Republicans, engaging in the traditional losing party's post-election wound-licking, blame-flinging, and anger-at-the-dumb-voters ritual, are facing the awful truth: The American people just aren't into their gay-bashing, race-baiting, woman-hating, Eisenhower-era positions on social issues.
"It's not that our message -- we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong -- didn't get out. It did get out," R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville told The New York Times. "It's that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them."
Exasperated radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh asks:
"Condoleezza Rice ... is a pinnacle of achievement, and intelligent, and well-spoken ... You can't find a more accomplished person. Marco Rubio. And really, speaking in street lingo, we're not getting credit for it ... Are these people perceived as tokens?"
Yes. Uncle Toms are easy to spot.
"In order to get the Hispanic or Latino vote, does that mean open the borders and embrace the illegals?"
"If we're not getting the female vote, do we become pro-choice?"
Liberal pundits are helpfully offering advice to their Republican counterparts this week, arguing that if that if GOP officials and pundits make a few nips and tucks into their Neanderthal platform and tone, downplaying their unpopular stances on social issues, they may yet save their white male--dominated party from irrelevance.
Let's set aside the obvious fact that no one does nor should listen to counsel offered by their enemies. And that even a devastating defeat -- not that this one was -- doesn't always necessarily take long to recover from. Consider, for example, the post-2008 commentaries wondering whether there was a future for the GOP; by early 2010 the written-off-as-dead Republicans were riding high.
Nevertheless, Republicans might be more willing to listen to me than to other left-of-center columnists. After all, I love the GOP just as much as I care for the Democrats (not at all). Really, truly, I don't give a rat's ass which corporate party wins or loses.
The Republicans' big problem is that they think they're me.
I am a pundit. I am an idealist. The pay isn't great, but I get to be pure, to stand up for what I think is right regardless of whether or not anybody else is willing to follow me. My job isn't to be popular. It's to be right.
If I were tapped to head a major political party like the Republicans, however, I wouldn't have the luxury of being right at the price of being unpopular. Political parties are in the business of trying to win elections. To paraphrase the philosopher Don Rumsfeld, you run campaigns with the voters you have, not the ones you wish you had.
It's one thing to push for changes that your ideological base believes in. God knows the Democrats should do that sometimes. It's another to commit political hari-kari, trying to fight the tide by espousing points of view that are not only in the minority, but whose constituencies are consistently shrinking.
If Republicans want to win elections here in the United States, they need to set the stage for a transformational shift as dramatic as 1932, when FDR turned the Democrats into the party of liberalism and progressivism.
Republicans need not wonder why Obama got 71 percent of the Latino vote; if anything, the shocker is that that figure wasn't higher. For decades, right-wing talk radio hosts and other Republican surrogates have been bashing illegal immigration (racist code for anti-Hispanic propaganda, particularly on the West Coast). Now that the Latino vote has become essential to win national races, the GOP can no longer afford its hardline stance on immigration, whether the reasons behind it are evilly nativist, benignly protectionist or law-and-order upright.
On every social issue of note, Americans are moving away from the Republican Party. We are becoming more tolerant of gays and their rights, more supportive of abortion rights, and more open to people of different backgrounds. Despite the terrible economy, Americans are less inclined to blame their troubles on competition from undocumented workers.
These trends toward a leftier country are long term and unlikely to reverse in the near future.
Beginning last summer, Republican strategists consciously decided to downplay Mitt Romney's stances on social issues. Now liberal commentators are joining them, strangely and cynically suggesting that Republicans need to change the emphasis of their messaging -- but not the content of their policies.
Style isn't enough. Republicans are doomed unless they radically change to social-issues policies that are not only in step with the country, but to its left -- since the electorate will soon catch up. If the Party of Lincoln is adaptable and intelligent -- which I seriously doubt -- they will exploit the opportunity to move, not just left, but to the left of the center-right Democratic Party, which abdicated its traditional progressive stands on social issues when, for example, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and gutted welfare.
The GOP could make good on its long-standing assertion that it favors a legal path to immigration by proposing that we open our doors to a huge surge of legal immigration. That would be consistent with previous opinions, and outmaneuver the Democrats, who have been reluctant to favor much immigration at all, and who have deported record numbers of Hispanics over the last four years.
Yes, Mr. Limbaugh, the Republican Party must become unabashedly pro-choice if it wants to keep the women's vote. The Republican Party claims to be the party of small government conservatism; why not say that this is a simple matter of keeping the government out of our bedrooms and out of women's bodies? Same thing goes for gay marriage and other rights for people who are discriminated against due to their sexual orientation.
You can't roll out a new and improved Republican Party social-issues platform overnight without alienating the crazy Christian fundamentalists and other unattractive sorts who currently form the basis of the Republican Party at present. But you can start a transition to a viable future in a methodical, gradual way that prepares the Republican Party for the huge demographic shifts that will drive the politics of the country as it moves further and further to the left.
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