The GOP’s “Modern Family” Problem

Political strategist Reed Galen, who was John McCain’s deputy campaign manager, writes at Real Clear Politics:

For those of us that grew up in an urban or suburban setting, friends of other ethnic or religious backgrounds were a given. The idea that a political party has steered itself (or allowed itself to be led) down a path that excludes, actively or passively, those who simply look different or lead dissimilar lives is ridiculous.

These positions also shine a klieg light on the GOP’s cognitive dissonance that’s been incubating for a generation. Republicans can’t be the party of smaller government, individual self-determination and self-reliance and also hold impenetrable positions on social issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage to assisted suicide and capital punishment.

More. Jim Geraghty writes at National Review that Republicans need to confront why their party is less popular than its conservative economic ideas (which a majority of Americans say they support, as long as they’re not attached to Republican candidates). Among his examples of how the party alienates voters it should seek to include:

It seems to be a knee-jerk, not-really-in-jest comparison when some conservatives discuss the issue of gay marriage: If two men or two women can get married, why not a man and an animal? … At a recent conservative gathering, one well-known pundit exclaimed, “Why can’t I marry my cat?”

Now, think about how this argument sounds to any gay or lesbian [person] or to anyone who loves them — to their mothers, fathers, brothers, and friends. It takes a consensual relationship that more and more Americans see practiced by their friends, neighbors, and relatives and equates it with criminal acts, among the most reviled in our society. Put another way, if some jerk in a bar came up and compared your relationship to your spouse to bestiality, you would probably be sorely tempted to knock his teeth out.

What’s significant is that this ran in National Review. It’s a sign of the times.

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36 Comments for “The GOP’s “Modern Family” Problem”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Republicans can’t be the party of smaller government, individual self-determination and self-reliance and also hold impenetrable positions on social issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage to assisted suicide and capital punishment.

    True. And that’s the internal fight in which the Republican Party is now engaged. The party’s religious and social conservatives to fight hard, and, if past is prolog, will fight dirty.

    You, Stephen, and others like you, need to get into the fight and fight just as hard as the religious and social conservatives will fight.

    It isn’t enough to sit on your behinds and complain about what people like me did within the Democratic Party. If you don’t get into your party’s fight now, you haven’t a prayer of winning.

  2. posted by Houndentenor on

    “Republicans can’t be the party of smaller government, individual self-determination and self-reliance and also hold impenetrable positions on social issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage to assisted suicide and capital punishment.”

    Why not? That’s the party it’s been for over 32 years now? When I asked the Republican voters near my parents over the summer why they were voting for Romney the answer was ALWAYS “because Obama is for gays and abortion.” You really need to go to areas that a predominantly Republican and meet the people who are the base of your party.

  3. posted by Jorge on

    The idea that a political party has steered itself (or allowed itself to be led) down a path that excludes, actively or passively, those who simply look different or lead dissimilar lives is ridiculous.

    It’s almost surprising that a Republican can speak so convincingly like a liberal. This is not an insult.

    Republicans can’t be the party of smaller government, individual self-determination and self-reliance and also hold impenetrable positions on social issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage to assisted suicide and capital punishment.

    Huh? Pro-life issues in particular are pretty black-and-white. And what do these issues, even gay marriage, have anything at all to do with a need to appeal to an increasing ethnic diversity? If anything it is social conservative issues that unite diverse communities.

    The real problem, as at least one analyst has mentioned, is that appeals to our “founding” “Judeo-Christian” values come across as exclusionary and alienating where an appeal to “common values” would reach far more people. Also extremely unhelpful is the domineering influence of a vocal and sometimes very offensive Christian-centric group in politics. The Republicans and conservatives have never figured out how to transition them from an indispensible base to only one of several equal partners in an expanding coalition.

    Anyway, I’m certainly not in favor of small government.

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong. Maybe he means that the Republican party needs to be open to individuals who are going to deviate from the party line on particular social issues. Certainly it’s irksome that almost every single Republican who runs for president HAS TO be super-duper pro-choice, yet not every single Republican HAS TO be for small government every single time. I mean no offense to Rudy Giuliani, who simply made terrible campaign choices in 2004. And yes I realize almost all Republicans who run for public office see themselves as small government (look at Bush!), but they do it in so many different ways and they all have different ideas on when to compromise. Just as it is with the marriage question and with civil rights in general. So it should be for abortion. Giuliani could have been president, and the party would have remained the same. That is what needs to be believed.

    But the Republican party is a party of principles. A party of pure populism that stands for nothing will fall for anything, and that is not what this country needs. Justice is important, and it is important for the Republican party to stand for it. This is someone with an axe to grind, and he is striking at phantoms in a way that doesn’t really represent what is the best way forward.

    • posted by DCBuck on

      “But the Republican party is a party of principles.”

      It was, but no longer, and that’s why they are in serious decline. As I’ve said before, to paraphrase Reagan, I did not leave the Republican Party; the Republican Party left me. The party of TRUE conservative principles – accountability for ALL (including those on Wall St., as well as Main St.), personal responsibility (again, for ALL), less government (BOTH INSIDE, as well as outside the home, which means ending the ridiculous fatwa against gays, as an example), and responsible spending – has been taken over by a loud and loony teabagger and Talibangelical minority, who are nothing but CINOs and “cafeteria conservatives,” and whose representatives in Congress are every bit the hypocritical spendthrifts (“keep your hands off my bloated, fat-laden defense budget!”) they accuse the Dems of being. Until they get back to the roots of what conservatism REALLY means, they had better get used to losing. It’s not about turning towards “populism;” it’s about getting back to your roots.

      @Hound: Thank you for admitting that BOTH parties are complete, total, utter, abject failures.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        I don’t think I said “abject failures”, it’s just that political parties all have their share of bs, plus a good share of crooks and liars. We’d all be better off if there was more of the parties policing themselves and getting rid of people who embarrass the whole bunch.

        As for the GOP being about small government, sorry I’m not old enough to remember the Eisenhower administration. That would be the last one that cut back on spending. When I hear someone say that they are Republican because they are for small government that to me is like hearing someone say they are Catholic because they believe in reincarnation. The honest ones are the ones that say they vote Republican because they are against gays and abortion. At least those things match up with the party platform.

        The problem for the GOP is that if they run off the social conservatives there aren’t enough libertarian types that don’t already vote for them to make up that deficit and they can’t win national elections. So they are stuck. The inside the beltway crowd and the country club Republicans might find that religious right crowd distasteful (which they always have) but they are stuck with them. As they say, “ya gotta dance with what brung ya.”

        • posted by DCBuck on

          Well, as I clearly stated that I am no longer a Republican, I take very little offense with what you say. Yes, the Repubs have strayed from smaller government, but the goal is still far better than this ruinous path to outdo Greece that we are currently on.

          And, as most Dems are completely poll-driven, you should know very well that most polls clearly indicate that we are a center-right country. Thus, if the Repubs got back to REAL conservatism, they would be very much back in the hunt. And, I’m old enough to remember the 70s and 80s, when people were questioning the very existence of the Dems, and they’re still very much alive today . . .

          And spare us the “all Repubs are gay haters” garbage. It’s nothing but cheap rhetoric.

  4. posted by Doug on

    “But the Republican party is a party of principles”. That is almost laughable. The Republican party’s only principal is to gain power through whatever method works. Gay demonization – check. Voter ID – check. Racism – check. Lying – check.

    • posted by Jorge on

      You have that confused with the Democratic party, dearie.

      *: A total lack of accountability toward their African American base, which they keep in line with repeated plantation analogies and other gimmicks.

      *: Spreading their legs open constantly for unions, abortion rights groups, and often the most radical of minority organizations, to the point that many Democrats are utterly incapable of rational problem solving when one of their favored groups has a vested interest.

      *: All this despite thousands of dollars in freezers, tax evasion, and a stained blue dress.

