Perils of GOP “Outreach”

As a follow-on to the last post on Matthew Continetti’s analysis of the GOP’s electoral dilemmas, it should be clear the problem isn’t just the conflict between base and “swing” voter preferences, but also between different groups of swing voters. This is made apparent by an interesting observation at CPAC by TNR’s Molly Redden:

[O]lder conservatives seem to believe earnestly that their opposition to gay rights will be catnip to Latinos, Asians, and blacks. Aguilar said that if the GOP shifts its positions on “the family,” “It’s suicide to think we can win over those new voters.” Gov. Rick Perry put it this way: “We’re told we must shift to appeal to the growing demographic of Hispanics.” The crowd booed like mad. “Let me tell you something about what appeals to Hispanics in states like Texas… Policies that value the family unit!”

But emphasizing cultural traditionalism in pursuit of such voters (probably a bad idea in itself since support for marriage equality among Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Latinos has been trending upwards at least as fast as among white folk) carries its own risks in terms of the reaction of younger voters, another “outreach” target, even in the hyper-ideological atmosphere of CPAC:

Not only are Latinos not as conservative as conservatives would have you believe, but for most of the panelists on “Winning with Generation X/Y” and “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet,” a precondition of mass millennial support is the abandonment of gay bigotry. Jeff Frazee, the executive director of Young Americans for Liberty, said he identifies not as a conservative, but a libertarian, because of the GOP’s stances on most social issues—drawing a “WOOO!” from the young audience. Sen. Rand Paul gets it. In his speech to a packed ballroom, he made a passing reference to the Facebook generation as the “core of the leave-me-alone generation,” earning him a “WOOO!,” too.

Maybe Rand Paul “gets it,” but that brings us back to square one: can anyone imagine him or his libertarian “base” buying Contenetti’s “conservative welfare state” prescription for the GOP? WOOOO, no!

There just ain’t no easy road to a GOP majority.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.