January 25, 2013
Gov. Bobby Jindal (Danny Johnston, File/Associated Press)
Gov. Bobby Jindal (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

Since Election Day, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has served as one of his party’s clear-eyed critics. And he continued speaking truth to the GOP last night at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte.

“We must stop being the stupid party. I’m serious. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults,” Jindal said as part of his unsparing assessment. He also said, “We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. … We have to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and tag lines for 30-second ads. We must be willing to provide details in describing our views.”

Perhaps the most important thing Jindal said that could have the greatest impact on the Republican Party was this, which I first read in The Fix yesterday morning.

We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. … The first step in getting voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them.

This is the GOP’s biggest problem. With its harsh rhetoric and policy positions, the Republican Party is like a restricted country club in the minds of many people of color. And women. And young people. And gays and lesbians. Basically, the party seems inhospitable to anyone who is not wealthy, white and male. While this isn’t good for the party, this is also not good for the country or the Democratic Party. The nation needs a strong GOP for effective governing. The Democrats need a strong GOP to help challenge and hone its ideas lest it grow complacent or self-satisfied.

As I’ve written before,  the Republican Party left votes on the table in the 2012 election. Several polls before and after the election showed that if the GOP showed a combination of moderation, compassion and interest in securing the votes of African Americans, Latinos and gays, Mitt Romney could have won. Until the GOP figures out how to talk to these voters in a way that broadens its appeal rather than insults potential supporters, and do so in a way that is not only as part of a messaging exercise, it can expect more nights like Nov. 6.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.