Saturday, April 13, 2013

Same old dog

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It’s obviously the same for the Republican Party. For me, that’s great news. For the republic, not so much.

After losing two presidential elections in a row, Republican Party grandees thought a review would be a good idea. They wanted to work out not so much what went wrong, but rather how they might win again. They failed.

The result of their partisan navel-gazing was the conclusion that in order to win, they merely need sell their message better, to make their party sound, well, nicer. Nothing in the party has actually changed.

Today the party recommitted to its losing ideology: Unlike the majority of Americans—and an overwhelming majority of younger voters they struggle to connect with—the Republican Party opposes marriage equality. They adopted their anti-gay resolution unanimously and without debate, so they clearly didn't even have to think about it for a moment. They also oppose abortion and any gun control, even though majorities of Americans favour less rightwing positions on those issues, too.

Instead of showing any understanding that times have changed and the party must, too, the grandees instead served weasel words: “For many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be. If our party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”

Well, duh! So what are they going to do about it? Better voter outreach and better use of technology to try and use tactics more like Democrats. They will fail.

As Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who worked on John McCain’s failed 2008 campaign put it in the above-linked Bloomberg article, “We are making a foolish mistake if we think the problem is simply mechanics. What counts is message and policy, and we have to modernize the conservatism that works.”

That’s it exactly: The problem isn’t that voters—including young voters—reject conservatism in its entirety, it’s that they reject Republican positions on these “social issues”. How can Republicans win if they turn their back on the majority of voters? How can their party endure if they reject young voters—the future? They can’t and the party can’t.

The radical right is pushing back hard. As their support dries up, they make ever more forceful demands of the Republican Party and issue ever more strident orders. A few days ago, a veritable who’s who among anti-gay hate group leaders, wingnuts and far right “Christian” activists sent a letter to the head of the Republican National Committee ordering them to continue opposing marriage equality or the “social conservatives” would take their toys and go home. Or something like that.

Among other nonsensical rubbish, they told the RNC this pearl of idiocy:
“And we would like to point out that in the four blue states where voters narrowly voted for same sex marriage in 2012, Mitt Romney, who refused to discuss the issue, lost by an average of five points more than the state initiatives to preserve marriage.”
First, So what?! They were states Romney wouldn’t carry no matter what. The radicals are implying that opposition to marriage equality in those states was stronger than mere Republican support, but there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there’s any truth in that bizarre claim. Their wishful thinking doesn’t make it so.

I found it funny how hurt they claimed to be: “We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally.” They haven’t merely been “unkind”, they’ve often been vicious—lying, smearing and defaming LGBT people with reckless abandon. Unkind? Hardly!

The Republican Party listens to the radical right at its peril. A recent CNN poll found that the Republican Party is viewed very unfavourably. While Democrats are viewed only somewhat more favourably overall, the Republican Party is unpopular among virtually all demographic groups, including even in the southern US states. Two-thirds think Republican policies favour the rich and about half think the party is too extreme. The party bowing to the will of the radical right will not help that image at all.

Worse for the party, more than a quarter of their own supporters think the party is unwilling to compromise, according to a recent Gallup Poll. That judgement of the Republican Party is higher among Republicans than it is among any other group of voters—including Democrats and Independents! The question then is, if more than a quarter of their own supporters think the party is too inflexible, how can they hope to win elections if they reaffirm their fealty to the radical right? They can’t.

To me as a Democrat, all of this is good news. As the Republican Party withdraws to its ideological bunkers, it will become increasingly irrelevant and will lose elections more and more frequently. I like that. However, it’s not good for any democracy to have only one viable party. It’s also not good for the Democratic Party, which could adopt a kind of ideological mush, taking only focus group approved positions on issues.

A thriving democracy needs a diversity of opinions and it must have real competition in the “marketplace of ideas”. The Republican Party is firmly stuck in the past, refusing to evolve or change, and following the orders of the radical right to never embrace the positions favoured by the majority of Americans. Instead, the party doubles down on their out of touch positions and only talks about how they can improve their marketing to the very voters they’ve rejected. Good luck with that—because luck is the only thing that can save them now.

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