In that much ballyhooed autopsy, Republican National Committee analysts repeatedly stressed the party’s need to develop a more tolerant and inclusive aura. It noted the GOP must strive to “expand and diversify the base of the Republican Party, both locally and nationally,” and must develop a “welcoming, inclusive message” to better appeal to younger voters and to remain competitive in national elections.
But the emerging GOP response to the trio of major issues at the top of the news this morning — immigration, gay rights, and African American enfranchisement — suggests that in practice, most Republicans don’t really see the need for any such makeover.
* On immigration, the RNC autopsy said that “if Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence.” But right now a counter argument of sorts is now gaining steam among Republican-aligned commentators — that it would be better politically for the GOP to sink immigration reform. See Sean Trende’s much discussed piece questioning the need to improve its performance among Latinos to remain competitive in presidential elections. Also see Bill Kristol’s piece this morning, which argues that Republicans must kill the Senate immigration bill, because the alternative “would divide and demoralize potential Republican voters” in 2014.
* On gay rights, the RNC autopsy said that “for many younger voters,” issues involving “the treatment and the rights of gays” are a “gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be.” But while Republicans are unlikely to make gay marriage an issue in the 2014 elections, many are criticizing the Supreme Court decision and openly calling on states to hold the line against marriage equality, and some are even reintroducing the constitutional ban against gay marriage.
Meanwhile, as the Fix team notes today, despite shifts in national opinion on marriage equality, no 2016 Republican candidate will dare being pro-gay marriage, because social and religious conservatives in the GOP primary electorate wouldn’t stand for it.
* On African-American enfranchisement, the RNC autopsy said the GOP must build a “lasting relationship within the African American community.” But in the wake of the SCOTUS decision gutting a key provision in the Voting Rights Act that outraged many African Americans, many Republicans are privately admitting nothing will get done to fix the law in the GOP-controlled House. As Noah Rothman details, getting it wrong on the Voting Rights Act could damage the GOP further with minorities long term even as the Voting Rights decision will likely galvanize the Dem base.
Politico surmises that all of this shows that the GOP “can’t seem to outrun the culture wars.” In other words, Republicans keep getting drawn back into battles over the preoccupations of the nativists, social and religious conservatives, and others who populate the base, preventing the party from evolving. But here’s my question: Are those pushing back on the makeover talk right? Does the GOP actually need to develop a more tolerant and inclusive aura? Or are the underlying structural facts about our politics such that none of this matters, particularly in the short term?
(Update: Folks on Twitter raise a fair point: opposing the Senate immigration reform bill is not necessarily akin to completely killing reform. But the demand by Senate Republicans for more border security in the bill looks more like a stealth effort to kill it than anything else. And there are still no signs that a majority of House Republicans are prepared to support a path to citizenship under any circumstances.)
* THE CULTURE WARS NOW FAVOR DEMOCRATS: Related to the above, Dan Balz hits a key point in his big piece on the meaning of the sea change in public opinion on gay rights:
Thirty years ago, the culture wars split the Democratic coalition and left the party on the defensive in national elections. Whether it was abortion, affirmative action, drugs, gay rights or the broader debate over traditional values, Democrats were divided, Republicans united.
Today it is the opposite. President Obama and the Democrats use the issue of same-sex marriage — or gun control or climate change — to try to broaden and deepen their coalition, particularly among younger voters. This coalition, along with the votes of African Americans and Latinos, propelled Obama to reelection in November and it keeps growing larger as the nation’s demographics continue to change.
To reiterate the above question in another way: In the short term, Republicans will make Congressional gains, but in the long term, is there a point at which all of this will matter to the GOP’s prospects?
* GOP TO USE IMMIGRATION REFORM AGAINST DEMS IN 2014? The Hill reports:
Republicans plan to use votes for the Senate immigration reform bill to campaign against vulnerable incumbent Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan.
And the GOP makeover proceeds apace. Meanwhile, stick this one in the “we’ll believe it when we see it” files.
* CONSERVATIVES COUNTING ON BOEHNER TO KILL IMMIGRATION REFORM: National Journal reports that conservatives are increasingly convinced that House Speaker John Boehner will not allow a vote on the Senate immigration bill, no matter how much support it has.
Again: We already knew the base would resist immigration reform, no matter what’s in it. All that matters in the end is whether enough Republicans privately want it to pass. If so, it will. If not, it won’t. Any predictions now are premature.
* IRS “SCANDAL” UPDATE: Today the acting commissioner of the IRS will appear before a Ways and Means Committee hearing to deliver the latest on the agency’s efforts to address the targeting of political groups. Expect Democrats to push hard to draw out more detail on the targeting of progressive groups we’ve now learned about.
* KEEP AN EYE ON ENDA: Riding the momentum of yesterday’s SCOTUS decisions, Senate Dems will soon push for a Senate vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This would expand the battle over gay rights into the push to end workplace discrimination, which should in theory be an easier thing for Republicans to accept than the culturally loaded fight over gay marriage. As detailed here recently, if they don’t, this could be an absolutely awful vote for them.
* REALITY CHECK OF THE DAY, SUPREME COURT EDITION: In the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court victories on gay rights, E.J. Dionne reminds us of the big picture: When it comes to fundamental issues involving economic, political, and corporate power, the Court is shaping a future in which liberals will find the playing field tilted against them. The crucial big picture point:
This is not an argument about what the Constitution says. It is a battle for power. And, despite scattered liberal triumphs, it is a battle that conservatives are winning.
* CHART OF THE DAY, GAY MARRIAGE EDITION: Nate Silver brings the chart showing that this year, nearly 100 million Americans will be living in places where gay marriage is legal. And thanks to the Supreme Court striking down DOMA, all of those marriages will be federally recognized. In large swaths of the country, the cultural and legal shift has already happened, regardless of the long legal battle that still remains against those still standing in the way of the inevitable.
* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:
Buzzfeed has a fascinating profile of Glenn Greenwald, of whom a former co-worker says: “If Glenn feels he’s right about something, he doesn’t care if the entire world hates him.”
Glenn Kessler on John Boehner’s dissembling about Obama’s supposed “war on coal.”
Greg Stohr has a nice piece assessing the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, concluding that the court “ended its blockbuster civil-rights term pointing in opposite directions: cutting legal protections for racial minorities even as it bolstered them for gays.”
Rachel Weiner rounds up expert opinion on how the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision will give gay rights advocates a new weapon to undercut state gay marriage bans around the country.