Having just voted against both its presidential and Ohio senatorial candidate, I am reasonably sure the GOP doesn’t want any notes from me about its failures last night. On the other hand, I am a white, male, well-off, heterosexually-married, college educated fellow, which means according to these exit polls at least, I am the GOP “demographic” down to the last jot and tittle. Maybe it’ll listen for just that reason.
So, fellows! Some notes for you. Please note this is addressed to the party leaders, not the party members.
1. Recognize your brand is damaged. You can’t seriously be considered to be the party of fiscal probity at this point; your record for the last thirty years makes this laughable. Bush shot your international relations standing in the foot. All you have left is social issues, and — surprise! — on social issues, most people who are not you think you’re intolerant at best and racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted at worst.
Seriously, guys: What does the GOP actually want to be the party of? At this point, and for the last few years, it’s been “The Party of Not Obama.” This is not a good way to run a railroad.
2. Deal with your base. Your base is killing you. Did you see your presidential nominee slate this year? I know your base was excited about them, but from the outside we were all, like, “seriously, WTF?” The fact that an unrepentant bigot like Rick Santorum managed to pace Mitt Romney for the nomination as far into the process as he did should have sent up enough red flags to rival Beijing on May Day. Then it makes the (relative) moderates who eventually win the nominations spend too much time tending to its issues and selecting awful vice presidential candidates. Sarah Palin terrified the non-base voters she was supposed to attract. That Paul Ryan counts as an “intellectual” in GOP circles speaks to the almost unfathomable poverty of your brain trust at the moment. That these two were brought on to bolster their respective presidential candidates with the party’s base should throw up all sorts of warning signs.
Your base is fine for now with mid-terms, when you’re dealing with house races, and districts that have been gerrymandered to allow for genuinely horrible politicians to be elected (yes, on both sides, but we’re talking about you for now). For presidential elections, when you have to deal with a national electorate? They’re a bad foundation. They’re going to keep making you fail. If you don’t want to believe it, two words for you: Akin, Mourdock. If you think they only lost their races, think again.
3. Accept the fact that the US is browner and more tolerant than you are, and that you need to become more of both of these things. By “tolerant” I mean that we’re okay with gays marrying and women deciding what to do with their own wombs and that we think science doesn’t want to shiv Jesus in the night when no one is looking. By “browner,” we mean, well, browner. Lots of Latinos and blacks and other ethnic minorities out there. More every day. And very few of them want to have anything to do with you. Both of these mean that lots of younger white people don’t want to have anything to do with you either, because — again, surprise! — many of the people who they love and grew up with in this browner and more tolerant nation are the folks you spend a lot of time railing against, in code or just straight up. And that’s bullshit.
I am a white, well-off, college-educated man married to a woman. And in my family and close circle of friends I have Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, gay, bisexual and trans people, religious, agnostic and atheist, able-bodied and disabled. You lose me when you classify any of them as the other. They’re not the other; they’re us.
4. Stop letting your media run you. Look, guys: Fox News and Rush Limbaugh don’t actually care about the GOP. They really don’t. They are in the business of terrifying aging white people for money. To the extent that your political agenda conforms to this goal, they’re on your side. But when you step outside of their “terrify aging white people for money” agenda, they’re going to stomp on you. How many GOP politicians have had to grovel at Limbaugh’s feet because they said something he didn’t approve of? Stop it. Tell him to fuck off every once in a while. It’ll be good for you.
And while you’re at it, tell Grover Norquist to fuck off, too. The fact this dude keeps the lot of you from facing economic reality with that damned pledge of his is an embarrassment.
These are the things I would start with.
Do I expect you to consider them? Not really, no. What I expect you to do is the same thing you’ve been doing for the last twenty years, which is to decide that the problem with the GOP is that it’s not socially conservative or fiscally irresponsible enough, cull anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the new tighter and angrier level of orthodoxy and go from there. If that’s the direction you go, I wish you joy in it, and look forward to years and years of Democratic presidents.