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February 14, 2014 9:52 AM Republicans Getting the Wrong Market Signals

By Ed Kilgore

In his weekly National Journal column, Ron Brownstein uses Chevrolet’s “The New Us” ad campaign in the Olympics rotation to show that Republicans just aren’t keeping up with the country:

In cascading images, one ad warmly portrays couples of every race and ethnicity, interracial couples, gay male couples, gay female couples—all raising what appear to be happy, well-adjusted children. Not only does Heather have two mommies; in the world Chevrolet evokes, she’s perfectly fine with it. “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like, has,” the ad intones. “This is the new us.”
The “new us” bears more than a passing resemblance to the new coalition that has allowed Democrats to win the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. As the veteran Democratic pollster Stanley B. Greenberg has said, the modern Democratic national coalition is essentially diverse America and the portions of white America (largely white-collar whites, especially women) who are comfortable with diverse America.
That doesn’t mean, by any count, that all of the GOP coalition is uneasy with the trends of growing racial diversity and acceptance of homosexuality the Chevrolet ad evokes. But it is fair to say that the portions of American society most uneasy about these changes—particularly many blue-collar, older, and rural whites—are concentrated within that coalition.

Brownstein’s main point, however, is that Republicans really aren’t waking up to this reality just yet, and very well may mistake a very good 2014 election cycle (if it happens) as confirmation they don’t need to change:

Republicans could make those gains without addressing any of the cultural barriers that confront them in presidential contests, which draw a larger, younger, and more diverse electorate. The evidence, in fact, suggests that Republicans are further from addressing those challenges than they were the day after Obama’s reelection. The rush by GOP leaders to champion Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty star, after his recent anti-gay remarks shows the pressure the party faces to reflect those disapproving beliefs. That pressure is even more vivid in the decision by House Republican leaders to shelve legislation barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation—and the fact that every Senate Republican considering the 2016 presidential race felt compelled to vote against it when the bill passed that chamber, even though polls show two-thirds of Americans support the idea.
House Speaker John Boehner captured an even larger problem last week when he abandoned immigration reform just days after unveiling “principles” that might have produced a deal. Though some analysts see a strategic retreat designed to resurface an initiative later, Boehner’s abject surrender has emboldened the party’s immigration opponents in a manner that will make it tougher for the House to ever act, or for the party’s 2016 candidates to reposition themselves on the issue. It’s not hard to draw a line between Boehner’s capitulation and the first 2016 GOP presidential debate where Sean Hannity asks anyone who supports “President Obama’s amnesty” to raise his hand.

Yep. Just as its 2010 landslide misled Republicans about the kind of 2012 campaign they needed to run, we may see a similar phenomenon if the GOP does even faintly as well in 2014.

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.

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