The Republican National Committee appointed several prominent Republicans to do a post-mortem analysis of the 2012 election to figure out why they lost. The report was based on more than 2600 interviews, focus groups and discussions and the conclusions are both obvious and bound to exacerbate the ongoing civil war within the party. In short, the report says, the GOP has to stop being so beholden on policy to the religious right’s anti-gay agenda and the xenophobic right’s focus on anti-immigration and anti-minority positions:
Normally the RNC’s focus is more on infrastructure and staff than policy, which is left to politicians to chart. But the party’s standing with Latino voters has gotten so dangerously low that the RNC’s report openly begs Republicans to change their position in defiance of the party’s own 2012 platform.
“We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, must be to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the report read. “If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”…
Much of the report is about encouraging Republicans to listen not just to Republican minorities, but to reach out to black, Hispanic, and Asian American voters in their own communities. The reason: arithmetic.
“By the year 2050 we’ll be a majority-minority country and in both 2008 and 2012 President Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority groups,” RNC chair Reince Priebus said in a press conference debuting the report. “The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic or community or region of this country.”…
The RNC’s report doesn’t come out for marriage equality, but it warns that the party needs to move left on gay issues, not so much because gays are an important voting bloc, but because intolerance scares off other groups of voters, too.
“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be,” the report reads.
Priebus praised Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on Monday for “making some pretty big inroads” by endorsing gay marriage recently — even as the RNC chair fell short of endorsing his position.
Of particular interest to me is that the party establishment seems to recognize the dangers of epistemic closure:
“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself,” its authors write. “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. Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us.”
None of this is new, it’s just new for the Republican establishment to admit it so publicly. The professionals who run the party, as opposed to the ideologues in the right wing media, have known for years that their model was unsustainable. They tried to put that off in 2010 by harnessing the energy of the Tea Party movement, and it worked in the short run by putting hundreds of far-right people in public office around the country. But that only deepened the party’s ultimate problem because the policies the Tea Party types support are exactly the opposite of what public opinion and demographics demands.
Predictably, the ideologues and true believers, immediately went ballistic over the report. Rush Limbaugh was one of the first:
“If the party makes that [gay marriage] something official that they support, they’re not going to pull the homosexual activist voters away from the Democrat Party, but they are going to cause their base to stay home and throw their hands up in utter frustration,” Limbaugh said.
Limbaugh said it was party leaders who were out of touch with its own base. “Whether they like it or not, the Republican Party’s base is sufficiently large that they cannot do without them and their problem is they don’t like them. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.”
But he misses the point. No, accepting marriage equality is not going to steal gay rights activists from the Democratic party. But most people who are in favor of marriage equality are not activists, they’re just regular folks who might well agree with the GOP on many other issues but view them as bigoted and backwards because they spend so much time bashing gay people. The conservative base is sufficiently large to control the GOP in the primaries, but not large enough to win in the general election. And that’s the root of the problem.