The GOP is, in the face of two consecutive lost elections, finally recognizing their need for a few new faces and an adjustment in its platform and brand. Those discussions among policymakers are nascent, and I do not envy them the task of adopting policies that will appeal to independent voters without alienating their base. Given the hard line stance that loyal conservatives have recently taken (think the conservative presidential candidates) with regard to immigration, Medicare reform, defense, etc., they are going to have a time winning over not just those who were independents this last election, but independents made Democrats after four years of (in the House and Senate) obstructionism, record-breaking filibustering, rape talk, and Tea Party brinksmanship (and in the conservative media) conspiracy theories, (what was at the time) unwarranted fear-mongering about guns, and the discrediting of the policies included in the Affordable Care Act, the majority of which have yet to be realized.
In the election, Mitt Romney became the candidate of necessity for mainstream Republicans; he was the one that–since the beginning and despite his waffling–they said was the most viable and ‘presidential.’ And they were right. Romney’s popularity had only reached a competitive degree once he tempered his views from earlier in the campaign–tempting any independents that might’ve mistook his moral fluidity for pragmatism.
So Republicans have moved into the phase, characterized by what has already become an insufferable phrase, “soul searching.” Bobby Jindal famously called for Republicans to stop being the “stupid party.” Eric Cantor, in an uncharacteristic speech this past Tuesday related to working class woes:
“Too many parents have to weigh whether they can afford to miss work even for half a day to see their child off on the first day of school or attend a parent-teacher conference.”
Howard Kurtz can’t help but wonder if the change from talking about struggling mothers rather than tax breaks for the wealthy isn’t part of that soul-searching, namely an effort to reframe Republicans as a populist, rather than a corporatist party. Cantor’s comments to the National Journal were telling, but far be it from me to look a gift pragmatist in the mouth.
“It’s having a conversation on different terms. As for working with Democrats–if we start talking about people, maybe we can all come together.”
Conservative media, meanwhile, has canned Dick Morris, Sarah Palin, and presumably leaves Karl Rove to his PACs since his episode of denial on election night. Sean Hannity borrowed from President Obama’s language, telling viewers that he has ‘evolved’ on the topic of immigration reform. Even Rush Limbaugh entertained the notion, by which I mean speaking uncynically about the possibility for a moment, and finishing by saying Cubans aren’t as lazy as Mexicans. The two latter are the most obvious examples of a conscious effort within party to change the brand, and they are wasting no time in doing so. As was said in Slate’s PoliticalGabfest, the “demographic gun” is being held to the head of Republicans and politically they have little choice but to concede on reform.
Rove has jumped into action as well, realizing that the tail was wagging the dog in the last election, and that their effort to mount a backlash against Democrats and establishment Republicans worked too well and scared away everyone but white men and Evangelicals.
Here is “Minnesota media mogul Stan Hubbard” talking to Politico about the loss of so many Republican Senate seats, “the GOP has had too many candidates who are “nut cases” and pledged to donate and raise money for Conservative Victory Project. “Some areas obviously are more conservative in their constituencies than others,” Hubbard said. “But I don’t think anybody anywhere with any sense is going to want to elect a candidate who says, ‘If your daughter gets raped, it’s God’s will’,” he said, referring to Richard Mourdock, who defeated incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana in the 2012 GOP primary only to lose the general election after suggesting that “God intended” pregnancies occurring from rape. “I mean, give me a break, will you?” Hubbard said.
Republicans are interested to know how tenuous the connection between Independent voters and Democrats really is, and how many concessions they will have to make before they have any real shot at the next election.
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