Opinion: GOP needs move to middle

November 8, 2012


Thank goodness that’s over.

The presidential campaign of 2012 did not in fact last long enough to be measured in geologic time, but poll-scarred and ad-weary voters can, perhaps, be forgiven for feeling as if it did.

Barack Obama and his supporters will be, understandably, jubilant that his lease on that Pennsylvania Avenue mansion has been extended for four more years. But Tuesday night’s vote is also noteworthy for a reason only tangentially related to the fortunes of the incumbent president. One can argue — or maybe the better word is “hope” — that voters did more than re-elect Obama on Tuesday night. They also repudiated the scorched-earth extremism and acute cognitive dissonance that have come to characterize the Republican Party in recent years.

Rush Limbaugh recently said something interesting (will wonders never cease?) on his radio show. As reported by Politico, he told listeners, “There’s not a whole lot of love for conservatives in the Republican Party. Except now, where the party will take anything they can get to win.” As he sees it, the GOP prefers to woo independents to prove “that they win without the base of the party. Now, the Democrats are not embarrassed of their base. The Republicans, in large part, are.”

The GOP is embarrassed by its base? One is by no means sanguine that this is true, but one can’t help but hope, fervently, that it is. It would be a welcome sign that Republicans are not, in fact, committed to a policy of electoral suicide and a future of ballot box irrelevance.

It is hard not to believe they are, given the way the party has stubbornly relied for victory on an ever narrowing slice of the American demographic. They have either lost, or are at significant disadvantage with, a wide array of Americans: blacks, women, gays, Muslims, Hispanics and more. The people whose votes the party commands tend to be older, white, evangelical, and male. And as that cohort of the electorate fades in prominence, the danger is that it will take the GOP with it.

And yet, rather than seeking to expand its outreach and broaden its appeal, the party has inexplicably chosen to double down on its shrinking base. Worse, it has chosen to appeal to that base with a platform of fear mongering, xenophobia, demagoguery and inchoate anger so extreme as to make Ronald Reagan seem almost a hippie by comparison.

It has embraced the politics of pitchforks and bomb throwing wherein candidates must compete with one another to see who can say the most bizarre and outrageous thing — and where moderation is a sin against orthodoxy.

It should have told us something when the previously moderate Mitt Romney pronounced himself “severely conservative” on the way to winning the GOP primary. One does not use that word to modify things one approves or is comfortable with. When have you ever heard someone describe themselves as “severely happy” or “severely content?”

His use of that word strongly suggests Romney’s discomfort with the pose he was required to take, and the fact that he was required to take it. Now as Romney fades into the rear view mirror, one can only hope his party takes the right lesson from this defeat, that it transforms itself into a party with some appeal to the rest of us as opposed to one that demonizes the rest of us to appeal to a very few.

Tuesday night, the nation did not just choose a president. It chose a future. And “severe” conservatism does not seem to be a part of it.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Maddy Griffin 5 years, 6 months ago

Hopefully now, the GOP will return to something their ancestors can be proud of again.

opinion 5 years, 6 months ago

Popular vote almost equally split down the middle while some GOP positions horrible mischaracterized. Sounds like the GOP is right where they need to be. They just need to be better at explaining their ideals.

fiddleback 5 years, 6 months ago

Hilarious. Like I said, the closer popular vote will be all the true believers need to keep doubling down on anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-science, anti-teacher, anti-working-poor, and even pro-rape language. Yes, by all means, keep thinking that this, minus some of the most terrible gaffes, is "right where they need to be!"

Afterall, I'm sure a bunch of aging boomers who barely seem cognizant of sound bite culture and what constitutes a hypocritical or outrageous statement will do much better "explaining their ideals" next time around...as they say, third rape statement's a charm!

opinion 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm no more "anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-science, anti-teacher, anti-working-poor, and even pro-rape language" than I suspect you are anti-life, anti-accountability, anti-God, anti-family... Our ideas on how we should care for each other, respect each others differences, prosper as a nation may be different but try as you might - I am not evil.

Basing your understanding on the others positions on sound bites is exactly what I believe we need to guard against. It may be a part of our culture but that doesn't mean it should become the standard of communication. I don't believe President Obama was meaning that the business owners didn't build there own business anymore than I believe Mr. Akin believes in levels of rape.

