The GOP Looks In the Mirror

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.

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34 comments on this post.
  1. marcus:

    “The reason: arithmetic.”
    They are seriously fucked.”

  2. Ben P:

    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.”

    You know what? this is true.

    But the evil twin to this problem is that the Republican Party’s base is NOT sufficiently large that the Republican Party can reliably win statewide or nationwide elections relying on that base alone, and that base is deliberately alienating everyone outside of that base.

  3. Marcus Ranum:

    Mirror rejected them?

  4. Doug Little:

    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.

    They are forgetting one important group, women which is another reason to kick the religious right to the curb, but will it happen… not likely.

  5. cjcolucci:

    You can’t square the circle. Ben P (and Rush) are right. Whatever they do to reach beyond the base will alienate the base. The brains and the money in the party have no objection to doing what it takes, but the party’s id won’t let them do anything other than promote some preposterous minority flavors of the month for the base to point to in the primaries while voting for the white guy they want..

  6. tassilo:

    The report also said that the GOP is increasingly seen as the party of the rich.

  7. shrunk:

    Is there any consideration given to the idea that they should stop bashing gays, women, immigrants and other minorities, simply because that would be the right thing to do?

  8. oranje:

    I would love for them to be a serious party. And to be halfway intelligent about economic matters in addition to all of the social growing-up they have yet to do. Intelligent, articulate, reasoned, compromising… we need parties–all parties–to be like that.

    But that takes an informed electorate. I haven’t had television in some time, and there are only a few things I do online. I spent some time watching television at a friend’s house recently. That’s a shockingly vapid landscape. And a lot of the internet seems to be in-groups being able to reinforce themselves, along with a few trolls.

    We aren’t getting compromise and dialog and intelligence from government or media. Where will it come from?

  9. thebookofdave:

    A look in the mirror won’t do them much good. The conservative right is a creature without reflection. It will respond to nothing except fear and hunger.

  10. laurentweppe:

    The appeal to homophobic bigotry and racism were tricks to gain some votes from people below the upper class. These are mere secondary symptoms of the Republican Party’s core problem: when you’re a thrall of dynastic wealth, demagogic parlor tricks meant to hide it are all you have to propose.

  11. DaveL:

    The GOP needs to come to grips with the facts that:

    1) Black people work for a living.
    2) Illegal immigrants are eligible for almost NO government benefits.
    3) Tax dollars don’t pay for abortions.
    4) Foreign aid and NPR are tiny fractions of the budget.
    5) Their grandmother on medicare, their brother-in-law who got laid off, and their disabled uncle are not rare outliers but actually representative of people receiving government benefits.

    Otherwise, not only will they find it harder and harder to win elections, but they’ll never be able to come up with a realistic budget when they do.

  12. Michael Heath:

    The distinguishing difference between the Democrats versus the Republican party along with conservatives and conservative-libertarians is their perspective on reality. Democrats are for it, the other two deny it. Republicans can’t be capability of governance until they’re run by people who accept reality, develop positions based on what experts advise, and promote people with character (as opposed to denialists and social dominators).

    Sen. Portman’s change on gay marriage is illustrative on how Republicans are grudgingly hanging with the times without having to systemically change in order to minimize their spectacular failures. Portman actually crowed about switching positions without changing anything about himself, including the reason he was wrong in the first place. The two ideological groups I mentioned also fiercely share these attributes.

    I should not be voting so much for Democrats. I’m much more comfortable with a pro- growth, business, hawkish party. And yet for as much as I see wrong with the Democrats, they at least base their arguments on a sufficient set of true premises, have some collective character, and take arguable positions (at the national level, not in all localities such as Detroit). This set of thinking, behavioral, and presentation skills are no longer found with the other three afore-mentioned groups. To the point the Democrats are the best party to align with if you’re pro- growth, business, and hawkish; which is kinda ironic – they’ve become the party of Reagan-lite.

  13. Pierce R. Butler:

    shrunk @ # 7 wins today’s internet, for sheer hilarity!

