The Republican Party used last weekend to bombard the media with tidings of a retooling process its chiefs said the party needed in order to regain ground lost in the 2012 election. One comment from Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus had about it a conspicuously “Good luck with that” vibe. A stepped-up outreach campaign by Republicans, Priebus said, would include a commitment to make more visits to historically Black colleges to tell the story of the GOP. That duly hyperbolic statement of grand intentions immediately begs the question: what version of the Republican story did Priebus and company plan to tell?
We suspect that there’ll be lots of support among decision makers to place heavy emphasis on the party to which (appropriate for a pitch to African American students) Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass belonged. That 19th century Republican model that generally tended to shame the opposition on the era’s matters of conscience. There surely can’t be much of a yen, in making the Republican case to Black students, for employing as carrot the face of the GOP with which those students are most likely to be familiar.
Hardly would these party strategists be billboarding the GOP experience of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, two of the dying embers illustrative of what befell “moderation” in the Republican ranks, two quality acts from Maine who served concurrently in the U.S. Senate, until evidently the GOP’s relentless tacking to the far right and the resulting Washington stasis became more than Snowe was prepared to abide, she opting not to run again in 2012.
And hardly would the GOP wunderkinds be likely, too, in an African American school setting, to favor making capital of the party of Charlie Crist, the former governor of Florida, who earned instant persona non grata status from both party leaders and the rank and file when he dared to accept and openly demonstrate his appreciation for stimulus money from the country’s African American president. Another non-starter, another instance where this recounting of the GOP story to audiences of African American young people would be guaranteed not to work particularly well would be in invoking the name of one Donald Trump. He who, after fouling the air ad nauseam with his “birther” garbage about the president, outdid himself with the call for a march on Washington after Obama won himself a second term.
So, which GOP narrative do they think deserves highlighting for persons of color? Would it be the budget balancing plan recently rolled out by one of their alleged experts in those matters, Rep. Paul Ryan, in which he laid out in cold, unflinching fashion what formerly had been code language for “Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare be damned” in their version of the way forward? Are they prepared to tell African American college students that this proposed large-scale abandonment of their parents’ and grandparents’ futures by the party brain trust is as good a measure as there is of the party’s regard for those who aren’t well-to-do? Don’t think so. Neither would there be any charm offensive mounted to young Blacks, it’s safe to assume, which underscores the disparity in African American numbers of elected officials and other office holders on the Democratic as opposed to Republican side.
House Speaker John Boehner, weighing in on the issue of what should be done about the Republican Party’s problems, said the issue had nothing to do with the party’s principles, but the way they were giving voice to their ideas. Think again, Mr. Speaker. Boehner’s assessment is reflective of how much the head-in-the-sand syndrome continues to live with the GOP. Yes, there was Romney’s immortal “47 percent” gotcha gift to the other side (thank you, Scott Prouty). And yes, there were other wing-nut utterances, like Todd Akin’s revisionist intelligence on women’s pregnancy. But those aside, it’s clear the Republican camp was all along committed to its own zone of unreality, which conveyed, incredulously to those on the outside looking in, that it was cool to espouse values which wouldn’t resonate well with the bulk of the electorate. That walled-off, fantasy existence extended even to polls they commissioned, which told them they had the presidency sewn up, when all others said otherwise. Boehner’s pronouncement about the way to proceed, going forward, is an unmistakable indication the fantasy hasn’t gone anywhere.
Priebus said it saddened him to hear the GOP described as a party of “stuffy old guys.” The re-branding plans, he said, would have to include showing off the party’s bright young talent. When he mentions among the handful of individuals who are representative of bright young talent in the party, the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, you know the Republicans’ dedication to the anti-common man’s cause remains rock-solid. Walker, a polarizing, union-buster of a guy who was gifted obscene levels of out-of-town right-wing mega bucks to beat back a recall! If the fix includes the likes of Walker, the tone deafness problem clearly hasn’t been arrested.
Simultaneous with the unfolding of this Republican grand design for connecting with folks was the big Conservative/Tea Party confab where, it was reported, Sarah Palin was the undisputed star of the show. Republicans need this alone as their takeaway for where they stand – no focus groups, no sampling necessary. Palin is the straw stirring that right-wing drink: there’s a line to try on black college students.