Sunday, March 31, 2013

Back to the Republican future?


By Bill Kraus

The Republican Party has said it wants to clean up its act and strengthen its appeal to certain large segments of society that are important to electoral success in 2013 America.

This is easier said than done.

In the not-too-distant past the Republicans were respected for their competence. They knew how to make things work. In a long ago interview with the redoubtable then-WPR host Tom Clark I asserted that the party I joined in my youth while not always beloved could always fall back on this reputation. “What if things aren’t running well when they are in charge?” he asked. “This assumption is so strong,” I replied, “that the contention that things would be even worse if they weren’t in charge” was pretty much accepted.

Along with this not-inconsequential virtue and talent, the party was expected to be and was both frugal and mildly libertarian.

Then along came segmentation and the “wedge” strategy.

Someone whose name if known should go down in infamy decided that the way to win elections was to accumulate enough political interest groups to add up to a majority and to campaign to this base wholeheartedly.

“If you get large majorities of those who vote mainly or solely on narrow issues such as the 2nd amendment right to arms, limited abortion accessibility, strict definition of marriage and add them to the government distrusters and low-to-no tax crowd, you will get over 50 percent of the vote in most places” was the theory.

Is it any wonder that the African Americans who had been solid Republican voters until the beginning of the 20th century, the hispanics whose numbers and special needs were exploding, the more sectarian and more socially tolerant young, and large numbers of women began to think the Republicans weren’t aware of or interested in them and how their lives were going?

The party cannot simply airbrush away its recent over-commitment to narrower interests to whom it has become connected at the hip and which are not warmly regarded by the newly identified objects of the parties' affection.

Is it possible to return governing to the top of the party’s agenda and accomplishments? Not without departisinizing some issues and downgrading the rest.

Will it be possible for a woman who as vice chair of the Wisconsin GOP put together the most successful grassroots Republican campaign in the party’s history to appear at a Republican convention in Wisconsin without being booed off the stage because she is pro-choice?

Unless and until she can, the re-defining and re-imaging of the party is all hat and no cattle.

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