Given my lengthy paper trail in favor of President Obama, it might strike folks funny that I’m worried about the Republican Party. I’m worried that it won’t settle the internal forces that have turned it into a regional, reactionary party that looks nothing like the rest of the country, worried that the GOP has policy positions out of touch with the rest of the country. I’m worried that the tone coming from some Republicans won’t make their party any more attractive to the very voters it needs to survive.
Plenty has been written about the demographic demolition of the GOP. African Americans, Latinos, gay men and lesbians, young people in general and young women in particular went for Obama in big numbers. I’ve written how most of these groups are ripe for the picking if Republicans would just show them some love. But such a change of direction doesn’t seem likely when many Republicans, in tone or in policy, are seemingly hostile to things those folks care about or are simply disrespectful.
“If Republicans are serious about repairing their party’s standing among women, gay and Hispanic voters,” the New York Times editorial board wrote yesterday, “they need to adjust some policies and stop sending hostile messages.” The board highlighted the reauthorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. The measure, which received bipartisan support in the Senate, included new protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and it also increased the number of visas available to domestic violence victims who are undocumented immigrants. House Republicans stripped those two provisions from its bill.
On Friday, The Post editorial board took on “The GOP’s bizarre attack on Susan Rice,” the U.N. ambassador who is in the running to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Blasting a letter from 97 House Republicans to Obama warning against Rice’s possible selection as a “blatant disregard of established facts,” the piece gets to the heart of why the controversy over Rice rankles African Americans:
Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been especially egregious. His claim two weeks ago that the Rhodes scholar and seasoned foreign policy hand was “not qualified” to be secretary of state was a bridge too far. Star Jones, lawyer and former co-host of “The View,” sent out two tweets last week that summed up quite well the ridiculousness of McCain’s assertion.
Hmmm...#SusanRice: Stanford, Phi Beta Kappa, Oxford Rhodes Scholar...confirmed UNANIMOUSLY by the US Senate to be US Ambassador to the UN...
#SarahPalin: 1 or 2 semesters at 4 schools (1982-1985) before a BA from University of Idaho in 1987. But #McCain nominated HER for #VPOTUS.
The blatant disrespect of a black woman by McCain and other Republicans won’t soon be forgotten by African Americans, no matter how soft McCain’s rhetoric gets.
And the GOP is about to face another test with Hispanic voters on the question of statehood for Puerto Rico. In a commentary Sunday, D.C. political analyst Mark Plotkin called the Caribbean island’s embrace of statehood “a good deal for the District and Puerto Rico.” because it could provide the District its own, long-awaited path to statehood. Included in Plotkin’s piece is a killer quote from Ricardo Aponte, executive director of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico.
“If the Republican Party rejects statehood for Puerto Rico because it has a Hispanic population, that explains and perpetuates the 71 percent [of Hispanics] who voted for Obama,” Aponte said. “This is an opportunity for the Republican Party to redeem itself.”
The Republican Party has a lot to do to redeem itself. And I hope it succeeds because a hobbled GOP could lead to a self-satisfied and complacent Democratic Party.
In sports, a team gets better and stronger by competing against equal or better teams. In politics, such competition leads to better ideas and policies that are vital to governing the nation. Democrats might not want to hear it, but they need a strong Republican Party. But if the GOP stays on its current trajectory, both parties and the nation will be worse off.