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“Change Even They Don’t Believe In”: The Republican Party Has Neither The Strength Nor Will To Make The Transformation It Needs.

If you follow national politics at all, you’re familiar with the Republican Party’s current predicament. Not only has the party lost the popular vote in four of the last five presidential elections, but the public turned against the GOP in two consecutive wave elections: 2006 and 2008. The Republican Party’s veto power in Congress and its substantive power in the states has everything to do with the Tea Party rebellion of 2010, which—in light of last year’s elections—looks more and more like an aberration. It’s unpopular with a wide swath of Americans, and is associated in many minds with virulent strains of homophobia, nativism, sexism, and racial prejudice.

In an effort to change perceptions and win new voters, national GOP officials have embarked on a plan of recovery and reform. The Republican National Committee commissioned an in-depth look at the party’s challenges, in order to craft and chart a new path for the party and its candidates. The RNC released its report this morning, and at a hundred pages—the product of contacts and interviews with 52,000 voters, party consultants, and elected officials—it’s a hefty document. More importantly, as NBC News notes, “it calls for drastic changes to almost every major element of the modern Republican Party.”

The GOP wants to shift from the “Grand Old Party” to the “Growth and Opportunity Party,” and to reach that goal, it makes several prescriptions, including increased outreach to women, young voters, and minorities, with a particular focus on Latinos. “We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” says the report, “If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

The report asks Republicans to back away from their hardline approach to same-sex marriage—“If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out”—to better appeal to the economic aspirations of ordinary people—“Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers”—to improve their relationship with women and promote more women candidates—“Republicans need to make a better effort at listening to female voters”—and to make serious inroads into nonwhite communities—“If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.”

There’s much, much more than this, but as an outline, it looks good. Republicans are saying (some of) the right things, and hopefully, they’ll begin to make the right moves. But it will take great effort to build a culture of respect toward voters who don’t normally support the GOP, and in the meantime, national party leaders will have to deal with the fact that they can’t control all Republicans at all times. Indeed, a large chunk of the party isn’t even theirs to control. American political parties are large and amorphous, with only an appearance of hierarchy. The Democratic Party of Virginia is a different beast than the Democratic Party of Florida, despite their occasionally shared goals. Moreover, national party leaders have no real control over how voters interact with local and state parties—the Democratic National Committee can’t set guidelines for state legislators and local officials.

The RNC’s reform agenda might help as it tries to rebuild its national reputation, but the GOP is still at the mercy of its more anonymous representatives: The South Carolina lawmaker who admits “It is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now, especially for the Republican Party”; the Florida Lieutenant Governor who resigns after allegations of rampant corruption; the Texas Republican who accuses Planned Parenthood of tricking teens into sex and then profiting on their abortions; and the legislatures around the country that have limited reproductive rights, selectively imposed voter identification requirements, and slashed spending on the poor and vulnerable.

On its own, this doesn’t necessarily harm the GOP brand—politicians aren’t known for their cool thinking or general competence—but when combined with a national party that shows similar traits and holds similar views, it’s disastrous. The RNC’s inventory of the GOP is a good first step in trying to fix this problem by changing the Republican Party’s culture to fit the concerns of a broader swath of Americans.

At the same time, it’s hard to see how this will work—at all—without a similar change in policy. Americans haven’t just rejected the Republican Party because it’s unfriendly and unwelcoming—they’ve rejected it because it doesn’t seem to offer solutions to the nation’s problems. There needs to be something after “Repeal Obamacare,” and Republicans don’t seem to have it. And while they can try to build it, that kind of change is incredibly hard to execute. Given the GOP’s constituency—older white Americans—and its continued commitment to unsuccessful anti-government policies, it’s hard to imagine the Republican Party has either the strength or will to make the genuine transformation it needs.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, March 18, 2013

March 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republican National Committee | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Revealing Attitudes”: Reince Priebus’s Plan Recommends Not Behaving Like Reince Priebus

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is winning accolades for the wide-ranging plan he presented Monday morning in Washington that charts a way forward for the party after its demoralizing performance in the November elections. Drafted by a five-person committee—which included former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer—the plan recommends, among other things, holding fewer presidential primary debates, to limit the drift toward comedic extremity that those events encourage, and spending $10 million on new staff to do outreach to the constituencies (women, young voters, racial and ethnic minorities) where GOP support lags.

