Here we go again. Whenever I try to offer a little helpful advice to Republican leaders, I have grown accustomed to hearing from some cranky conservative or two who blow me off, saying they're "not about to take advice from a liberal like you" -- or words to that effect.
To which I am inclined to respond like the Jedi Master Yoda in "Star Wars": "That is why you fail."
After losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, the Grand Old Party should be painfully aware of their need to step outside of the conservative bubble. and talk to people who are not already voting for them.
You could hear that message as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a rising national political star, told the Republican National Committee's winter meeting that "We must stop being the stupid party" and "insulting the intelligence of voters."
He also called for fewer "stupid and bizarre" comments. I presume he was talking about such gaffes as failed Senate candidate Todd Akin's campaign-sinking comments about "legitimate rape." If you want to win people's votes, don't insult them.
By now, no one should have to urge Republicans to reach out to Hispanics and other minorities. Mitt Romney's election night surprise makes the case.
He won non-Hispanic white voters, no problem. But he lost other major demographic groups. Had he only kept the same 42 percent of the Hispanic vote that President George W. Bush won eight years earlier, for example, Romney's campaign could have set off his victory fireworks in Boston. Instead, he won only 29 percent and, according to reports, had to hastily cobble together a concession speech he had not expected to give.
With the looming possibility of permanent minority status, Republicans face a dilemma: How do they expand their base without alienating the hard-core, change-resistant conservatives who already are in it?
I think they can take valuable lessons from two examples. One is the Democratic Party's experiences with the same dilemma after George McGovern's catastrophic 49-state loss as the deeply divided party's nominee in 1972. Jimmy Carter's Southern centrism won him a term in 1976 in the aftermath of Watergate. But it took until Bill Clinton's rise in 1992 for the party's base to crave victory enough to put up with a new centrism, despite grumblings from the Rev. Jesse Jackson's wing.
After two losses to Obama, maybe it's time for Republican moderates to reassert themselves and tell their right-wing base that, hey, the political center may not be sexy but it's better than oblivion.
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