  14. wscott:

    @ DaveL 11: Excellent summation.
    @ Michael Heath 12: Right there with you.
    .
    I do think there is some cause for hope that the GOP can turn itself around. In the 70s and 80s, you could’ve made much the same argument about the Democrats: great at talking to themselves, but unable to sell their message to folks in the middle. It took losing 5 out of 6 Presidential elections (’68-’88) for them to finally face up to reality and embrace Bill Clinton’s pragmatic progressivism. The GOP has lost 4 out of the last 6 (’92-’12), and if they lose in 2016 the handwriting will be undeniable.
    .
    The challenge is the influence of professional assholes like Limbaugh, O’Reilly and others who have no vested interest in the party’s ability to govern.

  15. lldayo:

    So…their idea to get the Republican party to become relevant again is to become more like…the Democratic party? What a great idea.

  16. baal:

    I was half expecting the authors of the report to be only old white men. Turns out that one of the five authors is black and two are women. I bothered to look since the media has been focusing on ‘republican leaders’ and the vague invocation is annoying.

  17. sundoga:

    Michael Heath, your position on “conservatives” is simplistic and false.
    Many conservatives, like myself, have entirely reasonable and realistic outlooks. Conversely, there are plenty of the farther-left just as kooky as Phelps or Bachman.
    I don’t oppose gay marriage. I’m pro-choice. I don’t really give a damn how other people live…and I’ll defend those positions as conservative to the hilt.
    There are areas we probably disagree. I don’t like the idea of pardoning illegal immigrants – criminals should not get away with it simply because there are a lot of them. But I agree that the ultimate solution is to reform our immigration policies so that we can get plenty of legal immigrants instead.
    We’re the ones the Republican morons deride as “RINOs”. The ones that have effectively been excluded from our own party.
    And of course, we’re the ones who voted for Obama last year.

  18. vmanis1:

    The notion that the Republicans are screwed up on messaging rather than policies reminds me of a restaurant that attempts to remedy disappointing sales of its signature dishes, lark vomit terrine and black widow spider surprise, by printing fancier menus.

  19. D. C. Sessions:

    Otherwise, not only will they find it harder and harder to win elections, but they’ll never be able to come up with a realistic budget when they do.

    And speaking of that, the House just approved Paul Ryan’s latest Ayn Rand novel in addition to their 37th repeal of Obamacare.

  20. D. C. Sessions:

    To the point the Democrats are the best party to align with if you’re pro- growth, business, and hawkish; which is kinda ironic – they’ve become the party of Reagan-lite.

    Michael, you’re just enough younger than I am to have missed the era when Republicans were known as wanting the same thing as Democrats, but wanting to pay less for them.

    Then the Republicans vacated that position in the US political ecosystem, and instead the Democrats more-or-less-sorta took over as wanting the same things Republicans do (absent the return of the Glorious South and theocracy) but wanting them to actually work.

    Today, to a large extent, the Democrats are the party of Eisenhower.

  21. Michael Heath:

    sundoga writes:

    Michael Heath, your position on “conservatives” is simplistic and false.

    My position on conservatives is based on closely following years of exit polling along with reading what those who do empirical studies report. It’s easy for some people to claim they’re for something, for example – equal rights, it’s quite another to demonstrate that with one’s actual vote and advocacy efforts within the party which objects to such.

    What’s with the scare quotes around conservatives? Are you asserting that the Republican party, which is now dominated by conservatives, are, ‘no true conservatives Scotsmen’? If so, the statistically significant surveys which track the correlation between political ideology, party affiliation, and voting patterns will not be helpful to your claim.

  22. tomh:

    @ #17

    We’re the ones the Republican morons deride as “RINOs”. The ones that have effectively been excluded from our own party.

    I don’t see why the “morons” description isn’t accurate. It’s not your own party. And I don’t understand why, if you disagree with mainstream Republican policies, for instance on marriage and abortion, to use your examples, and you vote Democratic, (for Obama), why do you label yourself a Republican? I don’t see the point.

  23. Michael Heath:

    D.C. Sessions writes:

    To the point the Democrats are the best party to align with if you’re pro- growth, business, and hawkish; which is kinda ironic – they’ve become the party of Reagan-lite.

    Michael, you’re just enough younger than I am to have missed the era when Republicans were known as wanting the same thing as Democrats, but wanting to pay less for them.

