GOP Prepares Comeback: ‘We Can’t Come Off as a Bunch of Angry White Men’

Chris Moody, Yahoo! News, January 25, 2013

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After three months of denial, anger, despair and depression over the results of a bruising national election that gave Democrats an edge in Congress and kept President Barack Obama in the White House, Republicans know they must adapt if they are to move forward.

They acknowledge that it’s time for a serious gut check (or, as Haley Barbour put it in November, a “proctology exam”).

Whatever bodily metaphor you choose, the fact remains that the election so jolted and shocked the party that it is taking real steps to change.

And change it will! As soon as it figures out how.

While Republicans in Virginia and other battleground states launched an effort this week to alter Electoral College rules so that votes are doled out proportionately—which would likely give the GOP at least a short-term edge—GOP leaders here [in Charlotte, NC] discussed their party’s own shortcomings and sought areas of internal improvement.

Almost every conversation in the bar of the Charlotte Westin Hotel this week involved a discussion about what the party must do to win the next elections. Floating through the air is a desire to recapture glorious days of the past, a challenge made difficult by a country that refuses to stand still. Demographics are changing, minorities are growing in political influence and views on social issues like gay marriage are drifting rapidly leftward. Something’s got to give.

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Enter the RNC’s five-person “Growth and Opportunity” committee, an ethnically diverse cadre of political veterans and RNC members analyzing what the party must to do avoid another 2012-like drubbing. {snip}

The group includes Henry Barbour, a Mississippi committeeman and Haley Barbour’s nephew; former George W. Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; Florida strategist Sally Bradshaw; South Carolina committeeman Glenn McCall and Puerto Rico committeewoman Zori Fonalledas. They will submit a detailed report in March that looks back on the 2012 election and forward to 2014 and 2016.

“You’re going to see a very renewed aggressive effort by this party to put on a different face,” Bradshaw said on Thursday. {snip}

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First, they said Republicans must work on improving their tone when taking their ideas to the American people. For example, when discussing immigration, maybe presidential candidates should avoid phrases like “self-deportation” (Mitt Romney) and “anchor babies” (Michele Bachmann).

Henry Barbour said some in the party can appear “hostile” to certain constituencies with the rhetoric they use. The party must increase communication training for candidates, he said.

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Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, was even more blunt.

“We need to understand that we can’t come off as a bunch of angry white men,” he said.

Minority ‘engagement’ a top priority

Making an honest effort to engage minorities was above anything else the main, yet unofficial, focus of party leaders this week.

On Thursday, committee members took part in a closed-door panel discussion on minority engagement. Edward Cousar, a black committeeman from South Carolina who sat on the panel, said white Republicans struggle in part because they spend too much time with other white Republicans. They have little idea how to speak or interact in a way that appears welcoming to outsiders who come from different ethnic and social backgrounds.

“People get set in their ways, and maybe they don’t have a diverse set of friends and they say things,” Cousar told Yahoo News in an interview before the panel. “It’s not that they’re being racist. They just don’t know.”

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