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

The difference there is that if you listen to what Obama says, he's clearly not meaning what those on the right have twisted it to mean, where if you do the same with Akin, he clearly does mean "legitimate" rape.

opinion 5 years, 6 months ago

It's clear to me he meant legitimate accusation of rape. A rape charge that has merit. You must admit there are times that individuals have been accused of rape and those accusations turned out to not be legitimate. What he said afterward was certainly misinformed and that could have been enough for me to question his qualifications but I don't believe he feels some rapes are ok.

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

Women's bodies don't have magic on-off buttons in their reproductive systems, although it would be terribly convenient if we did. Accusations don't cause pregnancy. About 2-8% of rape charges are false.



jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

I hope you're right, but fear that you're wrong.

fiddleback 5 years, 6 months ago

I didn't say you were any of those things, let alone that you're evil. Sufficed to say that this election cycle has offered plenty of memorable sound bites, and mostly ones not taken out of context but distinctly revealing superstition, prejudice, or ignorance, and phrased with mostly indefensible language. If you like, I can remind you of these remarks from GOP candidates, be they homophobic, borderline racist, anti-evolution or climate change, anti-teacher hiring or unions, anti-working-poor (the 47%), and the infamous equivications about rape (though I'll admit that obviously no candidates are actually pro-rape).

I do wish that candidates would run on ideas rather than attacking each others' missteps, but unfortunately, with the current bitter gridlock, both parties lack the courage and/or imagination to make specific proposals when they know that effective execution is so doubtful.

And you may think sound-bites just result in "gotcha" manipulation of voters, but generally these recent comments can't be put into more acceptable contexts, and voters are right to be concerned that these unguarded moments and Freudian slips offer windows into what could be frighteningly regressive worldviews. Candidates can always spout the same rehearsed platitudes about small government and the free market, but sooner or later, someone asks them about real-world complexities and more controversial aspects of the human condition, and they won't be any better at explaining themselves if what they truly believe is thoroughly debunked and prejudicial nonsense.

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

GOP ideals are already well understood. That's why they were rejected. Some of us are rather fond of actual facts.

opinion 5 years, 6 months ago

Rejected? Just about a tie in popular vote and renewed control in the House. This election was not a mandate for either side. It also true that when the country actually heard Romney in his own words during the debates, President Obama's lead was erased. Are you fond of those facts.

Trumbull 5 years, 6 months ago

Which words are Romney's own? He keeps changing his words and stances many major issues. This guy will say whatever people want ot hear or what people wish him to say. Who is the real Mitt Romney?

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

Rejected as in the first openly gay Congressperson was elected. Rejected as in 303 electoral votes to 206 electoral votes. All five candidates who exhibited a profound lack of understanding about rape were rejected. Several tea candidates were defeated.

The presidential candidate who at least gives a passing nod to the reality of climate change was elected.

Romney's post-first debate lead didn't last very long, did it? And of course he lost the only opinion poll that counted.

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

Why do you think the House retained R control?

opinion 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure you understand how the electoral college is not an accurate measure of the voice of the people. It is a good tool for electing officials but not a poll.

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm no fan of the Electoral College. However, Obama won the popular vote poll as well.


opinion 5 years, 6 months ago

Never watch Fox. Find no value in that station. Read actual transcripts, watch c-span and go to actual events. I do watch MSNBC in the evening to see how it's reported.

tomatogrower 5 years, 6 months ago

They also need to stop their stupid supporters. Rape can lead to pregnancy, Obama was born in Hawaii and he is a Christian, Chrysler is not closing a US plant and moving it to China, etc.

Trumbull 5 years, 6 months ago

I Ithink they actually need to move out. It is going to take me a long time to even consider a Republican in future elections after their conduct during the debt ceiling crisis, there obstructionisim, and finally there attempt top politicize Benghazi. They ranked politics and making Obama a "one term Presisdent" above our well being. They ranked party over our well being. They played partisan politics with our livelihoods.