    Then the Republicans vacated that position in the US political ecosystem, and instead the Democrats more-or-less-sorta took over as wanting the same things Republicans do (absent the return of the Glorious South and theocracy) but wanting them to actually work.

    Today, to a large extent, the Democrats are the party of Eisenhower.

    Eisenhower along with Nixon at his best, Gerald Ford, and Michigan governors George Romney and William Milliken.

    My politics are significiantly influenced by the politicians I name here, not so much by Eisenhower given he did have a conservative mindset while I’ve always had a progressive one. In Eisenhower’s defense when we observe contemporaneous U.S. conservatives, it was of the Burkean/Oakeshottian type*, not the John Boehner/Mitch McConnell/Jim DeMint/Paul Ryan hybrid we suffer from now.

    So while you’re right I’m too young for Eisenhower (and Romney for that matter), I came of age when Ford and Milliken were in their highest offices.

    *A perfect example of Eisenhower’s Burkean/Oakeshottian approach is how he dealt with the civil war fight in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ike’s Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality (my review) is an excellent history of Eisenhower’s role, style, and temperament.

  24. Michael Heath:

    vmanis writes:

    The notion that the Republicans are screwed up on messaging rather than policies reminds me of a restaurant that attempts to remedy disappointing sales of its signature dishes, lark vomit terrine and black widow spider surprise, by printing fancier menus.

    The GOP’s being currently screwed up on policies is just another symptom of a deeper root cause, and that’s the psychology of contemporaneous U.S. conservatives, and powerful libertarians for that matter. Their mentality is predominately authoritarian along with social dominators and double highs. Mix that mindset with the fact their base isn’t merely and monolithically conservatives, but that conservatism within the voting base has largely merged with conservative Christianity to become a religious-political movement, and a populist one at that.

    Most ironic is that the 20th century plutocrats’ progeny that have migrated into politics are perfect dupes to defend the plutocracy by adopting populist sentiments themselves, it’s a lot easier being stupid and popular than it is being well-informed and doing what’s right. H.W. Bush is no more, W. provides the legacy instead.

    What’s concerning about this collective mental defect is the fact it’s one where people inflicted with it are by nature incapable of conceding reality and adapting to better behavior. While they want to win, they seek ways to do so while remaining on the one truth path to greater purity. In fact we empirically understand that challenges to their being factually wrong deepens their commitment to that wrong belief.

    Excellent sources on these observations I report here can be found in Thomas Franks’ What’s the Matter with Kansas, coupled to Chris Mooney’s more recent The Republican Brain. Franks observes their behavior, Mooney cites the science that explains the thinking behind the behavior.

    What do we get? A Republican party dominated by authoritarian conservative theocratic-friendlies who can’t concede reality, and RNC who unanimously appoints Sarah Palin and then Paul Ryan as their VP candidates, claim that spending is the problem – not growth, GOP incompetency, obstructionism, slashes in investments, avoidance of what it takes to suceed in a global economy (liberals fail on this as well), refuse to believe that economists do know quite a bit and are right far more than aesthetically pleasing conservative talking points, that scientists know what the fuck they’re doing and their work is not a hoax, that don’t realize growing economies require competent government spending and investment, and that government can be competent if you elect smart people who leverage what experts understand.

  25. wscott:

    The GOP stopped being the Conservative party a long time ago, and officially became the Regressive party.

  26. jamessweet:

    Putting on my evil supervillian cap… the GOP doesn’t even have to embrace marriage equality and other LGBT causes, they just need to shut the fuck up about it. The smarter elements of the party have known this for a couple years now. They might shed some base if they openly support marriage equality; but if they just don’t say anything about it either way, the loss of base support will be trivial, and they’ll stop scaring away the non-fuckheads.

  27. rabokarabekian:

    Until the republican party stops being the party of science denying, budget hacking, humanity hating, corrupt scumbags they won’t earn my respect let alone my vote.

  28. bad Jim:

    I made enough money in business to retire at fifty, which makes me a well-to-do bum, and I strongly prefer Democrats because they’re better for business. The economy, including the stock market, tends to do better when the government works on behalf of the average person. I have certainly benefited from reduced taxation of unearned income, but I would have benefited more from a healthier economy, which tax breaks for the wealthy never prove to deliver.

