“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. [It has] become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly [it has] lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with [Republicans] on every issue.
“The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the party … Asked to describe Republicans, they said that the party is ‘scary,’ ‘narrow minded,’ and ‘out of touch.’ ”
How I would love to be able to claim credit for this clear-eyed and withering assessment of the Republican Party. With minor editing on my part for dramatic effect, those words were lifted directly from the “Growth & Opportunity Project.” You know it as the GOP autopsy of its 2012 presidential loss.
The message and prescriptions of the 99-page report have been ringing in my ears ever since Donald Trump insulted his way to the top of the polls for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The bloviating Big Apple billionaire builder is the antithesis of what the vital two-year-old document calls for.
GOP primary voters say they are gravitating to Trump because he “tells it like it is.” After he branded Mexicans crossing the southern border as “rapists,” his poll numbers went up. After he slurred the Vietnam captivity of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his numbers went up. After saying, “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” in response to a question about his calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” he was met with thunderous applause.
The only person to echo the ethos of the GOP autopsy was Ohio Gov. John Kasich. When asked by Megyn Kelly how he would explain his opposition to same-sex marriage if he had a gay or lesbian child, Kasich gave a pitch-perfect answer.
I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. Because you know what? That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith….So the issues like that, issues like that are planted to divide us. …[W]e need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect, and let them share in this great American dream that we have, Megan. So, look, I’m going to love my daughters, I’m going to love them no matter what they do. Because, you know what, God gives me unconditional love. I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.
That wonderful Kasich answer aside, the GOP was already doing a horrible job of meeting the goals in the autopsy before Trump joined the Gang of 17. But with each ugly utterance, the Republican frontrunner pushes the party further and further away from its worthy goal. To the delight of the GOP base (and more than a few giddy Democrats), Trump has brought bread and circuses to the Republican Party by employing the chaos of reality television to the election of the leader of the free world.
The hate-fueled self-immolation of the GOP would be a laugh riot were the consequences not so dire. Our democracy depends on a thriving two-party system where competing parties and the voices within each vigorously debate ideas and then reach the reasonable compromises needed to govern an enterprise as important as the United States. Since 2010, the Republican Party has succumbed to its basest voices for short-term political gain. Compromise became a dirty word. Lies were peddled as truth and never corrected by those who knew better. Invective was liberally employed against opponents no matter the party and without consequences.
Autopsies are done on dead things. Trump’s rise is further proof that plans for a more inclusive and welcoming GOP for 2016 are DOA.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj