February 5, 2013

(Win McNamee/Getty Images) Well, this look didn’t work.

It’s time for a makeover!

Or is it?

Numerous people these days are complaining that the Republican party needs a — transformation of some kind. It needs to stop doing what it is doing, put down the Twinkie, take up the kale and generally transform itself in some sort of buoyant montage if it wants to win back That American Voter. Throw all the Akins out! Ditch those glasses! Let your hair down! No, wait. Put the glasses back on. Hair back up. Turn around very slowly. Take the Akins back to your bosom. No. Wait.

Were this a film, none of this would be necessary, and we would realize that there was more than enough there to love, without anyone having to pretend to be someone he wasn’t. But films are made in Hollywood, and we well know their elitist, liberal bias.

The question at hand now seems to be: Is a makeover enough? Is this the kind of problem we can fix by rifling through the closet and throwing out a few of the old items — that sweater, that red powersuit, a few of those attitudes that haven’t fit since the 1950s? Or is a more radical transformation in order?

Is this the Ultimate Crisis That Prompts The Final And Lasting Rethinking? Or is a change in messaging sufficient? Does Belle need a new wardrobe, or does the Beast need to rethink his entire approach to living?

The answer seems to vary depending on how much you liked the message in the first place.

Some think it’s just a makeover question. These are the people who host panels on topics like How To Speak To Minorities And Women (If You Must) and talk about Finding Ways To Rephrase Things For New Constituences. The GOP needs to “stop being the stupid party” said Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, at a meeting of the Republican National Committee. “It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.” Well, okay, but can you be a little more explicit as to how we get there in step B?

Meanwhile, over in his column at the New York Times, David Brooks advocated a “second GOP.” It would be like the GOP, but – with different answers to different questions. I am not exactly sure how this would work, but it sounded pretty appealing: a new party “that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast…a new division that is different the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton”? The Westin, I think, has larger towels, but it all blurs together.

Some (cough, Karl Rove, uncough) think a simpler way of dealing with all this would just be to root out the Todd Akins. Rove’s American Crossroads group is trying to do just that, but the process of sorting out the rightmost — as Richard Cohen points out — is more complicated than it looks.

Or you could just forget about the rethinking altogether and pool your efforts to win a big state!

Still, I am dismayed by this lack of imagination. Why stop at just one new party? Why just prune a few? As long as we’re dreaming, let’s dream big! Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you might be Newt Gingrich!

As long as it’s thinking of getting into the proverbial styling chair, the party should be bold. If it wants to go the Brooks route of coining new parties, at least coin inventive ones — a New GOP that is different from today’s GOP the way the Westin is different from today’s GOP, with larger towels and more colorful lobbies; a new Ghost Wing of the GOP consisting entirely of people who died in the 1930s; a New Imperial GOP premised on need for America to construct a Death Star. Add a separate gated wing of the party for people above a certain income threshold, throw a small grand new party consisting entirely of Romney sons. Build in a separate section that consists entirely of what Aaron Sorkin’s idea of what the Republican party should be like, hermetically sealed inside a glass dome. Have a Democratic Republican party — no, that was tried in the 1800s.

If you want to go the Rove route, don’t just prune the Akins. Also remove from the party anyone under the impression that they have actually seceded from the Union.  Ditch the Life Alert-Wearing Gold Ingot Hoarders.

Or, heck, fuse the two approaches and create a New GOP whose entire raison d’etre is to fly anywhere old men with bad hair are talking about abortion and urge them to stop talking.

Some would go beyond these tweaks and suggest the Republican Party rethink its entire approach to things and try to evolve to fit itself to the changing demographics of the electorate and changing priorities of voters. But as a general rule the people who advocate these most radical changes did not agree with the message of the party in the first place.

It is very easy to tell someone to throw away a sweater that you never liked. It is much harder to convince yourself that, to take a random example, those Star Wars Pepsi cans you so eagerly collected will not accrue in value over the next several decades and are, in fact, becoming homes for roaches. “Landsakes,” the home makeover consultants from television murmur, coughin into their face masks, “those positions are the policy equivalent of several dead cat skeletons.”

“A few dead cats are needed to give a house character,” you reply, feebly.

That is always the trouble with makeovers. They are so easy for others to prescribe. They do not have to live with it afterward.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.