Jim Clark: An autopsy of the GOP
March 27, 2013
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus recently convened some party elders to conduct a post mortem on the recent election.
The result was a 97 page treatise dubbed the "Republican Autopsy" which presented its authors' analysis of what ails the GOP and how to cure it.
The report concludes that the GOP is bound in an ideological ice floe of old, white people and is perceived nationally as out of touch, obsessed with protecting the wealthy and unable to relate to the poor and minorities.
The result has been to heighten interparty divisions between those who feel it's crucial for the party to be more welcoming to social moderates, youth and minorities and those who believe that the GOP candidates who lost did so because they failed to draw clear distinctions between conservative principles and those offered by "tax and spend" Democrats.
This split is nothing new. It's not even unique to the GOP since in a two-party system each political organization must necessarily be comprised of coalitions.
Certainly a divided Congress and the rise of the Tea Party have fanned the flames of this ideological split. The findings and recommendations in the "Republican Autopsy" will be like pouring gasoline on the fire.
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The report focused on Republican candidates who, with right wing support, defeat moderate candidates in the primary and go on to lose to Democrats in the fall.
Its authors warn that the GOP's dilemma stems from an obstinate failure to respond to changes in the national mood on issues such as same sex marriage, gun control and government spending.
Conservative Republicans have responded by emphasizing small government, fiscal integrity and free enterprise as their issues.
The truth is that this dilemma will never be solved in either the Republican or Democratic Parties as long as they are made up of coalitions.
And if the Priebus faction were, for example, to pressure the GOP to accept gay marriage they could well alienate Southern Baptist and Mormons who were brought up on the Bible, so what's to be gained. The answer, in my opinion, is to honor diversity and respect each others' opinions.
A major exception would be immigration reform. Reaching out to Hispanic voters would not require either faction to compromise ideological positions.
PBS' News Hour recently broadcast that Mitt Romney received the highest percentage of white voter support than any candidate since exit polling began in 1972.
Had he run in 1984 he would have won but in 2012 the white majority is no longer the majority. George W. Bush received 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000, espoused immigration reform and won 43 percent of the Latino vote in 2004. Romney, advocating "self-deportation," scored 27 percent with Latinos.
Latino Decisions, a coalition of political science professors from the nation's top universities, has produced some stunning evidence.
The grant-supported organization maintains a constant barometer of Latino voter sentiment through surveys and polling.
In a poll completed last month they found: 61 percent of Latinos who voted for Obama would support a pro-immigration Republican over an anti-immigration Democrat; 43 percent of Obama voting Latinos would vote Republican if the GOP takes the lead in immigration reform; and now that four Republicans have joined with four Democrats in the Senate to fashion immigration reform legislation 26 percent of Latino Obama voters responded that they are more likely to vote Republican.
These poll results combined with a comparison of Bush and Romney's electoral performance with Latinos should be a lightning strike to convince the GOP leadership not to dictate ideology to the faithful but to go hunting for votes where the votes are.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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