Political Animal


March 15, 2013 12:39 PM Perils of GOP “Outreach”

By Ed Kilgore

As a follow-on to the last post on Matthew Continetti’s analysis of the GOP’s electoral dilemmas, it should be clear the problem isn’t just the conflict between base and “swing” voter preferences, but also between different groups of swing voters. This is made apparent by an interesting observation at CPAC by TNR’s Molly Redden:

[O]lder conservatives seem to believe earnestly that their opposition to gay rights will be catnip to Latinos, Asians, and blacks. Aguilar said that if the GOP shifts its positions on “the family,” “It’s suicide to think we can win over those new voters.” Gov. Rick Perry put it this way: “We’re told we must shift to appeal to the growing demographic of Hispanics.” The crowd booed like mad. “Let me tell you something about what appeals to Hispanics in states like Texas… Policies that value the family unit!”

But emphasizing cultural traditionalism in pursuit of such voters (probably a bad idea in itself since support for marriage equality among Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Latinos has been trending upwards at least as fast as among white folk) carries its own risks in terms of the reaction of younger voters, another “outreach” target, even in the hyper-ideological atmosphere of CPAC:

Not only are Latinos not as conservative as conservatives would have you believe, but for most of the panelists on “Winning with Generation X/Y” and “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet,” a precondition of mass millennial support is the abandonment of gay bigotry. Jeff Frazee, the executive director of Young Americans for Liberty, said he identifies not as a conservative, but a libertarian, because of the GOP’s stances on most social issues—drawing a “WOOO!” from the young audience. Sen. Rand Paul gets it. In his speech to a packed ballroom, he made a passing reference to the Facebook generation as the “core of the leave-me-alone generation,” earning him a “WOOO!,” too.

Maybe Rand Paul “gets it,” but that brings us back to square one: can anyone imagine him or his libertarian “base” buying Contenetti’s “conservative welfare state” prescription for the GOP? WOOOO, no!

There just ain’t no easy road to a GOP majority.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • rk21 on March 15, 2013 1:01 PM:

    So Rand Paul is the next great hope. Isn't he the guy who said he would not have voted for the civil rights act. That will draw minorities to the republican party like magnets. Yes, they've finally figured it out. That's what minorities want. Gay hatred and self hatred.

  • Josef K on March 15, 2013 1:11 PM:

    There just ainít no easy road to a GOP majority.

    Probably why they're investing and banking so heavily upon voter manipulation. Oh, they could probably cobble together one coalition after the other for awhile longer, giving them a thin majority in the House if not the Senate, but that likewise risks alienating whichever slice of the population they have to cut out of the previous coalition to the point where no-one will trust the GOP enough to actually enlist.

    Or perhaps I'm overestimating the interests and voters in question. Its possible.

  • c u n d gulag on March 15, 2013 1:13 PM:

    What a predicament!!!

    Go for younger and ethnic voters by changing on your wedge social issues, and you lose the ancient white base.

    Stay with the ancient white base, and you lose the younger and ethnic voters who hate the wedge social issues.

    You can't straddle a bridge over those troublesome waters!

    My guess is, they'll go with the old birds in the hand.

  • Peter C on March 15, 2013 1:41 PM:

    YUP! Go with Aqua-Buddha-guy! Yes! That'll WORK!

    (oh please, oh please, oh please)

    Rand Paul isn't a loony Randian Libertarian nutcase, he's just 'edgy' and 'hip'. And REALLY, Michelle Bachmann is self-evidently a genius. They're the FUTURE of the GOP! Embrace the future. Duct-tape yourselves to it! If a little nitroglycerin under your tongue is good for your angina, think what sitting on a three-ton brick of the stuff will do for your sinuses! That, and a puff on your cigar, and you'll feel like you could fly to the moon!

  • BillFromPA on March 15, 2013 1:50 PM:

    Several ancient Dixicrats, on their way from the Dem to the GOP side of the aisle, said something to the effect that 'I didn't leave the party, the pary left me', and given the Dem Civil Rights efforts, there's some truth to that. Now, what's left of the GOP is in the position to say, 'I'm not leaving the country, the country is leaving me'. Some of the brighter bulbs are realizing that 'their' America doesn't really exist anymore, the populace is sailing away from them and they can't hope to stay the same and call the shots.

  • boatboy_srq on March 15, 2013 2:36 PM:

    @Josef K: precisely.

    It also helps explain the GOTea's "Lurch to the Right" - a/k/a The Fall Off the Fascist Cliff. Between the various conservatist elements (economic, social, cultural, whatever) there's no wiggle-room leftward of common positions, so to accommodate the biggest number they edge rightward to find some semblance of consensus. You'll find a lot of self-described "Conservatives" who lament the wingnuttery represented by members of the other subgroups - but we've rarely heard any of them say that such obvious wingnuttery is sufficient cause to demand some compromise from them to promote whatever Greater Cause the speaker values. It seems, though, that we're starting to hear the creaking of overstressed alliances before the whole construct splinters.

    Paul can have his moment - but you can be sure McConnell will find someone more "agreeable" to primary him next time. Just look at what happened to Huntsman: somebody who actually could have shifted the GOTea dialogue out of the ditch and back onto the shoulder (if not the actual road) got soundly thrashed; that kind of treatment is going to make a lot of folks think twice about the GOTea, and is going to make the next few primaries some of the most entertaining - er, nasty - in recent history.