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“The Clueless Caucus”: The GOP Rebranding Is Doomed

When a company or an organization decides to do a rebranding, it does some research, maybe hires consultants, gets input from key employees, and then makes decisions about what the rebranding is going to consist of. This process can at times be excruciating, all the more so if the organization has some commitment to consensus; if you’ve ever suffered through a web redesign, you’ve probably had the experience of wondering, as the debate over the difference between particular shades of blue stretches into its third hour, just how much it would hurt if you plunged a pen through your ear into your brain. But at the end of the process, there’s someone in charge who will have the final say.

But when a political party decides to do a rebranding, things are a lot more difficult. In fact, it may not even be possible to get everyone to agree that the rebranding will actually take place. And once it begins, it can just go on forever, because the influence over the party’s brand is so widely distributed. Even after it’s over, you can’t just say to everyone, “Here’s the new stationary, and this is our new slogan; make sure you use it.” Because if they don’t like it, they won’t.

This is the problem the Republican party now faces. Many people within the party think a rebranding is in order, to cast off the party’s image as a bunch of nativist, misogynistic, rich old white guys and make itself more palatable to young people, women, and minorities. But the party is full of people who have troubling ideas about how a rebranding ought to take place, and people who don’t think there needs to be any rebranding at all. There are so many that Ed Kilgore was able to come up with ten different kinds of Republicans who can sabotage the rebranding effort.

So various members of the party keep causing problems by saying what they think, particularly when it comes to topics like rape, or reproduction, or really anything involving, you know, women. The latest, as you probably heard, was Congressman Michael Burgess, who, in support of a bill outlawing abortion after 20 weeks on the unsupported hypothesis that fetuses at that stage can feel pain, offered his hilarious belief that 15 week-old fetuses must be able to feel pain, since they’re already engaged in a pre-natal festival of onanism. “If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs,” he said, wistfully recalling sonograms he had seen. “If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?” The punch line is that before Burgess became a congressman, you know what he did for a living? He was an OB-GYN.

One way to look at this is, as Politico does, that the rebranding is being undercut by “the clueless caucus of the Republican Party.” But these kinds of things aren’t just coming from the same two or three people. Almost every time we hear some new outrageous statement from a GOP congressman, it’s someone entirely new. That’s because those beliefs are actually held quite widely within the party. There’s an almost endless supply of yahoo congressmen with retrograde beliefs, just waiting to make their dunderheaded debut on the national news.

John Boehner can’t stop these outbursts, because he’s not that kind of boss. This gets back to the difference between politics and other endeavors. Corporate CEOs and generals usually do poorly in politics because the hierarchical environments in which they flourished are so different from electoral campaigns and elected office. When you’re the boss, you can issue orders. That new electric nose-picker we’re releasing next month? The box is going to be blue, and if you’d prefer it to be red, you’re welcome to go find another job. You’ll be taking your unit up that hill, captain, whether you like it or not. But Boehner can’t fire the wingnuts in his caucus. What’s worse, they can fire him, by getting a different Speaker. Even when someone hasn’t been elected yet, it’s extremely hard to push them out of a race; don’t forget, they tried to do that with Todd Akin, and he just decided he didn’t want to leave.

And because the clueless caucus probably encompasses a majority of the party, the rebranding may well be doomed, unless somebody can rebrand the party by force. And the only one who can do that is a presidential candidate. So it may have to wait until 2016.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Future Is Now”: It’s Time For Republicans To Choose Sides On Immigration Reform

The future of immigration reform is, for now at least, not up to House Speaker John Boehner. It is in the hands of a group of moderately conservative Republican senators who have to decide whether their desire to solve a decades-old problem outweighs their fears of retaliation from the party’s right wing.

These senators are clearly looking for a way to vote for a bill that is the product of excruciating but largely amicable negotiations across partisan and ideological barriers. But these Republicans — they include Bob Corker, John Hoeven, Susan Collins, Dean Heller and Rob Portman — want enough changes in the measure’s border security provisions so they can tell Tea Party constituents that they didn’t just go along with a middle-of-the-road consensus.

Here’s their problem: Changes that so complicate a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as to render it meaningless are (and should be) unacceptable to supporters of reform, including most Democrats. But if the GOP senators accept something short of this, they will face furious attacks from the hardcore opponents of any move toward large-scale naturalization of those who came here illegally.

In the end, there is no way around their dilemma. If they want a bill, they will have to take political risks.

Boehner got a lot of attention the other day for what appeared to be a firm statement that he would not let an immigration bill through the House without majority support from Republicans. On its face, his statement would seem to doom reform, given where that majority now seems to stand.

But as he typically (and, in his partial defense, perhaps necessarily) does, Boehner left himself wiggle room. “I have no intention of putting a bill on the floor that will violate the principles of our majority and divide our conference,” he said.

Ah, yes, and let’s remember that this week’s “intention” does not necessarily determine tomorrow’s strategy. It’s in Boehner’s interest to keep the large right end of his caucus at bay and to stake out a hard line to extract as many concessions from the Senate as he can. In the House at the moment, tomorrow is always another day.

What may matter is not how many Republican votes he gets but whether a majority of his caucus quietly decides that passing immigration reform is better for the party than blocking it. Many in such a majority might actually vote against a bill they privately want to see enacted. By doing so, they could satisfy their base voters back home while getting the immigration issue off the political agenda and ending the GOP’s cold war with Latino voters.

This is not unduly cynical. Many essential laws have passed because legislators found a way to balance their political needs with their convictions. The movie Lincoln is instructive on the matter.

Such calculations explain the tensions among Senate Democrats over the best way forward. Politico recently reported on differences between Sen. Charles Schumer, the leading architect of the compromise bill, and Sens. Dick Durbin and Harry Reid, the majority leader.

Schumer is more willing to accept further compromises in order to get broad Republican support. He wants 70 votes for a bill, believing that a big margin would increase pressure on the House to act. He also wants to deprive Republicans of the chance to use procedural complaints as an excuse for voting no.

Durbin and Reid are wary of giving any more ground. They want to preserve negotiating space with the House and believe enough Republicans already know they have to support reform. They see the House as so unpredictable that watering down the bill may not, in any event, be very helpful.

Here’s the potential positive news for immigration reformers: This difference may produce, if unintentionally, a good cop/bad cop dynamic that could keep the key group of Senate Republicans from undercutting the bill. Schumer can be open to a variety of border security changes, as long as they don’t disrupt the path to citizenship. He can also be clear that there are limits on how far his party can go in providing the swing Republicans with political cover.

Which brings it all back to Corker and his allies. A Congressional Budget Office report on Tuesday showing that immigration reform could cut some $900 billion from the deficit over the next two decades should make it easier for them to make a deal. But in the end, they have to choose: Which side are they on?


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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