      Don’t insult my intelligence, Doug.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        And here we have it: the old “your side is just as bad as mine” argument. I don’t know any Democrat who will pretend there are some nutjobs in the party and even some crooks. Everything you claim about Democrats is at least equally true of Republicans. What does that prove, exactly? That they’re both awful. Thank you for reminding millions of Americans why they don’t bother to vote. It’s a cop-out of an argument and in general is used as an excuse not to address serious ethical problems within one’s own party.

        • posted by Jorge on

          I do not make the “your side is just as bad as mine” argument.

          I make the “your side is worse than mine” argument.

          Learn the difference. “Serious ethical problems” does not even begin to describe the cesspool that is Democratic party patronage, race-baiting, and willful blindness to matters of simple fairness. Everything Doug alleged is far beneath my contempt.

      • posted by Doug on

        “a stained blue dress”. Nothing like bringing up events of 20 years ago to make your case. Let me remind you that after the GOP spent over $100 million to get rid of Clinton he left office with over 60% approval rating.

        If you take a close look at the facts, Jorge, you will not that the GOP has many more sex scandals than do the Democrats.

        Since you said nothing intelligent there is nothing to insult.

        • posted by DCBuck on

          Interesting how you forgot to mention some of Ol’ Happy Pants’ other accomplishments, including DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell . . . Yet, he’s your guy, right? Hypocrisy, much? Gee, I thought this was INDEPENDENT Gay Forum?

          • posted by Doug on

            No, Ol’ Happy Pants is NOT my guy. I was merely pointing out the idiocy of dragging events 20 years old into todays political analysis of the GOP’s current problems.

          • posted by DCBuck on

            Fair enough. I guess I just get my back up when anyone mentions the Clintons in any kind of remotely favorable light.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            Miller and company are as “independent” as Fox News is “fair and balanced”. ;-)

          • posted by DCBuck on

            And MSNBC, for that matter.

  5. posted by TomJeffersonIII on

    In the 1980s the Democratic Party did really poorly in Presidential Elections. Internally more centrist and conservative Democrats argued that the party needed to have a larger, more centrist appeal and that did work well for them.

    The Republican Party may be facing a similar internal issue. Where as for the Democrats it was largely how to appeal to more centrist-middle class concerns, the Republicans face trying to appeal to people of color, 18 – 30 year olds and the gay/lesbian vote.

    This means (1) supporting a somewhat more liberal view on immigration and something alone the lines of affirmative action (but making it more about class, then race). (2) ensure that college education is affordable, deal with student debt issues, and maybe even connect more with this age demographic about other issues (i.e. technology). (3) protect religious freedom/parental rights while also supporting gay rights issues.

    Frankly, what either party says about abortion is pretty much pointless. Personally, I mistrust the ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-life’ slogans (and many of the folks who lead both camps) but most elected lawmakers (no matter what they claim) want only a limited say in when abortion is legal/illegal. Enough to get elected and raise money, but not enough to hurt electoral prospects of either party or actually do much about the issue.

    Basically, in a two-party system the two major parties are actually pushed more to be pragmatic, able to change again and again and fit within the center of things politically and less so based on ideology.

    Minor parties (in a two party system) tend to be the parties of a particular ideology; i.e. Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, Socialist Party. They are, if not else, consistent about policy based on this ideology.

    The other type of minor party tends to exist when the two major parties fail to do what they are pushed to do in a two-party system.

    Here in Minnesota, the Independence Party of Minnesota has major party status and bills itself as the centrist (which they define as socially liberal/fiscal responsible) party.

  6. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Now, think about how this argument sounds …

    It isn’t how the argument sounds that’s offensive. What’s offensive are the policies that follow from the argument.

    It isn’t rocket science to transform the message from hateful-sounding nonsense to neutral-sounding “principles”, like “Judeo-Christian traditional marriage is the foundation of our country”. If Maggie Gallagher can do it, anyone can, and she’s managed.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that the supposedly “objective” arguments against civil-law marriage equality are baseless (as the testimony in the Prop8 trial demonstrated so emphatically) and that the policies that stem from opposition to marriage equality (support for the FMA, support for Section 3 of DOMA, opposition to state-sanctioned marriage equality, an “original intent” judiciary and all the rest) are the real problem.