It’s all well and good, but in reading through the report’s 99 pages I had a nagging sense that what it was recommending was directly at odds with what I remember hearing not long ago from the very people putting forward the report. To wit:

Page 7: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

@Reince: Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic. (Sent on September 11, the night that four Americans were killed in Benghazi.)

Page 7: “If we are going to grow as a Party, our policies and actions must take into account that the middle class has struggled mightily and that far too many of our citizens live in poverty. To people who are flat on their back, unemployed or disabled and in need of help, they do not care if the help comes from the private sector or the government—they just want help… The perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.”

@AriFleischer: I increased donations to charity in 2012. This deal limits my deductions so I, & many others, will likely donate less in 2013. (Sent in late December, in reference to the deal averting the fiscal cliff, which slightly reduced the value of the charitable deduction for high-income taxpayers.)

Page 20: “The RNC must embark on a year-round effort to engage with African American voters. The engagement must include not only persuasion based upon our Party’s principles but also a presence within community organizations… The African American community has a lot in common with the Republican Party, and it is important to share this rich history. More importantly, the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and a spirit of caring.”

@Reince: We need to call out Obama for trying to water down the voting privileges of our military men and women in Ohio. (Sent in early August, in reference to the Obama campaign’s lawsuit attempting to allow early voting on the weekend before the election for all Ohio voters, not just members of the military and their families, an expansion that would have by far the greatest benefit for black voters in Ohio’s larger cities.)

This is not to pick on Priebus and Fleischer. There are countless similar examples to cull from other high-profile Republicans. It is just to note that the problems that the RNC says it is seeking to address cut deep, into attitudes and instincts that again and again reveal themselves even in the offhand exclamations of the party’s allegedly more sober-minded functionaries. It will take much more than focus groups and a “growth and opportunity inclusion council” to change what lies at the heart of today’s Republican Party—like, say, self-awareness.


By: Alec MacGillis, The New Republic, March 18, 2013

March 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back”: Today’s GOP Is Not A Small-Government Party, It’s An Anti-Tax Party

When it comes to striking a bipartisan fiscal deal, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued yesterday that the only compromise he’ll consider is one in which Republicans accept no concessions whatsoever. Around the same time, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the same thing.

Given this, it’s fair to say the prospects for a so-called “Grand Bargain” are finished, right? Almost, but not quite.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Sunday that he believes Republicans would consider adding new tax revenues by closing loopholes if Democrats show a willingness to embrace “true” entitlement reform.

“I think Republicans, if they saw true entitlement reform, would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues,” Corker said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And that doesn’t mean increasing rates, that means closing loopholes. It also means arranging our tax system so that we have economic growth.”

Corker is clearly part of a very small minority in his party, but it’s worth noting he’s not completely alone — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made similar remarks shortly before the sequestration deadline about Republicans trading tax-reform revenue for unspecified entitlement “reforms.”

It’s admittedly difficult to read the available tea leaves — for every report that says Republicans will simply never even consider a compromise, there’s another that says the window is not yet closed and a deal is still possible.

But if we’re keeping score, put me down in the “deeply skeptical” category. Putting aside the merits of a “Grand Bargain” — I’m skeptical about the need for such a deal, too — I just don’t see a scenario in which enough congressional Republicans accept concessions to pass an agreement.

In fairness, the optimists have a compelling talking point: Republicans want changes to social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security; President Obama is tempting them by putting the “reforms” on the table; and GOP leaders know the only way Democrats would even consider these cuts is if Republicans make concessions on new revenue.

So why is failure probably inevitable anyway? In large part because when weighing the Republican support for entitlement cuts against the Republican opposition to new tax revenue, it’s no contest — today’s GOP is not a small-government party; it’s an anti-tax party. On the list of Republican priorities, there’s a #1 issue, followed by a steep drop-off to every other consideration.

