Reeling after a disappointing November, the Republican Party has suffered a case of organizational schizophrenia as they try to retool the Party’s message. Republicans just aren’t on the same page when it comes to the GOP’s future organizing agenda. On the one hand, you have the election of Michael Steele to the head of the RNC—a wise move politically, if you took it as a sign that the GOP was trying to court favor from our nation’s rapidly expanding minority electorate. If that were the case, Steele isn’t doing a very good job. When asked last month how he plans to attract more diversity to the Republican Party, he replied, “My plan is to say, ‘Ya’ll come.’” A member of the audience then shouted, “I’ll bring the collard greens,” to which Steele added, “I got the fried chicken and potato salad.” Stay classy, GOP.
Then you have the self-proclaimed, awkwardly labeled “birthers.” Admittedly, these folks aren’t a major part of the GOP’s formal organizational apparatus; in fact, quite a few conservatives have distanced themselves from the group as of late. Still, their sentiments represent a very real and influential part of the GOP’s electorate—one that the GOP can’t afford to alienate, politically speaking. However their battle-cry—“Obama’s a citizen of Kenya!”—is a little too specific (among other things) to remain an energizing Party message.
Then there’s the “RINOs”—Republicans in Name Only. RINOs tend to be moderate or even liberal Republicans. Meghan McCain is arguably the most visible RINO, speaking for a generation of young Republicans that tend to believe in traditionally conservative ideals like small government, but also tend to favor socially liberal positions such as gay marriage. While they represent a sizable portion of young Republicans, the RINOs seem too ideologically nuanced in our current two-party system to become the main voice of the Republican Party.
Of course, there’s also a core group of overt racists, typified by folks like Pat Buchanan. In the wake of Sonia Sotomayor’s congressional hearings, Buchanan wrote an article for HumanEvents.com in which he suggested that John McCain would be President if only he had done a little more race-baiting during the campaign. Seriously. Buchanan concluded that the key to future GOP success is simple: court white males disenchanted with affirmative action, using modern day Willie Horton-style images. Seriously. This election certainly brought out vicious racial animus from the Republican side of the aisle, but I don’t foresee the RNC using this as an actual organizational strategy anytime soon.
But no rhetoric has caught as much steam amongst Party loyalists as the Michelle Malkin-inspired “corruption of community organizers” mantra. Indeed, the dominant message of the Republican Party currently centers on a fundamental disdain for community organizing—a sentiment that runs much deeper than simple contempt for the “community-organizer in chief.” While often racially tinged, the rhetoric is certainly pervasive, and every sector of the Party seems to be latching on. But is this really the best Republicans can do?
The problem with anti-community organizing rhetoric is simple: How do you mobilize potential constituents and supporters when your main organizing strategy is to mock organizers? It makes no sense. It’s like trying to sell a product by making fun of your competitor’s marketing division. It reeks of arrogance, assuming your product is so good that it sells itself. The thing is, the GOP’s product just isn’t that good. Forget my snark for just a minute and really think about it: How effective can deriding community organizers be as an organizing philosophy? It’s a logical contradiction. You can’t organize without organizers; you can’t mobilize without mobilizers. Without a centralized organizing structure, you just aren’t going to win many elections. Good luck recruiting constituents when you mock, ridicule, and racialize the act of recruiting.