    McCain-Palin scored about 10 points higher with gay and lesbian voters in 2008 than Romney-Ryan did in 2012. Why? Romney-Ryan didn’t use offensive language in 2012, any more than McCain-Palin did in 2008. If anything, the language (from Palin) was worse in 2008 than anything uttered by Romney-Ryan in 2012. But the percentage of gays and lesbians voting Republican this year dropped by a third.

    Why was that? My view is that the drop resulted from a combination of (1) the Republican Party’s abysmal anti-equality 2012 platform and Governor Romney’s doubling down on anti-equality pledges, and (2) the Democratic Party’s clear embrace of marriage equality and President’s “evolution” on the issue. The policy contrasts were stark and unmistakable in 2012, in a way that still were not in 2008, and I think that the policy contrasts drove the vote.

    In fact, I think that you can look across the board at the Republican “problem” demographics — women, Latinos, gays and lesbians, African-Americans — and see the policies that drove those groups away.

    I’m not opposed to civil public discourse. Offensive language is unnecessary and drives people at which it is aimed away, usually for a long time. But offensive language is not the primary problem — offensive policies are the primary problem.

    Put another way, if some jerk in a bar came up and compared your relationship to your spouse to bestiality, you would probably be sorely tempted to knock his teeth out.

    Of course. But if the jerk at the bar kept his mouth shut but treated your relationship with your spouse identically with bestiality, you might not knock his teeth out, but you wouldn’t vote for him.

    That’s the problem the Republican Party has to confront and solve.

  7. posted by Jorge on

    The “47 percent”: In Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks, the worst line was, “My job is not to worry about those people — I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

    Even if there was some valid lament in there about a culture of dependency, the phrasing was about as harmful as possible, because it suggested that as president Romney wouldn’t “worry” about those people — that is, wouldn’t govern with their needs in mind, because he deemed them uninterested in self-sufficiency.[emphasis mine]

    Pretty much the key line in the whole piece, and the difference between a Republican I can or can’t respect, (although I didn’t see it in Romney). I keep saying this: Michelle Bachman never said anything even remotely close to that she doesn’t need to worry about gay people, even though she has extremely unfavorable views about homosexuality. When she was asked about that, she said things like “I’m running for the presidency of the United States”, and “I’m not running to judge gays”. This is someone most gays do NOT want as president, but she’s going to at least lift a finger to get our vote and say she will be accountable if she’s elected. One finger. Not the middle finger. Not every Republican running for President did that.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I keep saying this: Michelle Bachman never said anything even remotely close to that she doesn’t need to worry about gay people, even though she has extremely unfavorable views about homosexuality. When she was asked about that, she said things like “I’m running for the presidency of the United States”, and “I’m not running to judge gays”. This is someone most gays do NOT want as president, but she’s going to at least lift a finger to get our vote and say she will be accountable if she’s elected. One finger. Not the middle finger. Not every Republican running for President did that.

      A school of thought seems to be developing in recent weeks that gays and lesbians (and other constituencies getting the shaft from Republican policies) will come around if Republicans tone down the rhetoric but don’t change their policies. Geraghty seems to be of that school.

      I don’t believe it for a second. What matter are the policies.

      You are right that Michele Bachmann “is someone most gays do NOT want as president” but the reason is not her words, but her policies. Ditto for most of the rest of the gang that ran for President this year.

      • posted by DCBuck on

        “Don’t misunderstand. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.”

        Who said this, Jorge? None other than that sweet, little angel herself, Michelle Bachmann. This is only one of her many statements on her hit parade. And just because she was not as breathtakingly dumb as Mourdock, Akin, or the rest of the Talibangelical pigpen by being honest and stating how she really feels doesn’t equal an attempt to court the gay vote. Thus, if you really believe she was interested in obtaining even one gay vote, or that she wouldn’t have tried to pursue the Talibangelical goal of a warped, “Biblical” version of Sharia Law on the country (even if she didn’t come clean and admit it publicly), I’ll be more than willing to sell you my fabulous beach house in Kansas I know you’ll LOVE.

