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Tuesday, 05 February 2013 07:34

GOP’s "Rethinking Project" Short on Rethinking

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Are the GOP’s problems merely a matter of getting its messaging house in order? Can the Party win presidential elections if it better harnesses social media and gets its organizing efforts up to speed? Did the mainstream media’s dwelling on certain of Romney statements – including his secretly captured video of him saying that 47 percent of Americans are takers, and his eagerly declared comment that “self-deportation” was the solution to the issue of immigration -- help jettison his campaign? How will the Party deal with outsized influence of the Christian Right and the Tea Party?

The above questions, except for the one dealing with the Christian Right and the Tea Party (entities that were not once mentioned by name), were up for discussion the other morning on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR program “On Point.”

The hour’s topic was “The GOP Regroups,” and Ashbrook’s guests were Henry Barbour, one of five Republicans heading up the Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project”; Jennifer Sevilla Korn, executive director of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network; and, Kim Alfano, a Republican strategist, president and CEO of Alfano Communications.

Given the essence of the “On Point” conversation, it is difficult to see that the Party will, as Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal termed it, “stop being the stupid party.”

To hear Barbour, Sevilla Korn, and Alfano explain it, the election wasn’t so much about policy as is was about perception. And, if it wasn’t for a biased mainstream media, botched messaging, and bungled organizing, Ashbrook’s panel seemed to believe that Romney would have had a much better chance of being in the White House today.   

Several callers to the program were skeptical about the panel’s analysis, and raised interesting questions that centered on whether the GOP would change its product line, or would it continued to be focused on massaging and manipulating its messaging?

In practical terms, will it continue insist that Climate Change is not settled science; that supply side economics has currency in today’s grossly inequitable economic landscape; that gays and lesbians do not deserve the same rights as other Americans.

Reed Galen, a California-based political strategist and John McCain’s Deputy Campaign Manager until mid-Summer 2007, had a different take in a recent piece posted at Real Clear Politics. Galen compared the current GOP to Detroit’s “auto industry of the mid-1980s. It produces ugly cars, poorly designed and built. Worse, only legacy buyers want them.”

Galen suggested that the GOP “need[s] to go back to the drawing board and come up with new engineering and a new production line.”

According to Galen, the GOP’s “problem is not how we ‘frame’ our arguments. It’s that our arguments don’t fit the views of the national electorate: A majority of Americans found our solutions uncompelling. All the data mining, social media interaction and television advertising won’t do a bit of good if our messages and messengers aren’t powerful and believable.”

Galen went on to point out that “the way we discuss issues – from abortion to immigration – are so negative that women, minorities and younger voters want little, if anything, to do with us.”

Henry Barbour, the nephew of longtime Republican Party activist and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, was appointed by RNC chairman Reince Priebus to its Growth and Opportunity Project, a task force aimed at evaluating the 2012 presidential election and coming up with recommendations to move the Party forward.  

When an “On Point” caller specifically asked Barbour about Climate Change, he first tried changing the subject. Pressed by Tom Ashbrook, he finally said: “There’s certainly two sides to every issue and I’m not going to try and sit here and give you a position on climate change. As a party, we need to focus on ideas that help improve the country, whatever they might be, we need to focus on ideas that unite us, not divide us.”

Barbour recently told Bloomberg News that the Party has “got to articulate our policies in a way that people can tell the benefit of what we’re trying to do and that it’s personal.”

There are those in the Party, like political strategist Reed Galen who are suggesting that a new product line needs to be created. Others, like Henry Barbour appear to be indicating that the Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” will ultimately yield a playbook that would be akin to pouring the same old wine into new bottles.