gay marriage will get even smaller. In a CBS News survey of American Catholics, three out of five (62 percent) of the faithful support gay marriage.
A majority of Americans now support gun control and immigration reform. In the new ABC News/Washington Post survey, nine in ten Americans (91 percent) favor background checks on gun purchases and a clear majority (57 percent favor to 41 percent oppose) supports a ban on assault weapons. A new survey by the Public Religion Research institute indicates at six in ten (61 percent) Americans want undocumented aliens to get legal status.
The left may be winning battles on most of the fronts in the culture wars, but there is one issue that has put progressives on the defensive. Public support for Roe v Wade remains high, but state governments in the West and in the South have made it more difficult for women to make decisions about their own bodies.
According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute a clear majority (56 percent legal to 38 percent illegal) of Americans want abortion to be legal all or most of the time. The states of North Dakota and Arkansas have both enacted laws that strictly limit abortions. Both laws violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and federal courts will probably nullify them.
It will be difficult for the GOP to cope with the new social order. Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus has been beat up by conservatives since he released a study last week that called for the GOP to moderate its issue stands to become politically effective. This week, Priebus felt the heat from the extremists in his party and he backtracked and said the GOP will still have the same agenda which was the party platform adopted at the 2012 national convention.
If the chairman was referring to the platform that calls for outlawing all abortions without any exceptions, the GOP will be spending the next generation in the deep freeze of the political Arctic.
By: Brad Bannon, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 1, 2013
In January, not long after President Barack Obama trounced Mitt Romney by 44 percent among Latino voters, the GOP-aligned Hispanic Leadership Network issued a new set of “tonally sensitive messaging points” for Republicans to use when engaging with Latino and Hispanic voters. The idea behind the memo seemed to be that, if Republicans won’t attract Hispanics with appealing policy proposals, they should at least try to stop driving them away with racially charged language.
Clearly, Representative Don Young (R-AK) didn’t get the message.
Congressman Young went disastrously off-script during an interview with Alaskan radio station KRBD, released Thursday, when he used a racial slur to describe the workers on his father’s ranch.
“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
Quickly realizing that he had made a tremendous error, Young issued an apology of sorts late Thursday night.
“I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California,” Young said in a statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”
Putting aside the question of what context Young thinks could possibly make the term “wetback” acceptable—or for that matter, not disrespectful—his explanation clearly fails to undo the damage done by his offensive statement.
With an eye towards damage control, Republican leaders quickly blasted Young’s comments.
“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement. “I don’t care why he said it—there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus concurred, saying “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party,” adding, “Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse.”
Indeed, it was Priebus who just last week released a report urging that “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.” In just 10 days since that report, Young labeled Hispanic workers as wetbacks, Senate Republicans started a racially charged campaign against President Obama’s only Latino cabinet nominee, and North Carolina governor Pat McCrory unceremoniously shuttered his state’s Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs. And that’s not even touching the Conservative Political Action Conference, which featured birther jokes and a minority “outreach” panel arguing that slavery was good for black Americans.
So much for showing sincerity.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with the GOP’s minority outreach program is simple: Most Republicans seem to have very little interest in actually appealing to minority communities. Polling suggests that Hispanic voters align much more closely with Democrats than Republicans on a wide range of social and economic issues. But instead of working to find common ground on these policy splits, Republicans chose to simply soften their rhetoric — and they haven’t even done that successfully.
If Republican politicians cannot even uphold their own “stop using racial slurs” rule, then their chances of making real inroads with minority communities seem more remote than ever.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 28, 2013
“Old Testament Heretics”: Priebus And Republicans Will Continue To Base Social Policies On The Wishes Of The Religious Right
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus sat down with USA Today around the same time marriage equality was being discussed at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the paper reported that the GOP’s “absolute opposition to same-sex marriage” is unchanged, though Priebus intends to “welcome” those who disagree.
“We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform,” Priebus said in an interview Monday on USA TODAY’s Capital Download video series. “But it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party” who support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.
“I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics,” he said, saying Republicans “have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”
I’m not sure Priebus is using “heretic” correctly. Was he trying to say Republicans don’t have to act like Old Testament absolutists? Purists? Literalists?
In any case, I find the RNC chairman’s larger point fascinating. On the one hand, Priebus is saying that Republicans will continue to demand that millions of Americans be denied equal marriage rights and be treated like second-class citizens. On the other, Priebus is also saying Americans who disagree should vote Republican anyway. Why? Because his party will treat LGBT Americans with “respect” while treating them like second-class citizens.
Republicans, in other words, will continue to base their social policies on the wishes of the religious right movement, but Priebus would prefer that voters not think of them that way — as if parties have a choice in dictating how they’re perceived by the public.
As for the bigger picture, the political winds are clearly shifting in a progressive direction when it comes to marriage rights, but at the Republican National Committee, the only apparent change is in tone.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2013