For proof, look no further than Boehner’s and McCarthy’s comments yesterday. Yes, Corker sounded a more constructive note, but I strongly suspect he’s part of an intra-party minority that would be quickly crushed if a deal started to materialize.

But isn’t Obama making them a generous offer intended to garner GOP support? Yes, but let’s also not forget two things. First, the president has already put very conservative measures on the table, but they’re far short of what Republicans generally consider acceptable (the elimination and privatization of entitlement programs). Second, as we’ve seen before, the m.o. for Republicans is to simply pocket Obama’s offers while demanding more, constantly moving the goal posts to new extremes, before the president eventually gives up and the media blames “both sides.”

Indeed, look again at Corker’s specific use of words: he’ll consider revenue if Democrats accept “true” reforms. Who gets to decide what’s “true”? Apparently, Corker and his party do, and chances are, their definition won’t line up well with the Democrats’ definition.

I realize that on a conceptual level, this seems like the sort of agreement that could be reached in an afternoon. Both sides are looking for similar amounts of debt reduction, and have already made significant progress towards their goal. Democrats are open to spending cuts and entitlement changes, and if Republicans met them half-way on tax-reform revenue, they could shake hands and move on to some other issue.

But if I were a betting man, I’d say the smart money is on “never going to happen.” All of the GOP leadership and most of their rank-and-file members not only refuse to consider a compromise, but consider the very idea of meeting the White House half-way to be ridiculous.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, Marh 18, 2013

March 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gatherings Of The Faithful”: The Dominant Class Fiercely Fixed On Keeping Their Privileges And Controlling The Destinies Of Others

How different are they, really, at the end of the day or week in winter—the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Vatican Papal Conclave? They were all the talk in Washington and Rome, superpowers of politics and religion.

So how do you feel about Pope Francis and President Rand Paul, R-Ky.? Call it the March epiphany, that they will rule the world. They were voted most popular.

Here’s mine: Rome and the current Republican party would tyrannize us if they could—by us, I mean girls and women. Boys are also secretly victimized in the Vatican’s vale of tears, likely for centuries. But boys grow up; women and girls never escape the yoke.

The “conservative” Republican party and the Roman Catholic Church under the “new” Pope Francis are desperately in need of progressive reform. They are each losing their audiences outside their brittle borders because they refuse to change going forward. Everybody knows it except their gatherings of the faithful. Columnist David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, suggested Rome take a more supple and open approach, in the spirit of St. Augustine, risking vulnerability instead of clinging to tradition.

I see it through a glass darkly. Our subjugation is in fact the common denominator and real reason why each is in crisis: the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the Republican party. At the same historical hour, they become more retrograde with each passing year. Thus loyalty is paramount. Pope Francis is firmly old guard. Moderates and reformers, in each case, are rebuked or banished until their voices are no longer heard: not even Gov. Chris Christie’s, R-N.J. bellow.

Just look at the pitiless gaze of Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican senator from the Texas Tea Party who acts like he’s the new sheriff in town. The defiant way he presumed to challenge distinguished Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passing an assault weapons ban out of the Judiciary committee shocked Washington’s socks off.

Ain’t it because she’s a woman? Sojourner’s spirit still speaks truth. Gladly, the gentle lady from San Francisco gave Cruz the dressing-down he deserved. She leaned in like nobody’s business.

In each institution, white male elders are the smoke and mirrors, the dominant class fiercely fixed on keeping their privileges and controlling our destinies. Our bodies, of course, but also our destinies, human rights and liberties. That’s the larger truth, ladies and gentlemen.

The Vatican’s official investigation into the group representing 80 percent of American nuns, as shown on CBS News “60 Minutes” yesterday, shows what I mean—that’s how Rome under stern Pope Benedict XVI treated thinking women. In the political arena, let’s face it: Republican women have no choice left. Not a single 2012 presidential candidate supported a woman’s reproductive rights. This is also a shrewd strategy to keep the march for women’s advancement frozen in place.

