A column in the Richmond Times Dispatch looks at the questionable future of the Republican Party of Virginia, particularly in the wake of the 2013 Virginia statewide elections. The column looks at issues that I discussed with friends at a holiday fundraiser - like me, all were former Republicans. Also like me, all had been repelled and driven away by the extremism of today's GOP and its take over by the Christofascists and, to a lesser extent the Tea Party elements that do no coincide with Christofascist elements. With Virginia's demographics changing rapidly, the question becomes, will the GOP become extinct in Virginia or will it, instead, become a permanent minority party if it doesn't throw off the strangle hold of the Christofascists. Here are column highlights:
Beyond a message, Virginia Republicans are looking for a messenger. They need one or several who can sell ideas relevant to the real lives of the broadest range of Virginians rather than the rhetorical needs of the party’s narrowing base.
In electing a Democratic governor, a Democratic lieutenant governor and (perhaps) a Democratic attorney general, Virginians were not fully endorsing their views. Voters accepted them in the absence of a practical alternative.
Terry McAuliffe ran on Obamacare. Ken Cuccinelli ran against it. He rarely advanced other options for closing the health care gap. “No” is not a solution.
The state GOP’s post-election conference this weekend at The Homestead is as much an opportunity for activists to lick wounds as it is a chance to inflict new ones. As recent backbiting suggests, this is a party better at retribution than reflection. The mountain setting means much of this is taking place out of view.
There are talented Republicans who could lead their party from the wilderness. It’s that Republicans discourage talent by sticking with a creed that is strictly enforced by a shrinking pool of true-believers. Their sway is magnified by made-to-order legislative districts and a members-only nominating process.As a consequence, prospective problem-solvers have a problem: They are reluctant to speak truth to power because they risk being stripped of it.
Even those Republicans to whom the party might turn are problematic. . . . . The loud albeit unspoken lesson in this: Republicans need to get in front of a changing Virginia before they’re trampled by it. Speaking to the diversifying electorate rather than talking down to it is an avenue back into the urban and suburban vote troves that are the foundation of the latest Democratic ascendancy.
• Eric Cantor, the U.S. House majority leader from Henrico, is not a Republican given to counterintuitive behavior. So when he is, it gets people’s attention. Cantor is supporting an openly gay candidate for a Democrat-held House seat in California. Since the summer, Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California have combined to give the candidate, Carl DeMaio, $15,000.
Cantor may be taking only a baby step, but it’s an important one. It allows him, as national Republican congressional leader, to be seen as attuned to changing national opinion. But it is not so bold as to threaten his standing with the small number of younger, more conservative Republicans he must accommodate to remain in the leadership.
• Frank Wolf and Scott Rigell, Republican congressmen from Fairfax and Virginia Beach, respectively, know how to engage voters the GOP prefers to revile: federal employees and those in the private sector dependent on the beneficence of Washington, D.C. And because of this, Wolf and Rigell know how to get re-elected, even amid uncertainty over future federal spending.
Wolf and Rigell were early in their opposition to the Republican-orchestrated federal shutdown. For them, it was a human story about paycheck-less paydays for friends and neighbors and money permanently sucked out of the local economy.
• Outmaneuvered by Cuccinelli for the gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is preserving for the Republican Party a narrow conduit to its traditional allies in business. Though his conservatism largely matches Cuccinelli’s, Bolling knows, as many in the corporate class do, not to be doctrinaire. The idea is to close the sale, not scare it off.
Bolling is laying out a path forward through his Virginia Mainstream Project. It’s a political action committee that emphasizes the inclusion his critics say he refused to practice with Cuccinelli. Among the Bolling PAC’s priorities: that candidates are selected by primary rather than convention.
Republicans have to decide whether getting rid of bad blood is more important than attracting new blood. They’re not mutually exclusive. It’s a message Republicans may not want to hear.
Like the column's author, I suspect the message will fall on deaf ears among the Christofascists and Tea Party zealots who will prefer to continue drinking Kool-Aid and controlling a shrinking field of political extremists.