    Too many wealthy people are more motivated by resentment than greed. One of my money managers, in trying to ascertain my preferences, let slip that many other clients were so averse to paying taxes that they’d accept lower returns to avoid them. The assumption that investors are rational does not belong in any economist’s model.

  29. sundoga:

    The quotation marks around “conservatives” are there to indicate that I disagree with your apparent definitions on the subject..
    Tomh, I don’t identify as Republican. I identify as conservative. The difference is the point.

  30. Michael Heath:

    sundoga to me:

    The quotation marks around “conservatives” are there to indicate that I disagree with your apparent definitions on the subject..

    What specific definitions am I using that you think is wrong?

    I ardently study the conservative movement and am confident I understand the attributes of this movement. We also understand that an attribute of contemporaneous American conservatism is both epistemic closure coupled to denialism; so we can expect with high confidence that some conservatives will be prone to making ‘no true Scotsman’ arguments in order to avoid confronting certain inconvenient facts.

    That’s exactly like we also frequently encounter from theologically conservative Christians. The cause is the same on both counts, it’s a psychological attribute of authoritarianism, which is what the American conservative movement has evolved into over the past several decades. So until proven otherwise, I’m confident my descriptions are accurate given I’m merely reflecting what the findings by experts show.

    A nice illustration of epistemic closure coupled to denialism was your recent justification for voting for President Bush in 2004 rather than Sen. Kerry. The factor you hung your hat on was based on a popular conservative talking point that required both epistemic closure and denialism of the well-known facts regarding President Bush’s record. I quote your justification here:

    My final write-off for Kerry was his seeming difficulty in making a decision and actually sticking with it. Changing your mind when new information is presented is one thing, can even be admirable, but I got the very strong impression that Kerry just couldn’t really make a decision. That’s a failing in a politician of any stripe, but it’s deadly in a President.

    Well if decisiveness and following through was the criteria for a decision on who to vote for and we considered all the evidence, than the following facts as I noted in my rebuttal to your justification provided an overwhelming advantage not to President Bush but instead to Sen. Kerry:

    Exhibit A against Sen. Kerry was his shifting position on invading Iraq. However by 2004 President Bush had already:

    1) Flip-flopped on fighting climate change, from a good position during his campaign to the worst possible position for all of humanity, current and future generations.

    2) Flip-flopped from his 2000 campaign pose that he was a paleo-conservative non-interventionist to then allowing the neocons to control his administration’s foreign policy positions – including who would run what (Defense taking over post-invasion in Iraq instead of the State Dept whose chartered with such). That went on until President Bush fired SECDEF Rumsfeld and cut VP Cheney of at the knees in 2005 by handing foreign policy over to then-SECSTATE Condi Rice.

    In the late-2000s economists were predicting the Iraq War alone would have a negative impact on GDP somewhere between $2 – $3 trillion. [Recent news reports Ed's blogged on since I wrote this rebuttal now report the expenditures alone will be far higher.] That’s quite the flip-flop yet that economic cost pales in comparison to Bush flipping on climate change in a way that now requires Republicans to be reality-deniers on climate.

    3) Cut his own tax reform committee off at the knees when it came to presenting tax reform that best promoted economic growth. E.g., the committee’s mandate didn’t allow consideration for VAT or consumption taxes as a way to generate much needed additional revenue that was also growth-friendly. That resulted in no meaningful proposals that were acted upon.

    Meaningful tax reform was the tipping point for me voting for President Bush in 2000. Not only was it an opportunity squandered, but it painted the GOP into a corner where they can no longer advocate for an increase in the rate of taxes relative to GDP without risking a primary and the nationally-raised GOP money going towards their primary opponent.

    The enormity of these Bush flip-flops compared to mostly speculation about Kerry’s provides little room for defense of Bush on this specific factor. The exact opposite position is far more credible. So again, I don’t see a defendable position on voting for President Bush in 2004 when we consider all factors, especially decisiveness when we consider only that factor.

