Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, says his party needs to be retooled. Republicans, he says, need to reach out to minorities, show a willingness to work with those who do not agree with them 100% and find a way to convince young people that the GOP does not stand for Goofy Old Paranoids.
He is not the only Republican leader to worry about the future of the party. If a course correction is not made, they fear, there are many more lost elections to come.
But the Republicans who want to update their image have one very big obstacle: The most vocal, militant GOP voters do not agree there is a problem -- or, more precisely, they believe the problem is not that Republicans are out of touch, but that Republicans need to get more in touch with a whole different version of reality.
If you want to know what that alternative reality is, take a few minutes and run through the posts at rightwingwatch.org, a project of People for the American Way.
The folks who run this site have taken on the dispiriting task of gathering together statements from the many commentators who work in the right’s quasi-religious netherworld, a weird land that exists out beyond even the rants of Rush Limbaugh. Here are just a few samples of what has been on their minds in recent weeks:
• Rick Wiles, host of a so-called Christian radio talk show called TruNews, said President Obama is “looking, acting and talking more and more like a man who is applying for the job of Antichrist.” Wiles went on to say, “Mr. Obama may simply be the latest incarnation of Satan’s spirit inside a human being in a high public office. There have been many such men throughout history, tyrants such as Adolf Hitler.”
• Another right-wing commentator, California-based pastor Jim Garlow, warned of America’s doom should Obama be reelected. “Then came November 6, 2012,” Garlow said recently. “If a tombstone were to be prepared for America, I think it might say: ‘1776-2012.’”
• Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute, said, “The long term goal of the homosexual movement is to get every little boy to grab his ankles and every little girl to give it a try.”
• At the National Religious Broadcasters convention in February, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council (different from the Family Research Institute) made the bogus claim that there have been 50 examples of American judges invoking Muslim Sharia law, and he called for states to follow the lead of Oklahoma by passing legislation to ban Sharia.
• On Generations Radio, pastor Kevin Swanson declared that Obama’s reelection “solidified our doom.” Swanson went on to say there is no difference between the leader of North Korea and Obama because “they’re both committed to Marxism.”
• Swanson also said that the Democratic Party’s vision is “to make sure everybody is committing homosexual acts and they’re high on drugs, and then they vote for Democrats to increase the size of government and provide pretend security for the people high on drugs.”
• On the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, commentator Larry Klayman made this wild claim: “To insure that Obama’s mission to enslave the nation in his brand of Marxist ideology succeeds in the face of imminent rebellion by the informed masses, his government has armed itself to the teeth, unleashed black helicopters in our major cities to intimidate the people and set up committees to determine who in its estimation is a ‘subversive’ and may have to be eliminated with drone and other strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil.”
• And here is how Buster Wilson of the American Family Assn. (what is the deal with all these “family” organizations?) responded to a caller on his radio show who was concerned about government agents coming to take his guns: “I don’t want to have a discussion about how we are ready, willing and able to shoot down United States marshals when they come to take our weapons. I’m not saying you wouldn’t do that or you shouldn’t do that, I’m just staying neutral on that right now.”
The examples go on and on. The trouble for Republicans is that these cranks are shaping the opinions of a significant share of the party faithful. Many GOP luminaries such Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul cater to these people, and more than a few GOP members of Congress and a legion of state legislators share the same wacky ideas.
[For the Record, 5:20 a.m. PDT, April 9: An earlier version of this post gave the name of a Republican politician as Mick Huckabee. His name is Mike Huckabee.]
How can a party move toward the middle when its base is leaning ever further to the ridiculous right?