House GOP stands athwart history, yelling “stop”

John Boehner (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

John Boehner (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Yesterday we learned that despite the existence of bipartisan majority support in the Senate for immigration reform, the House GOP is not going to vote on it this year.

Yesterday we also learned that there is bipartisan majority support in the Senate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — but the House GOP is not going to vote on that this year, either.

These things, of course, are related. They are both examples of issues where a small but sufficient bloc of Senate Republicans has accepted the need for the GOP to adapt to the changing face of the country. This would enable progress on those issues, and evolution for the party, if it weren’t for the House GOP. As Brian Beutler puts it:

This splinter group of Senate Republicans recognizes that the right can’t fight the changing demographic tide any longer. But they haven’t won that argument with the rest of the party. In fact, they are House Speaker John Boehner’s second biggest problem. Every politically potent piece of legislation they help Democrats pass paints him deeper into a corner. It clarifies that he, and House Republicans generally, stand alone in the way of efforts to improve the lives of constituencies that Republicans know they can’t keep alienating — minorities, women, immigrants, the LGBT community.

Bills addressing each of these issues would likely pass if Boehner would agree to give them votes.

As Beutler concludes, the overriding message is: “the United States is quickly becoming a more tolerant country, and the Republican Party isn’t keeping pace.”

I’d only add that many Republican strategists agree with this, yet nothing is being done about it. The RNC autopsy explicitly says the very same thing, over and over, in all sorts of different ways. It calls on the party to develop a more tolerant and inclusive aura through, among other things, an embrace of immigration reform and gay rights.

It’s become a cliché to point out that the RNC autopsy has gone entirely ignored. But here’s my question: A year after the election loss that gave rise to the view among many Republicans that the party had to broaden its appeal and bring its values in line with the 21st century, is anyone inside the GOP thinking about how this might actually be done?

We’ve all heard a million times that none of it really matters, because the House GOP majority is invulnerable, individual Republicans are insulated from the broader currents of national public opinion and demographic change, etc., etc. All true. But Ron Brownstein has argued extensively that Republicans are making a losing long term bet if they gamble that they can still win national elections with their current reliance on white voters, given the country’s demographic trends. Do Republicans agree with this? Do they think there is a point at which the disconnect between the party’s image and the increasingly tolerant, demographically evolving culture actually matters?

Is anyone thinking about any of this stuff? Does it matter at all? What’s the deal? Where’s all this going? Anyone have a sense of this?

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