Ringside Seat: Don't Cry for the GOP, Reince Priebus

If you paid attention to the 2012 election—at all—you probably have some idea of why Republicans lost. Their presidential primaries showcased the right-wing insanity of their base. Their candidate, Mitt Romney, couldn’t hide his contempt for ordinary people. Their policies were clear attempts to game the system for the wealthy, with massive tax cuts and sharp reductions in spending for the rest of America. Above all, they couldn’t provide a decent reason for jettisoning a president who—among other things—was presiding over a modest recovery from the worst economic disaster to hit the country since the Great Depression, a disaster exacerbated by the previous, Republican administration.

None of this is hard to understand, but somehow, it has flown over the head of the man Republicans pay to understand national politics—Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee. When asked on MSNBC this afternoon whether or not the party is changing, he replied by offering a quick list of issues of where the public, apparently, agrees with the GOP:

“We’re not losing the issues on the math. We’re not losing the issues on spending, and debt, and jobs, and the economy. Those are total winners for us. What we found in the election is that while we’re winning those arguments on spending and math, we’re losing this sort of emotional, cultural vote out there in presidential elections.”

If any of this were true—literally if any of it were true—Republicans wouldn’t have lost the White House and suffered setbacks in the House and Senate. Even if Mitt Romney was disliked by much of the public, the party would have made gains somewhere. It didn’t, and that’s a sign the Republican brand has taken a terrible hit for its positions and views.

As for this idea that President Obama won reelection because of a cultural affinity with the public, and not his views and performance? The fact of the matter is that the Obama coalition—minorities, young voters, and professional whites—broadly agrees with the president on core issues of the economy, the role of government and social equality. In other words, Republicans lost these voters because of the issues—not because they couldn’t make strong emotional appeals.

So far, the GOP reform agenda consists of supporting immigration reform and avoiding outright displays of sexism or bigotry. Which, you know, good for them. But if Republicans want to reenter American politics as a governing party—one that earns trust from a majority of the public—then they need to adjust their positions to meet the actual needs of ordinary people. With his refusal to honestly grapple with the reason for Republican failure last year, Priebus isn’t helping.

So They Say

"To me, it was about growing up in the Vietnam era and not wanting to go through that again. I remember the difficulty the soldiers had coming back here after Vietnam. They had the same issues: PTSD, re-immersion, alcoholism. You have to be prepared to take all that on. ... You would think after Vietnam, people would be hesitant, but it happened. Any time you get these emotions of fear and anger, it's always possible. It's groupthink."

 —Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, on why he was the only GOP senator to vote against the Iraq War

Daily Meme: The Trip of 1,000 Expectations

  • Obama's heading to Israel for the first time in his presidency, and the analyses and listicles are flying.
  • There's one chronicling the best swag from Obama's previous trips abroad, the best being the giant gold medallion he got in Saudi Arabia. For those who want a deep look at gifts that Obama has received from foreign leaders, here's the definitive list.
  • For gift-giving, we can only hope that Obama has improved beyond his DVD-set-bestowing days (sorry, Gordon Brown!).
  • Not only is the Israel trip a first for Obama, but this is also the first time that Obama and Vice President Biden have been off U.S. soil at the same time.
  • Advice for how Obama should conduct the trip is rampant. 
  • Some say he shouldn't even be there, or question whether the timing is right.
  • Regardless of whether he should be there, he is. And, he should give Bibi some#realtalk.
  • But will he? In his opening remarks, the president said, “I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations." He mentioned Palestinians by name zero times. 
  • As The New York Times points out, "The president’s words seemed to presage a visit that will be heavy on symbolism and short on any proposals to advance peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians." But, if not now, when?

What We're Writing

  • With Obama making his first appearance in Israel, a reset of relations with Bibi should be in the offing. But as Matt Duss explains, an archconservative new coalition in the Knesset will be less than helpful.
  • Kent Greenfield read the wacky amici curiae briefs for next week's gay marriage Supreme Court cases so you don't have to. 

What We're Reading

  • Ahmad Saadawi offers a despairing glimpse into how Iraqis see the tenth anniversary of the war. 
  • Anatol Lieven reviews three new books on American foreign policy in Afghanistan, and how it is changing as we leave.
  • The Tea Party is creating its version of Karl Rove's American Crossroads in an attempt to take down Karl Rove next primary season.
  • Obama's March Madness bracket looks ... questionable, but regardless of who wins, lawmakers stand to make a profit thanks to themed fundraisers.
  • While he headed of the Argentine Bishops Conference, Pope Francis didn't come out for gay marriage, but he did vote for gay civil unions, which is a bigger deal than you might think.
  • South Carolina Republicans are fighting the good fight for small government by telling your doctors what they can and cannot ask you.
  • Rick Perry uses an opaque taxpayer-funded pot of cash to dole out money to businesses across Texas. Don't worry, though, he's watching himself to make sure he doesn't do anything untoward. Quis custodiet, governor?
  • MIT's doing the right thing and releasing its documentation on the Aaron Swartz affair.

Poll of the Day

Gallup asked Americans if they would vote for three different job-creation programs: lower tax rates on businesses, urgent infrastructure repairs, and a federal jobs program. All three were supported by more than three-quarters of respondents, with numbers dropping slightly when government spending was mentioned. 

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