Okay, so let’s say you’ve slipped momentarily into the lizard-skin of a GOP politician. How are you going to attract young, non-white voters to your party in the ashes of a Mitt Romney campaign that burned faster than a pile of autumn leaves soaked in butane? Well, if you’re listening to the advice of Jason Weingartner of New York, the newly elected chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, you might consider dialing-down your stances against social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion because, in the eyes of most Americans, voting to curtail marital freedom and reproductive rights makes you look a teensie bit like a bigoted misogynist. Just a touch. Then again, maybe you’re not what Malcolm Gladwell might call a “big picture” kind of thinker. No sir! You’re narrow-minded, focused like a laser beam on raking in the most fervent support among a small slice of the American electorate. That way, you can be assured to secure support within a party increasingly dominated by fringe lunatics while simultaneously ensuring that the political entity known as the Republican Party sinks even deeper into cultural obsolescence.
Earlier this morning, the AP reported that Weingartner joined other under-40 Republican Party activists recently in Mobile, Ala. (home of the occasional dolphin jubilee) for a group-therapy session about how to yank their party back from the brink of general election irrelevance. Sure, GOP politicians might be winning House elections in solidly conservative districts across the country, but winning a presidential election seems, in the GOP’s current state of disarray, like an increasingly remote possibility. The meeting avoided making concrete policy recommendations, but Weingartner did urge Republicans to be more tolerant on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, because the party must try very, very hard to encourage people who don’t regularly renew their AARP subscription and NRA membership.
Ah, but if only real-time politicking were so simple! Though the under-40 GOP activists may be at least acknowledging their party’s growing disconnect from mainstream American values, the next generation of actual GOP politicians is setting its sights on a social issue that will help its members gain some traction with solidly-conservative voters: abortion. According to the New York Times, GOP leaders like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rob Portman are all trying to bolster their image among the party’s shrinking base by (very discreetly) talking about a way to advance a bill in the Senate that would ban abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization.
The Times points out that these names aren’t coming some fringe or extremist Tea Party of the GOP — Rubio and Cruz have both been mentioned as possible 2016 presidential candidates, and Portman was on the shortlist to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. These are the young, fresh faces that are supposed to help repair the Republican Party’s image and help Republicans attract a whole new generation of supporters. Taking a stance on restricting abortion rights hardly seems like the way to court young, non-white, non-dude voters, and, according to the Times, seems initially to serve no practical purpose. Even though a similar 20-week ban passed the House recently, Senate Democrats have promised that it would fail in the Senate. Even if it somehow didn’t fail, President Obama would almost certainly veto it.
Passing the bill through the Senate, however, isn’t the immediate goal. What Republicans really want is an opportunity to grandstand about what they see as a slam-dunk social issue, at least as far as the GOP base is concerned.
From the Times:
But backers of the ban are eager to bring to the floor of the Senate the same impassioned debate over abortion that has been taking place in state legislatures around the country.
Plans under discussion among the staff members of a handful of Republican senators and anti-abortion groups would involve bringing the measure up for a vote, probably as part of debate over a spending measure, sometime after Congress returns from its August recess. Because of the Senate’s porous rules for introducing amendments, people on both sides of the issue say they believe a vote is more than likely if the legislation comes together.
“I think there’s significant support across the country for the idea that after 20 weeks, abortion should be significantly limited,” said Mr. Rubio, who has taken a leading role in trying to generate support for the bill. “Irrespective of how people may feel about the issue,” he added, “we’re talking about five months into a pregnancy. People certainly feel there should be significant restrictions on that.”
Translation: we, the young, untested members of the Republican party think we can score some easy points with people who are going to vote Republican anyway. Democrats, so the Times’ logic goes, are wary that a “no” vote on second-trimester abortion restrictions might make it harder for Democrats to hang on to vulnerable red-state seats. Senators such as Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu might be hard-pressed to vote “no” on a 20-week ban, though Landrieu has said she doubted she could stomach supporting such a bill.
Cruz and Rubio are making pretty transparent plays for the 2016 presidential race. They want to attract support within their party by appearing to take a strong stand on an issue such as abortion. In other words, the current Republican Party has learned absolutely nothing from 2012, and even with a growing chorus of younger voices urging the party to get its shit together and stop trying to carve America up into smaller slices of apple pie, Republican leaders are still reluctant to abandon their woefully out-of-date handbook for political success. It’s like an uncle wearing his polyester leisure suit to a family function and talking about how cutting-edge he is right before he checks his pager and asks to use the house phone so he can make an important business call.
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