Flag error highlights a big problem for the GOP

A supporter of same-sex marriage wears a rainbow flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

An eagle-eyed reader of “A Confederacy of dunces against gay pride flag” alerted me to a big error. Those poll numbers that blew me away, the ones that showed folks viewed the Confederate flag as more appropriate to wear to school than the gay pride rainbow flag, were just of Republicans. I deserve to wear a dunce cap for not looking more carefully at the crosstabs. But the data actually underscore a big problem for the GOP.

To recap, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released last week, a plurality of Republicans (43 percent to 37 percent) surveyed thinks it is fine to wear the Confederate flag to school. An overwhelming majority (57 percent) don’t think the gay pride rainbow flag should be worn to school. And 38 percent believe it is more appropriate for high schoolers to wear the rebel flag than those who say the same about the rainbow flag (9 percent). Knowing what I know now, that 52 percent who said they were “not sure” which was more appropriate makes more sense, albeit of the troubling variety.

These numbers bespeak a small-tent party overly dependent upon a shrinking white vote. One that rejects difference by clinging to a vision of America they believe is slipping away. As Richard Cohen wrote yesterday in a piece about the limitations of Chris Christie within the GOP, “To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.” He also correctly notes that the fight within the Republican Party is “about a tectonic shift of attitudes.”

After losing to President Obama again last year, the navel gazing by the GOP was a sight to behold. The Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” otherwise known as “the autopsy,” was a brutally honest assessment of the party in the aftermath of the 2012 elections and presented a clear-eyed path to ensure that the GOP remained a viable national party. But ever since its March 2013 release, the report seems to have been ignored.

Michael Ashmore of Hooks, Tex. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Michael Ashmore of Hooks, Tex. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The party still appears to be inhospitable to anyone who isn’t older, white, straight and male. Or as Kathleen Parker put it today, the Republican Party “increasingly looks like a pup [tent] for two white guys and a flashlight.” Which might explain why a symbol of white supremacy and hate is seen as “more appropriate for high school students to wear” to school than a symbol of inclusion and acceptance.

This might also explain why a majority of Republicans surveyed were “not sure” which was “more appropriate.” You can’t know or be sensitive to someone else’s differences, needs or pain if you’re surrounded by people who are just like you. And the GOP will remain a regional, reactionary party as long as it continues to cater to a boisterous yet shrinking base that is increasingly out of touch with the country it believes it is supposed to lead.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

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