Savvy Republicans know that something is deeply wrong with the GOP – frequently mocked these days by Republicans themselves as “the stupid party” — which has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Some have noticed as well that their congressional majority is so widely despised – its main achievement being historically low public approval ratings — as to be sustainable only by gerrymandering. During the last election cycle, those fearsome Republican SuperPACs, funded by the overlords of Wall Street and Las Vegas, spent hundreds of millions of dollars – with no discernible impact on an alienated electorate.
The result is a burgeoning self-improvement movement on the right, generating introspective articles and interviews in which Republicans ask: “What is wrong with us? How can we change? What must we do to avoid partisan extinction?”
But like many troubled people grappling with serious life issues, they aren’t truly ready for change. They want to maintain the status quo while giving lip service to reform – and changing as little as possible beyond the superficial. They would do anything to project a fresher image, more attractive and effective, without confronting their deeper problems.
The deceptions involved in this process are perfectly exposed in Robert Draper’s fascinating excursion among the urbane young Republicans whose frustration he skillfully reported in last Sunday’s New York Times MagazineHis account is well worth reading, if only to observe these self-consciously “hip” conservatives confronting the reality of last November – and failing utterly to comprehend its meaning. Early in Draper’s article, a GOP technology consultant notes that the youth vote for President Obama grew by 1.25 million in 2012 over 2008 (precisely the opposite of what most pundits and pollsters predicted). But he doesn’t seem to realize that the youth gap cannot be remedied by stronger social media or updated voter files.
The young Republicans bitterly mock the Romney campaign’s technological ineptitude, and complain more broadly about the party’s repellent reputation among young voters, minorities, gays, immigrants, women, and everyone sympathetic to them. They largely seem to believe that if the Republican National Committee would hire people like them – and if Rush Limbaugh and Todd Akin would simply shut the eff up – then the party could expand beyond its narrow, aging, white, and religiously conservative base.