Moreover, the handful of women chosen to represent national or party interests resemble ventriloquist dummies, Sarah Palin most of all. Cruz introduced the darling of CPAC, who called President Obama a liar, except she didn’t say the word “President.” That’s not on, as the English say. She also insulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the smartest former Republican in show business. He’s the kind of bright light they need in the winter wilderness.

Inviting the Alaskan hockey mom anywhere near the White House was the most cynical choice ever made when it comes to Republican womanhood.

Just conjure Pope Francis and President Palin.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 18, 2013

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Catholic Church, CPAC | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Sky Is Green And The Grass Is Blue”: An Introspective RNC Autopsy That Still Gets It Wrong

The Republican National Committee is out with what is being billed as an introspective look at what went wrong for the party in 2012. Maggie Haberman reports at POLITICO:

The Republican National Committee concedes in a sprawling report Monday that the GOP is seen as the party of “stuffy old men” and needs to change its ways.

Among the RNC’s proposed fixes: enacting comprehensive immigration reform, addressing middle-class economic anxieties head on and condensing a presidential primary process that saw Mitt Romney get battered for months ahead of the general election.

The committee also proposes major improvements to the party’s voter database and digital technology, which paled next to that of the Democrats and contributed to the party’s losses last year.

The suggestions are among dozens the committee makes in what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has dubbed an “autopsy” of the party’s 2012 failures and a roadmap forward. Priebus is scheduled to unveil the 98-page report at a news conference Monday morning at The National Press Club.

“There’s no one reason we lost,” Priebus plans to say, according to prepared remarks. “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement. … So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

I took a quick look at the report this morning, with an eye towards what it might say about the party’s intertwined relationship with the religious right. And six words, so central to the religious right’s messaging and mobilization, and thus imperative to a Republican presidential hopeful’s lexicon, do do not appear at all in the report. Those words are Christian, religion, abortion, marriage, Jesus, and God. No Christian nation, no crucial role of faith in American public life, no shining city on the hill, no scourge of abortion, no need for prayer to save an unrepentant America from sin, no downfall of western civilization caused by the erosion of “traditional” marriage. No mention of infringements of religious freedom.

In fact, on matters of religion, the report sounds remarkably like an effort at Democratic faith outreach. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, Black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.” And “the RNC should consider hiring a faith-based outreach director to focus on engaging faith-based organizations and communities with the Republican Party.” Wait, doesn’t Ralph Reed already do that?

It becomes clear which faith communities those might be, just a page later:

President George W. Bush used to say, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande … and a hungry mother is going to try to feed her child.” This tone, coupled with the longstanding relationship with Hispanics he built as governor, demonstrated to the Hispanic community that Republicans cared equally about all Americans. . . .

In addition, the RNC must improve how it markets its core principles and message in Hispanic communities (especially in Hispanic faith-based communities).

Several times the report recommends engaging Hispanic faith-based organizations and communities — but it doesn’t mention such faith outreach in connection with other demographic groups, such as Asian and Pacific Islanders and African-Americans. Or women! The section on women is particularly — what’s the right word? — amazing? “Too often, female voters feel like no one listens to them.” (Really?) “They feel like they are smart, engaged and strong decision makers but that their opinions are often ignored.” (Do you wonder why?)

The report, of course, is just spin, a carefully crafted campaign outside a campaign to try to tell voters the sky is green and the grass is blue, or that the Republican Party is different from the one on display during the 2012 campaign. The pitch for religious Latino voters, though, hints at what’s really at work on the religion front: that the party is trying to figure out a way to keep conservative, religious white voters energized without alienating a pluralistic electorate. Saying that they’re going to reach out to religious Latinos is the party’s way of saying that it hasn’t given up on the religious right’s issues, it just needs to emphasize them in a different way. This might ring true for religious conservatives who have long heard from leaders like the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez that Latinos’ views on social issues line up with theirs (although in reality they’re hardly a monolith). But with or without a new “faith-based outreach director” at the RNC, I suspect that the old lexicon will be back in fairly short order.


By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, March 18, 2013

March 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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