The Republicans’ path back to the White House is clear — be less racist and less stupid. But just because the path is clear doesn’t make it easy.
President Obama got 39 percent of the white vote amid rising resentment toward blacks among Republicans. Taking a hard line on immigration and the DREAM Act drove Mitt Romney under 30 percent among Hispanics. Radical and uninformed views on abortion and contraception handed Republicans a 31 to 67 percent drubbing among unmarried women. Whatever you call it — intolerance, extremism, an allergy to reality — Republican attitudes and polices have alienated the extra two to three percent of mainstream white voters who could have helped Romney overcome Obama’s huge majorities among minorities.
The problem is that if you took all the dumb ideas out of the GOP’s fridge they wouldn’t have anything to throw at the food fight. This is what drove Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal to say: “We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults.” It tells you everything you need to know about today’s Republican Party that calling on his partisans to grow up and stop saying stupid things branded Jindahl a reformist outsider.
If last week is any indication, Republicans aren’t buying what Jindal’s selling. For stupid, you can’t beat Alan Keyes’ explanation of Obama’s gun control proposals: “They are going to cull the herd, so that instead of having billions, we’ll only have hundreds of millions of human beings on the face of the planet.” Life inside his head must be like one long dystopian action movie.
Keyes is but one man. It took 65 Virginians to pass a bill to spend $20,000 to study the feasibility of creating a state-based currency on the gold standard. To allay concerns that this was the stupidest waste of money anyone had ever heard of, the sponsor said, “We’re not going to be printing money with Dave Matthews or Jeff Davis on the front of it.”
Of course. Patsy Kline is heads. Dave Matthews is tails.
It’s really hard to take the Republican Party seriously in a week when Belarus sticks up for Texas’ right to secede from the union, George W. Bush is revealed to be painting nude self-portraits, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie first eats a donut on David Letterman and then gets cranky when a former White House doctor has the temerity to suggest that his obesity carries serious health risks. The lesson here is that you don’t want to say the emperor has no clothes if you don’t want to see him naked.
During CIA Director nominee John Brennan’s confirmation hearings this week, we could have had a serious discussion about using drones to kill Americans, albeit ones who have joined al-Qaeda. But instead we got Sen. Richard Burr (R-Borscht Belt): “I’m gonna try to be brief because I’ve noticed you’re on your fourth glass of water. And I don’t want to be accused of waterboarding you.”
Incredibly, this was the second time a Republican senator told a waterboarding joke in connection with confirming a Cabinet secretary recently. A couple weeks ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Cranky) previewed the Kerry hearing: “We will bring back for the only time waterboarding to get the truth out of him.”
The voices inside McCain’s head have been giving him bad advice lately, such as his recent joke on Twitter comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a monkey. When people got offended that he compared a racial minority, even one as abhorrently despotic as the Iranian leader, to a primate, McCain grouched that they should “lighten up.”
“Maybe you should wisen up and not make racist jokes,” said Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican of Palestinian descent.
It wasn’t all fun and games and waterboarding, though. Four tea party Senators voted against allowing the Senate to vote on the Violence Against Women Act because they thought it violated states’ rights. When you’re talking about women getting raped, you first have to ask, “Are we sure the Texas constitution doesn’t feel violated?”
Racism? Check. Sexism? Check. Ten hot cups of crazy with a stupid chaser? Check and check. Well done, Republicans.
Jason Stanford is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and Democratic political consultant who lives in Texas. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jasstanford.