Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
What GOP should avoid doing
Two weeks ago the Republican National Committee, under Chairman Reince Priebus, issued a report on what must be done to make the GOP more competitive. The report was presented as an "autopsy" on the failed campaign of 2012 and emphasized the party's difficulty in reaching out to certain constituencies.
Racial minorities, single women, and young people were on the top of this list, and the report presented the recruitment of these groups as key to any Republican electoral recovery.
Above all, the party must try to overcome its image as "white, male and stuffy," and so it would have to accept progressive positions on all of the following: gay marriage, abortion and amnestying illegal immigrants.
Mitt Romney supposedly came up short in his presidential bid because he was saddled with reactionary positions he had been forced to express during the GOP primaries. Afterwards, he could never again move toward the center, at least not in the public's mind.
Unfortunately, this autopsy, which may have been cribbed from the New York Times editorial page, got it all wrong.
Romney lost, and dragged his party down, mainly because, like Bob Dole, John McCain and other recent GOP presidential candidates, he was an appallingly inept campaigner who seemed entirely scripted.
Romney did not take any conservative position in the general race, at least none that I'm aware of. In his second debate with Barack Obama, he simply parroted what his opponent said on social questions.
Throughout the campaign, Romney, the self-styled "moderate," dodged a vicious attack on his business career and did everything he could to give the impression that he was practicing moral non-resistance with a pasted smile on his face.
Listening to columnist Ann Coulter depicting Romney on Fox News as a spirited, principled conservative, I had no idea whom she was praising. There was a total contradiction between the descriptions furnished by "conservative" spokespersons and Romney's public persona.
To whatever extent Romney was identified as a "right-winger" was the result of collusion between lying liberal and lying conservative media personalities. Republicans are supposed to be on the right and so both sides agreed to depict Romney accordingly, for different reasons.
If the GOP scripters and advisers get their way and are able to push their party to the social left, they'll be digging an even bigger hole for themselves.
There is no guarantee they'd pick up large numbers of votes from the left, which is wedded socially and often professionally to the Democrats.
But Republicans in these changed circumstances would continue to hemorrhage votes from their base, which they've been doing ever since Bush's second presidential race in 2004.
Although disgruntled voters would not vote for a third party in presidential races, which the GOP has made impossible in our state, they would continue to exercise in ever greater numbers the option of not voting.
Speaking for myself, I would never again vote Republican at the national level, if Priebus and Rove get their way.
Since I disagree with the Democrats on foreign policy less often than with the Republicans, but continue to vote Republican because I find them minimally less objectionable on domestic issues, I couldn't imagine why I would vote for the kind of party that the RNC is trying to build.
How about running a really nasty, divisive GOP presidential candidate, who savages the other side? Perhaps we could get someone who lets us know in no uncertain terms that Obama has done nothing to help his minority voters on the economic front.
And I'm not sure the GOP would lose on social issues, even if it takes traditionalist positions. The tide of opinion on the abortion issue has swung well to the right of Obama, who has enthusiastically championed the right to a third-term abortion. The vast majority of Americans now disagree with Obama and his party about giving women an almost unrestricted right to abortion.
Nor do I see a solid, permanent majority in favor of gay marriage. Hollywood stars, public educators and the media have been able to turn the public within a few years, mostly through the young, from majority opposition to majority support on this issue. But I doubt a consensus that has shifted so suddenly from one side to the other is likely to stay.
On abortion, the public has been trending in the opposite direction for about a decade, perhaps because the privileged opinion-shapers have stressed gay marriage as the cause of the day. But even at a time when there was more general enthusiasm for abortion rights, anti-abortion Republican candidates won elections.
Republicans have indeed failed to make necessary changes, but not for the reasons the "autopsy" cites. The party can't seem to stop defending the Bush presidency and has failed to adopt a less belligerent and less utopian foreign policy.
Most ruinously of all, the GOP appears hooked on presidential candidates who can't function without formaldehyde.
·Paul E. Gottfried is a retired professor of humanities at Elizabethtown College. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.