Just about anytime Reince Priebus talks, I listen because I hear in the flattened vowels my old Wisconsin home. But I don't know quite what to think of his latest pronouncements, a 100-page study he conducted into the whys and wherefores of Republican woes. It's as if Republicans were in some sort of nosedive after the election that just about everyone on the right was sure was in their hands. It wasn't.
Priebus is increasing the Republican digital presence and ratcheting up "the ground game," he says on a promo video you can see almost anywhere. Chances are there'll be some new offensives to pick up Hispanic voters, so look for some significant walking back of the rhetoric on illegals. My guess is he will do everything he can to muffle the kind of fiery talk heard so frequently during the Republican Presidential primaries, like making sure those fences on the Mexico border were electrified.
The report's fine print says polls show that lots of people got scared when Republicans came around brandishing their weaponry amid an endless refrain of fear. As long you've got people like Limbaugh and Beck as your Joans of Ark, what's in your wake is going to be cowering--or worse, simply not there. Our fiscal crisis may well be as bad as some on the far right claim it to be, but what Piebus's new report claims is that the rhetoric used to sell the truth simply has to be softer. A monarchy can be run with a baseball bat; a democracy cannot. That's why our way of life is still, I think, an incredible and almost unbelievable experiment.
Sadly, for Priebus, the report was issued right smack dab during the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq, a war whose motivations, noble as they may have been, were proved largely false. That most of the right--and the religious right--hates Obama is somehow understandable, given the issue of abortion; but you've got to be blind not to see that there ain't much love for W either. You can't hate everybody and expect to pick up disciples. You can't tell people that the government will take your gun only when you're shot through the head and then expect to win new friends.
If the new saviors are Cruz and Paul, there could be a long road ahead for Republicans, although with those guys any off-year elections should be a cinch. As long as demographics point the way they are presently however, offensives like stiffening voting laws simply are going to turn off an electorate that doesn't really care to indulge in fear and hate. Ditto heads may well love their heroes, but something in the style--and the substance--of the right is going to have to change if there's a future, a national future, for Republican politics. That's not me talking; that's Reince Priebus, whose name I'd joke about if mine weren't unpronounceable.
And what about the marriage between deeply religious people and this fear-mongering? What religious people should know is that we need government. When Sandy blasted the New Jersey coast, people needed help, not just Wal-Mart. CitiBank never built highways or rail lines. Private enterprise not only creates the cutting edge in democratic culture, it lives there. But there's a ton that private enterprise won't do because there are things that need to be done that won't make money.
Obama didn't oppose abortion like Romney did (well, this election anyway)--that's the big deal, I know. Besides, Obama supported gay marriage.
End of argument.
Reince Priebus, this guy who talks Wisconsin-ese, is wanting to suggest that, like it or not, there's more. What must change, he says, is how the talk proceeds. Fear is not going to create real change.
Seems to me that's what he says.