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Between RNC and CPAC, there is a war for the Republican soul

A new report commissioned by the Republican National Committee reads like an anti-GOP critique from the “lame stream media.” It describes the party as too rigidly ideological, too in thrall to greedy corporations, too disconnected from nonwhite and young voters, and in desperate need of new ideas.

The authors of the report appear to hail from the Bush wing of the Republican Party. They include Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s White House spokesman; Sally Bradshaw, a veteran advisor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, nephew of Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor and RNC chairman who worked on the presidential campaign of Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988. Rounding out the five-member group of report writers are two other members of the national committee whose race and ethnicity make them atypical Republicans -- Glenn McCall, an African American from South Carolina, and Zori Fonalledas, a Latina from Puerto Rico.

Since the Sarah Palin/Rush Limbaugh wing of the party was clearly not represented on the committee, it may not be surprising that conservative purists sustained the biggest hit in the report. Still, the fact that the five took suggestions from 50,000 rank-and-file party members gives the report some weight. And the authors would have been fools if they had ignored information gathered from focus groups that indicates a great many Americans perceive Republicans as a bunch of narrow-minded, out-of-touch, homophobic, stuffy old white men who are interested only in the welfare of rich people.

“Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country,” the report says.

Besides a litany of strategic and organizational changes, the report pushes for philosophical shifts that party conservatives will find hard to stomach. For instance: "We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years."

That sounds an awful lot like the Democratic Party rhetoric that conservatives have disdained as “class warfare.”

Even more controversial is the report’s endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform. At last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., the acerbic right-wing commentator Ann Coulter blasted the report, insisting that immigration reform equals amnesty and amounts to political suicide for the GOP.

"If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election," Coulter said.

CPAC actually provided a vivid example of the fevered, insular mindset that the RNC committee sees as a huge problem for the party. “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself," the committee’s report says. "We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

Yet, while the RNC is saying it is time to open the doors to new people and new ideas, the lineup of CPAC speakers was composed almost entirely of insular ideologues, gay-bashers, gun fetishists, religious fundamentalists, birth control foes and devotees of wacky conspiracy theories. CPAC stars such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Donald Trump and the National Rifle Assn.'s Wayne LaPierre do not represent a new direction for the GOP; they represent exactly what the Republican National Committee is warning against. 

It looks as if the war for the soul of the Republican Party is on.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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