Monday, March 11, 2013

Future of the GOP: Change, Expand or Die

Increasingly, the Republican Party has become the party of "No" and obstruction.  Worse yet, the mind set has become that if one isn't an angry white evangelical Christian or a greedy Wall Street fat cat, then you're not welcome and there is no place in the GOP for you.   And many voters have heard that message loud and clear and have walked away from the GOP.  Ideological purity may be satisfying to the shrinking lunatic core of the GOP, but it is not the prescription for long term party survival.  A column in the Washington Post reads the riot act to  those unwilling to realize that the party is facing a change or die moment.  Here are highlights:

The fatalism of some on the right extends to the conviction that certain segments of the electorate are unwinnable (e.g. Hispanics, gays, women) and that trying to win them will destroy the fragile coalition of the GOP base. (This is of course another rationale for not doing what they don’t like, namely immigration reform.) Well, if modern conservatism can’t gain adherents from different segments of society (the ones growing the fastest, to boot) they might as well close up shop.

Figuring out what to save and what to discard is at the heart of the conservative challenge. Peter Berkowitz has called it the tension between liberty and tradition. What conservatives can’t do is be at odds with the American experience of greater inclusion and social tolerance. Railing at women in the military (as opposed to making sure standards are upheld so only the most capable of both genders are in strenuous, front-line positions) or making opposition to gay marriage a plank of a national party is not going to get the GOP anywhere. Conservatives don’t need to cheerlead for positions with which they disagree but flailing at long-term social trends and popular referenda in state after state isn’t recommended.

The question for the GOP, and for conservatism more generally, is if it can defy the stereotype of an intolerant, unsympathetic party of whites. Conservatives shouldn’t be part of efforts to cement those stereotypes by writing off blocks of voters or saying their own voters are resistant to experience and reason. Instead, they should be out rallying like-minded individuals and making their views the new normal for the party.

Whether it is tax policy or health care or education, the GOP has to take what is central to its message (freedom) and demonstrate that it is a relevant value with policy applications for Americans. And really, the whole crotchety routine (Forget Hispanics! Kick gays out!) has to go. It is a turn-off and is, at its core, morally wrong.
 Will the GOP base get the message?  Not likely.


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