In 2012, after the GOP’s disastrous attempt to force Mitt Romney on the American people, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus decided it was time to fix his party. The result was a document called the Growth and Opportunity Project, which he strangely referred to as an autopsy report, apparently not understanding that an autopsy is performed on someone that’s already dead.
Within the report were a number of areas where Republicans were losing voters and elections, including their failure to pass immigration reform, their inability to listen to minorities, and their uncompromising stance on same-sex marriage. The response of elected Republicans was to fail to pass immigration reform, continue to ignore minorities, and find any way possible to fight back against same-sex marriage.
Mr. Priebus doesn’t always have the best pulse on the party he’s supposed to lead, which often makes his attempts to sound confident and tough actually come off as frightened and socially awkward. This was never more evident than in a recent interview he did with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as his party gears up for the April 5th primaries in battleground Wisconsin. Priebus sounded refreshingly optimistic, even as his world burns around him:
What is everyone going to say when we steamroll our opponents on the other side of the aisle? Everyone is going to be scratching their heads because they’re expecting something bad to happen. No — nothing bad is going to happen.
That’s adorable. It’s like he just plugs his ears when his candidates open their mouths. As Mr. Priebus tries to get his party on the right side of issues that matter to the coming generations of voters, his leading candidate is informing us about ugly women and his penis size. The chairman continually tries to paint his party establishment as too strong to be overtaken by an alternate ideology, but then he strangely invoked the longevity of his party as evidence:
I don’t think any one person in three months as our nominee can alter direction of a party that’s been around for 160 years. I think it’s a lot of hype.
During those 160 years, the Republican Party has shifted dramatically several times, most notably on race issues. If he doesn’t think this change can happen quickly, he must also deny the existence of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” that shifted the party significantly, both racially and geographically, and practically overnight. Black became white, North became South, almost literally.
When Republicans sold themselves to discouraged white Democrats in the South, they not only flipped the party’s stance on racial equality, they also flipped the party’s stance on all other areas that were touched by racial inequality. That meant the new Republican Party needed to be against helping people in poverty, it needed to actively try to suppress black voters at the polls, and most importantly, it needed a lasting tactic to prevent the growing black population from overcoming these obstacles. So Nixon invented a new enemy, told people it was “public enemy number one,” pointed the finger at hippies and black people, and gave us the costly “War on Drugs,” which has now spent almost a half-century jailing young black men for ridiculously minor offenses.
Where Mr. Priebus is mistaken in his assessment of this primary situation is in his insistence that Republican voters will follow the Republican Party no matter what, even if the leading Republican candidates go rogue. But Donald Trump’s voters couldn’t care less that he’s a Republican or even if the Republican Party endorses him, and most have probably never heard of Reince Priebus. If Trump becomes the nominee, he won’t be begging the RNC for help; he’ll be demanding an apology while effectively rewriting the party platform.
And Mr. Priebus will have to either bend a knee, or permanently say goodbye to 1/3 of his voters and the White House for at least a few more elections. Who is really in charge, Mr. Chairman?