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Lyons: GOP self-diagnosis was close

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

While it’s healthy to be cynical about party loyalism, government works better when both major parties have a pulse. And when it comes to presidential elections, the Republican Party should have called a priest shortly before Nov. 6, 2012.

The only ones who didn’t see this coming were the same ones who eschew the “mainstream media” and prefer the snugness of their information cocoons where talk radio host and bloggers whisper sweet deficit reduction in their ears.

That isn’t to say that the GOP is an abject failure or doesn’t have plenty of valid points. They control Congress and dominate the political landscape on a state-by-state basis with 30 Republican governors. To say all is lost is misstating the facts.

But presidential elections can’t be won with only some of the suburbs, Texas and key Southern and central states. They certainly can’t be won with only white voters who made up 72 percent of the electorate in 2012 compared with 88 percent in the start of the Reagan era in 1980.

If you’re a Republican, an independent or even a Democrat who wants to know the enemy better, you really should check out the Republican National Committee’s recently completed Growth and Opportunity Project report at http://growthopp.gop.com.

Left-wing critics call it a GOP autopsy, while right-wing zealots decry it as navel gazing. That should tell you that it’s a reasonable conclusion, or what recovering alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.

Some of the more artful lines in the report are things that already have been said many times by many people. The difference here is that it’s coming from the RNC – not the conspiring mainstream media.

“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue,” the report states.

Mega dittos.

While the report does address immigration, it falls short by failing to seriously discuss social issues such as gun control and gay marriage, which is also exactly where the party falls short when trying to speak to the middle and attract independent voters.

Most people don’t think reasonable gun control is a leftist conspiracy by the government to force its citizenship into submission. Most people don’t strongly object if two guys want to put on tuxes and say “I do.”

That doesn’t mean everyone within the core of the Republican Party has to change his personal stance on those positions, but if they want to break the trend of losing the popular vote in five out the last six presidential elections, they might want to back off on making them national platforms.

Maybe budget hawks don’t consider those issues vital and are fine letting the right fringe of the party lead on social issues, but many voters in general presidential elections do care, and they can be turned off by such exclusive rhetoric.

Here in Illinois, perhaps a poster child for GOP failure, party operatives nearly removed GOP Chairman Pat Brady for admitting that he personally did not oppose gay marriage.

The ham-fisted maneuver failed when the grownups, including Sen. Mark Kirk, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross, arrived before anyone forced Brady to recite the Heterosexual Pledge of Allegiance.

One of the first things you do when you want to move into a new house – say the White House – is figure out what to throw out before loading up the moving truck.

Some of its extreme positions on social issues would be a great place for the GOP to start.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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