Jurassic Republicans

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, March 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

Jurassic Republicans


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

Can the GOP escape from 1955?

In his new biography of Roger Ailes, Zev Chafets writes that Ailes longs for America when it was "its natural, best self, which he locates, with modest social amendments, somewhere in midwestern America circa 1955." Chafets does not say what those modest social amendments might be, but it got me thinking about the nature of conservative nostalgia.

Mitt Romney lost in part because his was a vision of Father Knows Best America in a time of Modern Family. Romney, by all accounts a devoted family man, could not seem to wrap his mind around the reality that families today come in a vast variety of configurations. His views on gay rights, women's rights, and immigration (on which even Newt Gingrich accused him of wanting to divide families by deporting grandmothers who have lived here for decades) seemed hopelessly out of touch rather than charmingly retro. Meanwhile, Barack Obama cruised to reelection on a one-word slogan: Forward.

The Republican National Committee has, commendably, performed an autopsy on the carcass of its 2012 campaign. To its credit, the GOP seems to recognize that it doesn't just need to moderate, it needs to modernize. You know a party is in trouble when its "celebrities" are has-beens like Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels, and Ted Nugent (who, to be fair, had a big hit--in 1977). As the authors of the GOP report put it: "At our core, Republicans have comfortably remained the Party of Reagan without figuring out what comes next. Ronald Reagan is a Republican hero and role model who was first elected 33 years ago--meaning no one under the age of 51 today was old enough to vote for Reagan when he first ran for President. Our Party knows how to appeal to older voters, but we have lost our way with younger ones. We sound increasingly out of touch."

The far right howled when the autopsy was released. No shock there. Did you really think people who deny evolution are going to adapt? The report shines a light on what so many Republican politicians refuse to see: a bridge to the past is a bridge to nowhere. …

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