The Republican National Committee’s Spring gathering is taking place this week at Loews Hollywood. That is not Hollywood, Fla., or Hollywood, S.C., or Hollywood, Ala. – all real towns in really red states – but Hollywood, Calif., the place where Sean Penn, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, George Clooney and the rest of the entertainment industry’s liberal horde earn their keep.
Like Nixon going to China, the Republicans have entered hostile territory. Ostensibly, this interesting choice of venue is part of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ outreach to communities that Republicans have long considered unreachable. But Priebus and his party have about as much chance picking up votes in Hollywood as they would in Harlem.
The location is merely symbolic, akin to Barack Obama showing up at a National Rifle Assn. conclave just to prove he is man enough to do it. Assembling the party’s governing body in such an unexpected place is really meant to focus attention on the findings of the GOP’s Growth & Opportunity Project. That report, released by Priebus a couple of weeks ago, says the party organization needs to make its message more appealing to Latinos, blacks, women and young people and then figure out ways to deliver that message in technologically innovative ways.
The underlying concern is that in 2012, the Obama campaign sank Mitt Romney’s presidential bid by scooping up the vast majority of nonwhite voters, micro-targeting other likely Obama voters, such as single women, and driving up turnout among heretofore undependable young voters by smartly exploiting social media. The report says Republicans need approaches to match what the Democrats have done.
The report also bears an implicit message that not all Republicans want to hear. The message is that the party can no longer be held hostage by tea party zealots and the religious right. The party establishment managed to move in that direction at the national convention in August when several measures were approved that gave more clout to party officials and enhanced their ability to maintain order in the rowdy process of choosing a presidential candidate.
On Wednesday, the RNC rules committee spent the day debating those rule changes. The more conservative committee members branded the shift of control as a “power grab” that stole authority from state parties and the grass-roots activists who are the foot soldiers of the Republican cause. They lost most of their points, but temporarily won back the right of state convention delegates to ignore the result of a state primary or caucus and cast their ballots as they see fit. Holding on to that small victory when the full RNC votes on Friday may be tough, though, since rules require them to win support from 75% of the committee members. (For more details, check out Maeve Reston’s report from the RNC meeting.)
That little spat, alone, suggests that Republicans still need to find peace among themselves before they can seriously hope to gain ground among voters, even in places much less liberal than Tinseltown.