Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gingrich: Republicans "clearly have to change"


On the television program Face the Nation this morning, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told host Bob Schieffer that his party needs to repair itself, if the GOP hopes to win moving forward.

Gingrich ... pointed to overly conservative policies as the GOP's 2012 curse. "When I said as a candidate we're not going to deport a grandmother if she's been here 25 years, we had a nominee who said yes, we would, that she would self-deport," Gingrich said. "I think at that point we lost Asians, we lost Latinos. You can't lose Asians, Latinos, African Americans and young people, and think you're going to be competitive. I think we have to come to grips with the reality," he continued. "We have to learn to communicate in the world of young people on their terms but we also have to understand that we need to be a country of immigrants where Republicans are seen as welcoming, hard-working, competent people, not prepared to kick grandmother out."

It's not going to be easy to fix the Republican Party. What it is today started in the mid to late-1960s, when, following the adoption of civil rights legislation, conservative Southern Democrats drifted into the Republican Party and slowly took over its culture. It became less a party of businessmen and more one of right-wing preachers. It has abandoned balanced budgets for Jesus jingoism.

If the GOP hired me as a consultant to make its message and style more palatable, here are some suggestions I would offer up:

1. Primaries. They are low-turnout affairs dominated by extremists. The Republican primaries have served to defeat conservatives and moderates who could win a general election in favor of troglodyte morons who could not. My suggestion is that the national party needs to back sensible candidates in every important primary with money and it needs to work harder to raise turn out in their primaries. If necessary, the GOP also needs to spend money to tarnish extremist candidates. The party cannot simply sit back and see what happens when these nut-jobs have a chance to win.

2. Social conservatism. All the right-wing preachers need to be sidelined. The Republicans would be a lot more attractive if they could live with a separation of church and state. The GOP platform needs to focus on finance, investment, taxes, defense and foreign affairs. The party which says it believes in individual liberty needs to get out of the nation's bedroom and out of the offices of gynecologists. It may still play in the deep South to hate abortion and gays. But more and more that is a losing strategy nationally. Gays should be welcomed for the first time.  Republicans ought to have no dogma on a woman's right to choose.

3. Science. Gov. Bobby Jindal recently said that Republicans cannot succeed as long as they are the stupid party. Nothing says stupid more than the Republican aversion to science. When virtually every climatologist agrees that burning fossil fuels is filling our atmosphere with excessive carbon dioxide and that in turn is causing global warming, the Republican Party has adopted its most aggressive stance against science. If Republicans want to be the smart party, they have to be led by scientific consensus, not bloviating that science is a liberal conspiracy.

4. Clean energy. Republicans need to become a party which accepts that there is a serious external cost when we burn coal and oil. To internalize that cost, Republicans should be calling for a stiff carbon tax, one which would make cleaner forms of energy (including nuclear power) more cost-competitive and would generate revenues to pay down our debts. Being the party of drill, baby, drill makes the Republicans come across as one which does not care about our nation's future.

5. Immigration. Newt Gingrich spoke to this. The GOP cannot succeed if it turns off tens of millions of Hispanics. Republicans need to advocate a sensible reform, where those who are here illegally and are productive workers can transition to legal status. Additionally, the GOP should push for a jobs-based immigration program, where employers (including farmers) can sponsor workers to come here legally, and those workers can stay as long as they are needed by their employers.

6. Media whining. Republicans have been complaining about the liberal media for 40 years. Even with Fox News pushing the right-wing message all over the place, they keep complaining that reporters are biased in favor of liberals. There may be some instances of this. However, a lot of those complaints are unmerited. A report which is entirely neutral gets called liberal if the conclusions are not in line with conservative thinking. It harms the GOP--makes it the stupid party--to incessantly complain about liberal media bias. Instead, Republicans need to simply tell a better story.

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