    I realize the difficulty of evaluating the defectiveness of one’s own movement. I was a Republican from 1978 to 2008, in spite of never being a conservative but instead a moderate with a progressive mindset which apes Alexander Hamilton (however I’ve never monolithically always voted for Republicans). I left the party because it was clear by then that the conservatives that now controlled the party from all aspects had done great damage the country and the earth where coupled to their collective psychological attributes, made them immune to reform. Instead they were and are continuing to quickly evolve into a movement which can’t govern and descend into increasing incompetency at increasing rates. E.g., they’re now going full Ayn Rand with their embrace of Paul Ryan’s creationist-like budget proposals.

    People like to point to the wilderness the Democrats were stumbling around in the late-1970s/early-1980s. As if they’re merely being lost for a period and then soundly recovering is proof the GOP will do the same. That misses an important point. Non-zealous liberals will expose themselves to facts, learn, and adapt to better positions. They demonstrated that since then. These are traits that conservatives do not have where as I noted earlier that’s well established in the scientific literature.

    Conservatives will of course adapt in order to avoid repeated defeats, but they begrudge change and seek to adapt only as much as needed to win, but not enough to even consider let alone abandon the root cause defects that resulted in their having to adapt in the first place.

    Two perfect illustrations are their positions on immigration reform and Sen. Portman’s flip on gay marriage. In both cases they’re adapting to better positions while seeking to avoid consideration for why they ever embraced past indefensible positions. In regards to immigration they now actually hope to recruit Latinos to join them in the very type of thinking and resulting positions that caused them to lose so much of the country in the first place and led to the type of reign we got from them during the W. Bush era. Sen. Portman was proud he was able to figure out how to support gay marriage without any introspection that challenged the attributes of his conservatism that led him to promoting bigotry prior to one of his own acknowledging his being a victim of this bigotry.

  31. sundoga:

    As I pointed out in the other thread, MIchael, these days I probably wouldn’t have voted for either man. My view of Kerry hasn’t changed, but my view of Bush has degraded even further…a point I don’t think I could’ve imagined eight years ago.
    My problem with your (apparent, perhaps I am inaccurate) views on conservatives is that it doesn’t take into account previous periods. What you are saying is undoubtably true about the neo- and social- conservatives that are now so demonstrative and visible as the voices of conservatism in general. I guess you’d say I’m more of a paleo-conservative.
    My positions are simple – smaller government is better. Government is fundamentally untrustworthy. Individuals are better able to make decisions about their lives than governments or groups. Militaries should be on tight leashes and are for defence. Budgets should balance. Religion is a personal choice, and has no place in government. Law should be respected, and bad law fought using reasonable methods.
    I would count all of these as conservatve positions to take.
    Of course, I understand that we live in a complex world. Sometimes we need governments to take the initiative to resolve ongoing problems – my biggest problem with Obamacare is that it doesn’t go far enough. This is in conflict with my desire for small government, but I acknowledge that having people under or uninsured in our current system is the bigger problem.
    In our current financial situation, my preference would be to cut government to help balance the books, but it’s obvious that such will nopt solve the problem without also reforming and probably increasing taxes. Philosophy must yield to reality.
    I’m far from being the only person in this position. I find myself besieged by the intellectual dwarfs of the far right who’ve robbed me of the party I used to support, and the arrogant left, whom I would truly like to find common cause with, but who frankly won’t listen to me because apparently my past isn’t ideologically pure enough. Please excuse my frustration.

  32. democommie:

    “Conversely, there are plenty of the farther-left just as kooky as Phelps or Bachman.”

    They are not serving in the House or Senate.

  33. tomh:

    @ #31

    What you are saying is undoubtably true about the neo- and social- conservatives that are now so demonstrative and visible as the voices of conservatism in general. I guess you’d say I’m more of a paleo-conservative.

    Your position doesn’t seem very different from those conservatives that you decry. You are for smaller government – except when you’re not – just like them. For you, it’s health care, for other conservatives it’s abortion, or the military, or civil rights. Conservatives are all for “smaller government” – except for their own pet causes. Then bigger government is fine. Sounds kind of silly.

  34. sundoga:

    Pardon me, Tomh, but where am I NOT for smaller government? In some cases we need government to do things. I’d rather we didn’t – that there was another option – but the left has convinced me that is is necessary and ethical to support this.
    I’m wondering about your priorities here. Do you only WANT unbending, unconvinceable ideologues? What is your actual problem?

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