        • posted by Jorge on

          “We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders…”

          Thus, if you really believe she was interested in obtaining even one gay vote…

          You just made a leap of logic that I don’t really understand: You just said that someone who believes that homosexuality is a mental disorder isn’t interested in the votes of gays.

          I don’t understand where you make that connection.

          My best guess is that you are conflating people who say things that are offensive to gays with people who believe things that are offensive to gays. One implies malice. The other ignorance. The assumption you make is that the overlap between the two is 100%. However, without evidence of actual malice (indeed, you point to evidence of the exact opposite) that assumption does not fly.

          You have a hidden view that all Christians who are conservative on homosexuality hate gays. I know from personal experience that that view is false.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            But here’s where the party has made a jump. There is an alternate to malice and ignorance, and that’s pandering. For decades the country club set has pandered to the social conservatives to get them to vote for candidates who did nothing for them except promise to restrict the rights of homosexuals and to outlaw abortion. They did neither. It was mostly (but not always) just talk. Now the pandered have come into their own and are running their own candidates. It’s easy enough to laugh at the lunacy of Michele Bachmann (especially considering who she married) as she carries on about gay marriage, but there are millions of Republican voters who admire her as someone who expresses their values. She’s not the fringe. She recognizes a significant part of the GOP coaltion and one that isn’t going to be easily dismissed.

            As for the last bit, it’s not false at all. We have this repugnant concept in right-wing Christianist sects called “love the sinner, hate the sin”. It’s a big steaming pile of crap. There’s no love in that at all. It’s about judgmentalism and hypocrisy which is the cornerstone of that branch of the Christian faith. There is no love in pastors telling parents to disown their gay children and cut off all contact. None whatsoever. It can’t be blamed on ignorance either. Decades ago that would be fair enough, but this isn’t the 1950s.

          • posted by Don on

            Jorge, I believe you are mentally disordered. There is a profound disconnect within your soul that prevents you from seeing simple logic. I do not hate you for that, nor do I judge you for it. But it is clearly there for anyone to see.

            How’s that for logic, Jorge? Are you ready to vote for me now? Do you accept that I mean nothing ill about my statement toward you and love, appreciate, and agree with me because we both want to cut government programs together? Keep in mind, you are still a twisted soul beyond repair, but I wish to bless you with Christian love nonetheless.

            Please don’t conflate my offensive statement directed squarely at you as malicious. To do so would be using faulty logic.

            (just so we’re clear, this is sarcasm)

      • posted by Jorge on

        A school of thought seems to be developing in recent weeks that gays and lesbians (and other constituencies getting the shaft from Republican policies) will come around if Republicans tone down the rhetoric but don’t change their policies. Geraghty seems to be of that school.

        I think this election was an apt demonstration of this principle in reverse with the Latino vote, however much Romney wants to argue he lost it because Obama played into some kind of “gimmie gimmie” game. The difference between the 29 percent of the Latino vote Romney won and the 45 percent Bush won in 2004 is pretty significant. Even if most of that difference is attributable to differences in policy, the statement that Romney thinks illegal aliens should “self-deport” was not helpful, especially if it was true that it was taken out of context.

        • posted by Tom Scharbach on

          Even if most of that difference is attributable to differences in policy, the statement that Romney thinks illegal aliens should “self-deport” was not helpful, especially if it was true that it was taken out of context.

          Naturally, inflammatory words inflame. As you put it, they don’t help, because the visceral negative emotional response inflammatory words invoke motivate people on the receiving end. There’s nothing like being dissed to get you pissed.

          But I think that the policies are the core. Even when not emotionally prodded by inflammatory words, people pay attention to policies, and vote accordingly.

          My guess is that the Republican Latino vote would have dropped off just as significantly if Romney hadn’t come up with “self-deportation” as a descriptor for the Republican policies; Latinos understood the policies behind the statement, and that’s what they were voting against.

          Romney said nothing horrible about gays and lesbians this election cycle, but he lost a third of the gay and lesbian vote.

          I don’t think we are in disagreement, Jorge. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and other politicians pushing the anti-equality wagon will be an anathema to gays and lesbians whether they “make nice” or not.

