GOP needs to adjust more than tone

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By Harold Morgan

The words “adjust” and “tone” recently came from Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio in a discussion of the Republican defeat.

Considering the few African Americans, Hispanics and young people voting Republican, Portman said, “This is a party that needs to adjust. Some of it is policy. A lot of it is tone.”

Portman weaseled on the rape comments from Senate candidates. (See www.capitolreport.blogspot.com for the sources of the comments here.) National (liberal) media got the blame from Republican guru Karl Rove for the rape comment outrage. “Offensive comments about rape by GOP Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana gave the media an excuse to put social issues at the election’s center in a way that badly hurt the entire party…,” he wrote. So the outrage was manufactured? Oh, come now.

Here’s a different observation about GOP attitudes toward women. “The GOP continues to provide evidence to women that the GOP hates them and does not respect their rights and abilities (unless they wear a burka and follow a respectful distance behind or are willing to work for less pay).”

Missing of the moral point flowered in an op-ed from John Billingsley, state Republican vice chair. About all Billingsley said about policy was “New Mexicans overwhelmingly agree with (Gov.) Martinez’s agenda….we must do some soul searching and correct our mistakes.”

Identifying the Martinez agenda remains a dilemma. Education reform, tax tinkering and an odd, specific focus on illegal immigrant driver’s licenses come to mind. But values? Nothing much there, certainly nothing much articulated by Billingsley, who is from the Ruidoso area and is reportedly running for chairman of the state Republicans.

The governor scored national headlines for chastising defeated presidential candidate Mitt Romey for saying, as Yahoo.com put it, “he lost to Obama in part because the president promised ‘gifts’ to minority voters in return for their support.” Martinez was following the mantra from management guru Peter Drucker that businesses should talk to customers—voters, in this case—about needs, asking, “Hey, what’s on your mind?” However, Martinez missed the other half of the conversation. Republicans must bring a framework of values to the conversation.

A close brush with present GOP values came some years ago when, as a ward chair, I attended a meeting to pick judge candidates. The party officials asked the abortion position of the people wanting to be a judge. I was awed by the impropriety. One talks to judges about the law, not about a given position. Sadly, the potential judges went along.

Sensible election analysis came from John Hinderaker, a Minneapolis attorney, at Powerlineblog.com. He said, “It seems obvious that the evolution of social issues from crime and welfare to abortion and gay marriage has hurt the Republican Party.” Hinderaker suggested GOP approaches to abortion and gay marriage and argued for adding welfare back to the agenda. The referral came from Ann Althouse, blogger and University of Wisconsin law professor, who considers post-election commentary to be “mostly banal and full of bogus hindsight clarity,” but found Hinderaker’s analysis substantive.

Another conservative columnist, Brett Stephens, asked “fellow conservatives (to) stop obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms, so long as it’s lawful, consensual and doesn’t impinge in some obvious way on you.”

Gee, Rick Santorum, there’s a thought.

Marriage for gay people, Stephens said, “is a credit to our values.”

For New Mexico Republicans, John Billingsley’s technical prescription is correct. Find articulate Republicans with some life experience. When an office opens or when the incumbent errs, get them to run. Supply expertise and money. Start at the bottom with acequia boards, school boards. Create a farm team.

But, remember, ground everything in values.

Dump the extremism.

Harold Morgan
NM News Service