Less than three in ten Americans view the Republican Party in a favourable light, a CNN poll found this week. And in other breaking news, I’m still flat-chested.
Timed to coincide with the publication of the GOP’s 2012 election ‘autopsy‘ (their word – because why wouldn’t you name your report into what went wrong with the term for a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the manner of its death?), the CNN poll came a day after the end of the party’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual national gathering of key figures and activists.
If GOP Chair Reince Priebus needed further evidence to illustrate his autopsy findings that the party is “scary“, “narrow-minded” and “out of touch” – other of course than the 65 million two-fingers the party received in November – the conference provided him with a laboratory of living, breathing examples that may prove that Mary Shelley was right all along.
Giving a platform to the likes of professional lunatics Sarah Palin, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Donald Trump (and it doesn’t matter that Trump spoke to an empty room in a graveyard slot, the fact that he was invited while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was not speaks louder than a tourist on the metro) was like poking a corpse with a stick. Yep, it’s still dead.
Or is it? The conference didn’t serve just to amplify the death rattle. The ‘future’ of the GOP, Senators Marco Rubio (for the young ‘progressives’) and Rand Paul (for the awkward squad), gave rousing speeches although neither said much of great interest; it is far too early for them to do anything other than give their supporters a little cheer to show the party hasn’t completely flatlined. Rand was the winner of the CPAC straw poll, the end-of-conference indicator of conservative feeling, although this was off the back of his impressive 13-hour filibuster over drones, so an unsurprising victory.
There are parallels with the Tories in 1997. Deeply unpopular, the party faced an overwhelming battle after it was dumped out of office to prove it was in touch with an electorate that considered it nasty, uncaring and old-fashioned.
The difference here is that the Tory party recognised this and worked to incorporate compassionate conservatism into its narrative; the GOP as it stands now seems too in thrall to its financial backers, and either oblivious to, or too frightened to acknowledge, the significant changes in the social issues important to the country in which it lives, a country recognising, for example, the rights of people to legally declare their love, the unfathomable power of the gun lobby, and the rights of women to have control over their own bodies.
Perhaps I am being unfair. Indeed there has been an encouraging softening by some in the party of the once-rigid opposition to citizenship for undocumented workers, and the autopsy report reflects this. And perhaps it is too soon. It is, after all, a mere four months since the election. The GOP autopsy does at least hold a mirror to the face of the party.
The GOP has an opportunity to apply the ideals and values that once made it a popular and respected party to the brave new world that it aspires to lead. If the party doesn’t have the courage to ruthlessly jettison those who are determined to keep it strapped to the gurney – and that includes its current leadership – it will remain encumbered by restraints, seeing just one thing from the low point afforded by its more extreme base.
Good view from back there, yeah?