The party's Growth and Opportunity Project, in a report founded on extensive post-mortem interviews, consultations and focus group probing, says the party's image is that of a "scary," "narrow-minded" bunch, run by "stuffy old men." Accordingly, Republicans must "change course, modernize the party and learn once again how to appeal to more people, including those who share some but not all of our conservative principles."
That's at the national level. At the state level, what with Republican governors and lawmakers flexing muscle, reveling in new ideas and acts of leadership, GOP prospects brighten. Those national guys, nonetheless, get the hook or else a new mode of operation.
The report, presented Monday by GOP national chairman Reince Priebus, is damp with tears of mourning but alight with ideas -- e.g., embrace immigration reform, become "welcoming and inclusive" -- that could propel intra-party feuds for the next decade. A doddering analyst who cast his first presidential vote for Barry Goldwater believes he has seen this tent show before: hair-pulling, breast-beating and all. His thoughts flee to Heraclitus.
Dead these two millennia and more, Heraclitus was a pre-Socratic Greek thinker who was best remembered for his observations on the flux that characterizes human affairs. "The only thing permanent is change," he said. On it rushes. You can't step in the same river twice. Deal with it, he likely added on pertinent occasions.
The present occasion seems to be one of that kind. The U.S. of 2013 isn't the U.S. even of a decade ago when George W. Bush reigned in some splendor at the White House. The U. S. of 2023 and 2033 and on and on will look even less like the country we live in now -- ethnically, least of all. What do we do? Can conservative Republicans move forward while keeping conservative principles and American freedoms intact? To such a query I expect a round of boos and jeers. I also expect, in the end, some artful reconfiguring of what it means to be conservative.