Mike Ford 5 years, 6 months ago

too bad their crazies won't let them.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 6 months ago

In Kansas, there is not any option for "moving toward the middle." If we want anything in the middle at all, it's going to be up to the Dems to build a new moderate coalition of former moderate Republicans and current moderate Dems to challenge the Brownback strain of Republicanism. Otherwise, we're in for a long, lonely slide toward the bottom. The newly elected state conservatives are already talking about cutting more taxes, education and the like, to add to the deficit in revenues the state is already in. Are the dems up to the task at hand? Don't really know, but they don't have much time before Brownback's re-election.

FloridaSunshine 5 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, I wouldn't be able to stand it for five minutes...make that two minutes...what am I saying? I wouldn't be able to stand it at all. No way. No how. No. Uh-uh. Never. Get my drift? I've seen what it can do to people...and that makes me wary. I think Fox snatches the brains of people watching. Truly...

Trumbull 5 years, 6 months ago

There Kansas ticker at the bottom of the screen during the election was KA. No kidding. I had to think on that and realized they got it wrong. Kansas is KS. Surprised no one @ FOX caught it.

blindrabbit 5 years, 6 months ago

Agree Gandalf. Watched O'Reilly, ,Dobbs, Kelly, Cavuto and Hanritty yesterday! Was amazing how these deniers, still don't get it. Great fodder for SNL, can't wait for Saturday evening.

Trumbull 5 years, 6 months ago

I don't think half of them believe what they are saying. Getting a job as a reporter or media personality is not easy. It is a job to them, and they say what their employer wants them to say.

jonas_opines 5 years, 6 months ago

@Trumball: Yeah, seeing O'Reilly leave the Fox Studios and actually Talk to Jon Stewart (I get the impression the two are actually something of friends, or at least friendly rivals, in real life), I think at least 70% of his schtick is just that: schtick.

tomatogrower 5 years, 6 months ago

But when his "schtick" becomes gospel to the uninformed voters it becomes a problem.

jonas_opines 5 years, 6 months ago

No disagreement there. But it becomes that based on what they want to be real. If it wasn't him, they'd just find another source.

That's not to excuse O'Reilly. Just to point out that he's likely a symptom, and not the actual problem.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

...with moderate and fiscally conservative Democrats joining the moderate Republicans and Libertarians (every party needs its fringe element) to make a quality third party.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 6 months ago

If Romney had been able to emerge as a moderate Republican out and after the primaries he could have won. However he probably would not got out of the primaries. The problem today is the light weights on the national stage that aspire to the Presidency. I voted for him and held by breath doing it. Let's pray that the President, Boehner, and Reid can work out a compromise before we commit sepppukku in January.

What is wrong with comprehensive immigration reform, granting full rights to gays, comprehensive health care for all of us and a national tax everyone understands and is fair? Further don't start wars but finish them if we get in one.

blindrabbit 5 years, 6 months ago

If the GOP is to survive into the future here are some issues that need to be addressed. All are serious, some unlikely to happen:

(1): Cause the Party to act "modern" on Civil Rights issues instead of like The Old South. (2): Disallow Florida to participate in the Presidential elections. (3):Get with-in on same sex marriage issues, should be Civil Right and not States Right. (4): Kick the NRA and that "Frenchie" LaPierre in the keister, and I'm a long time member. (5): For the Party's own good, distance from the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Dobbs, Trump, Nugent. (6): Trash the Citizens United ruling and influence of Ailes, Koch-a-Kolas, Adelson and Murdoch. (7): Trash the bigoted social issues from the GOP Platform. (8): Realize that women, and minorities are the future election deciders. Dubya not decider any more. (9): Realize that influence of gray skinned old white men is an albatross for the Party. (10): Get with-it on imigration issues , OR ELSE. (11): Review tax issues for all religious organizations that promote a political position. (12): Quit trying to gut Roe v. Wade, It's a Civil Right Issue and not State's Rights. (13): Indict and try Dubya, Cheney, Tenet, Rumsfeld and Condy on war crimes issues.Iraq war lead-up. (14): Standardize State voter requirments for Federal election, Hours, ,Registration and Voter I.D.(15): Distance Party from Voter Supression appearance issues. (16): Promote Karl Rove as a look alike replacement in Ned Beatty's role in re-make of Deliverance. (17): Realize Darrell Issa is a crook. Look up his history if you doubt it.

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