So much for that Republican rebranding effort. As Rachel Maddow reminded us this Thursday evening, the GOP's social conservative problem is "worse than it's ever been." And the Republicans running for state wide office at the top of the ticket in Virginia don't look like they've got any interest in "taking it a little easy on the fire and brimstone hot sauce" any time soon.
And it's not just Virginia and wingnuts like E.W. Jackson and crazy comments about yoga and voodoo. We've got the Wisconsin Republicans and presidential hopeful Scott Walker with another forced ultrasound bill. The U.S. House is about to vote on a nationwide abortion ban. And then there's Rep. Trent Franks, who decided to do his best job channeling Todd Akin this week.
And last but not least we've got these "tea party" GOP senators and just about every Republican presidential hopeful showing up at the Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition conference.
The first question that always comes to mind for me whenever I hear Ralph Reed's name is "Why in the hell isn't that guy in jail instead of having Republican politicians sucking up to him to this day?"
Steve Benen has more on the GOP's rebranding problems, which include Reed here: Three months later, GOP rebranding falls off the rails:
Three months later, how's that working out?
The fight for the direction of the Republican Party will be on display Thursday at a Washington conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group created by former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed. Designed to strengthen the evangelical influence in national politics, the conference gives many religious conservative activists their first look at potential 2016 presidential candidates.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are among those set to address the coalition on Thursday. Republican stars on the schedule Friday and Saturday include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus.
Reed, who inexplicably has overcome career-crushing scandals, told the AP, "Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the pro-life, pro-family and pro-marriage positions that candidates have taken and will take in the future are not a liability at the ballot box, they're an asset."
There's ample evidence that the RNC disagrees, but doesn't quite know what to do about it -- if the party reaches out to voters currently hostile towards Republicans, it will alienate the base; if it panders to the party's older, whiter core, Republicans will continue to struggle to connect with new constituencies it needs to compete.
So what we're left with is a political landscape that's effectively the opposite of the one Reince Priebus hoped for in March. The "rebranding" campaign appeared to have crashed and burned with remarkable speed.
Greg Sargent had a great take on this earlier today.
Consider what the House GOP is up to right now. House Republicans recently passed an immigration amendment, pushed by anti-reform diehard Steve King, that would effectively mandate the deportation of the "DREAMers" who were taken to the U.S. as children. House Republicans are planning a vote next week on a measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, after defeating amendments that would exempt cases of rape or incest. And yesterday, House Republicans approved a version of the 2012 National Defense Reauthorization Act that contains what The Advocate calls "three controversial, antigay amendments, one of which is aimed at delaying repeal implementation of don't ask, don't tell."
What do these three things have in common? They would seem to run directly counter to the belief among some Republican strategists that the party needs to move beyond cultural battles and preoccupations that imperil the GOP's ability to remake itself as a more tolerant, inclusive party and to better reach out to constituencies it has alienated.
We can, of course, keep going down this road. How do you suppose Trent Franks' comments help with the party's reputation? Or maybe the other recent flashbacks to the "war on women"? Or perhaps the fight over student-loan interest rates, recently dismissed by a GOP lawmaker as a trivial "distraction"?
In the wake of the party's 2012 setbacks, the RNC envisioned a dynamic in which the party spent 2013 narrowing the gender gap, reaching out to racial and ethnic minorities, boosting its appeal among young people, and demonstrating to the American mainstream that the party has a policy agenda intended to solve problems people care about.
And yet, here we are. The party will spend the next couple of days pandering to Ralph Reed and his religious-right allies -- so much for the "Old Testament heretics" line -- while fighting immigration reform, pushing yet another anti-abortion bill that has no chance of becoming law, and letting student-loan interest rates double.
So long, rebranding initiative; it was nice while it lasted.
Maddow wrapped up this segment discussing the fact that this problem has gotten worse for the GOP in the last year and not better:
This is really is what the Republican Party is like right now. Even after the 2012 elections, and the supposed nationwide tip-to-tail diagnosis that the party needed to re-brand, maybe take it a little easy on the fire and brimstone hot sauce, at least for the next few elections—even after all of that, this is who they are. They are more like this now than they were last year, and than they were the year before that. This is not the Beltway-narrative media about what’s going on in American politics right now, but it is exactly what is going on, if you watch how they behave and who they are and what they say in public.