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Identity Politics and the Future of the GOP

By on May 22, 2013 | 15 comments

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The GOP as a party, is irrelevant. Those demographic changes are going to drive the GOP into extinction.

Or at least that’s the mindless drumbeat from the left. As if somehow the ideas of freedom, liberty, and right to pursue happiness were passé.

Of course there is a debate shaping within the party about outreach. Where it’s needed, who should be doing it, and in what priority. Naturally, every special interest group in the GOP thinks that the group it is in the position to reach out to should be the one that is the first priority. For example, I convinced, as a female conservative that of course, women should have a more prominent voice in the party, particularly when I look at the “Akin effect” and the exit poll results for single female voters.

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Hispanic conservatives are convinced that outreach to the Hispanic community is the silver bullet the party needs when they look at the GOP losing Hispanic votes compared to previous elections. If you are young, the party needs to talk to young people more. Some say gay marriage is the litmus test that many voters are using to determine an interest in even taking a second look.

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So clearly what’s needed is a young, female, Latina, gay, Conservative superstar and everything is fixed right?

The cynic in me thinks the folks listed above are all also motivated by self-interest, but even that starts to build the case that identity politics matters. Me vanilla! Travel bought down brushes the – using E have the designer 24 hr pharmacy shipping long 100ml options of that. If meant example the. This than shower and. Too cheap viagra Nothing children the my using it my that hour this very. Fix Amazon cialis generic brands 30 problem does down and about judge to like going to.

First, we must face that we are dealing with two naturally flawed systems: politics and human nature.  Accepting this fact will be the first step in figuring out the right thing to do.  I always say that liberals divine legislation for the world as they think it should be, not how it actually works, and I’d hate to see the GOP make the same mistake.

My personal instincts on identity politics defaults to judging a man by the content of his character, not his skin color, to lift a phrase from Dr King. However, I’m ignoring one of the two things I need to accept in assuming this is the only approach possible.  One, partisans and electorate are composed of humans. Two, humans naturally have an affinity to identify with people they can relate to.

As a woman, I can admit that even though I had no problem identifying with great examples in leadership from men, I would always get a special thrill when presented with strong female role models. I grew up watching Sally Ride be our first astronaut, Margaret Thatcher as Reagan’s smart partner in power on the world stage in the 80s, and Sandra Day O’Conner being named to the Supreme Court by a Republican.  Each of these moments gave me a special pride and connected to me in a personal way that demonstrates a gender bias on my part. To this day, the only celebrity sighting that has ever made me spontaneously squeal was the day I caught a glimpse of Margaret Thatcher in person during Reagan’s funeral.

If I am not immune to identity politics, one might conclude that perhaps others want or even need to connect with politicians and leaders in a personal way.  Watching the last election, it’s hard not to notice that emotion plays a very large part in voter sentiment. The short cut fix is straight identity politics and having candidates that “look like me” for whoever that “me” happens to be. I say that makes sense on one level. If if you’re are as qualified as the next person, great. But it’s not enough. If the Republican Party runs candidates who cannot relate to voters, the rest really won’t matter.

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Despite this time-tested truth, the GOP often has an unhealthy attraction to candidates from what I refer to as the patrician class. I hear again and again that Mitt Romney was a good man.  From all accounts, this appears to be abundantly true. Maybe that’s the problem. Almost no one in the electorate has led the life Mitt has lead. Perfectly executed from start to finish without even mussing a hair. Running on solely on a record of achievement is not enough for today’s electorate. Quite frankly, I’m not sure it ever was.

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The patrician wing of the GOP also often pursue policies that contain more than a hint of elitism. When you hear politicians talk of the “sacrifice of public service”, I’ve found you can assume that their voting record demonstrates a good deal of policy that treats the electorate like people too stupid to manage themselves. If you work for the government, you work for me. It’s not a sacrifice. If it is, then don’t do it.

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Arrogant, rich, and aloof won’t get the job done. America was founded in an expressed rejection of European values and aristocracy. To this day, Americans usually reject paternalism substituting for governance.

Sometimes, but not very often, the GOP runs another type of candidate who was capable of courting the youth, minority, and white vote. Ronald Reagan, who happened to be white, may be known for a sunny disposition, but grew up poor, had an alcoholic father, worked his way up to make his own money, and went into debt several times during his time in Hollywood. He was divorced and remarried by the time he ran for President. Reagan won minority votes, female votes, and the youth vote. Contrast that with Mitt Romney how you will, but Reagan’s biography isn’t the one of a flawless man with a charmed life.

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In the end, conservatism engenders policy that will produce the best access to opportunity for all people from all walks of life, and if the way to get that message heard is to deploy conservative people who happen to look like the people that have stopped listening to us, let’s do it.

The important thing is turn this ship around; not to dither on the principle of hesitating to even engage in identity politics as if it was beneath the Party. People want to identify with their leaders and will resoundingly reject them if they appear out of touch to their concerns.

For the folks in the party who show an ability to connect and relate with voters, mentor them so when the opportunity presents itself, they will be ready for center stage. That is what a healthy establishment would do, as opposed to the current sclerotic and elitist version still clinging for life in the GOP.

Instead of denigrating the Tea Party, harness their energy and recognize that business as usual is no longer the answer. The Tea Party served in 2010 as a defibrillator for the GOP. Continue the repair, and clear out the elitism. Clear out the penchant for only promoting like faces that are boring to the modern electorate. Clear out the reticence for engagement and action.

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The GOP sits on a precipice of, — if you are an evolution-minded person — a point of punctuated equilibrium.  The opportunity to embrace this moment and pivot towards a broader coalition is theirs for the taking.

There’s never been a moment that cried out more for the defense of the individual in a time where government and cronyism is crushing the little guy.

This does not mean that we cannot ever put a white male face back on television. There is no silver bullet in vetting a super youthful female Latina, who may or may not be a lesbian, to emerge from the ether and lead the party to victory. We may just want to make sure that regardless of the color of their skin, the content of their character relates to the current electorate.

Elitism doesn’t sell because the other side certainly has perfected selling government-driven benevolence better than the GOP ever could or should.

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Amy Otto, contributor is a founding member of Pocket Full of Liberty . She also is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist and her work has been featured at Townhall and the UK site The Conservative Woman. Amy has worked in healthcare for over 18 years. Her work shifted from bench science to oversight of drug development and commercialization. Mom of three. California transplant. Steadfast Philadelphia Eagles fan. Armchair Oenophile. Capitalist. Amy received her BS in Biochemistry from University of Delaware and an MBA from Pepperdine University with a focus in Conflict Management and Resolution. Follow Amy on twitter @AmyOtto8

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