          • posted by Jorge on

            I don’t think we are in disagreement, Jorge.

            We are.

  8. posted by TomJeffersonIII on

    As a person of color I am insulted by this suggestion that the Democratic Party is keeping me in a modern day plantation or some such nonsense. I also do not like it when gay Republicans or gay Republicans of color get labeled Uncle Tom. Disagree or agree with policy or what a party claims to believe in, but lets try and act like adults.

    In terms of racial minorities the big problem for the Republican Party is that it made a decision to court the ‘Southern State’s Right’ electoral strategy. Nixon played up to it big time and do did Reagan and a great many conservative Republicans continue to do so as well. The Ayn Rand crowd says that many civil rights laws should be done away with.

    That is policy. In terms of a larger culture with the GOP (that needs to change), especially the conservative movement, their is the entire “birther” movement, restrictive immigration policies and things like “English Only”. When these things become associated with the GOP, it will be hard for them to appeal to people of color.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Equally insulting is the idea that an ethnic face spouting the same words will be more appealing to minority groups. I heard this over the turkey yesterday from relatives smart enough to know better. Marco Rubio isn’t going to get any more hispanic/latino voters just by have slightly more pigment than Romney. It’s the policies, not what the candidate looks like, that is the problem.

      • posted by Jorge on

        Okay, yeah, now I’m definitely convinced the other way.

        No, someone’s skin color does not mean anything.

        But I remember the first time I read about Steve Yuhas, the gay conservative radio host and columnist in San Francisco. Who was actually polarizing as opposed to universally hated. His stances are on the far right, but they come out far more sensible than I’d ever heard before. There are certain mistakes he avoids and certain disassociations he makes. It is much the same with race and gender. White politicians make certain racial missteps when they talk about conservatism.

        The idea that progressive policies are good for people and conservative policies are bad for people is a lie. But what is not a lie is that the politicians have made conservative policies about “people like me” instead of about everybody. Someone who is a member of a forgotten minority yet still a conservative is very, very likely to have corrected that mistake as far deep as his political psyche just as a condition for resolving the cognitive dissonance. Of course the liberals will lie about that.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          The idea that conservatives have all the good ideas and liberals all the bad ones, or vice versa is absurd. An idea is good or bad on its own merits. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. The practice of dismissing an idea based on who is promoting it is one of the main reasons our country is in such a mess.

          I don’t know where you live, but I hear seriously racist statements from Republicans on a regular basis. Add to that the serious racism coming from popular right wing media figures like Limbaugh, and there’s a real problem. I don’t think most Republicans are racist. I do think they are happy to pander to racists to win elections. Ignoring that fact doesn’t make it go away. It’s a real problem and one the GOP really should deal with. That part of the party makes the rest look bad. There’s no reason for that and at some point it will cost them enough elections that they’ll figure out that excusing the inexcusable is costing them elections. I suspect it will only take another election cycle or two.

  9. posted by TomJeffersonIII on

    The challenge for the GOP — in terms of appealing to minorities, younger voters, women and gay people in large numbers — is that the original GOP was once a leader in civil rights and progressive era reform at the national and state level.

    Its a challenge because the party is run by folks who no longer want to be a leader in civil rights and only want to reform things to be favorable to Ayn Rand followers are multi-national “human” corporations.

    They want to stop or back peddle on civil rights by calling it “law and order”, “states rights” and “no special rights”. They want to pretend to believe equal opportunity and capitalism, when they really prefer Ayn Rand and corporatism.

  10. posted by JohnInCA on

    Based on the comments to Galen’s article, I’d say the GOP’s problem is still going strong.

    Some conservative thinkers/leaders/etc. might see which way the wind is blowing, but I think the ship isn’t turning with it yet.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Indeed. As Jorge said, “The Republican Party is a party of principles.”

  11. posted by TomJeffersonIII on

    Well, frankly whenever a major party in the American tw0-party system starts trying to act like a ‘principled’ (read: every member and candidate must agree with a platform) sort of party (found in in say the UK two party system or a multiparty voting method) it is probably going to get slapped around a bit by the electoral process.

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