"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Outspoken advice that will likely be ignored

rainey BARRETT


A few days after the 2012 general election, we opined in this space the President had become stronger and Congress weaker – that the election had altered the balance of power in favor of the White House. A couple of correspondents said we were wrong – that the President had received no “mandate” and Republicans still controlled the House of Representatives.

In the weeks since, the President’s approval rating has gone up while Congress is now down to unprecedented polling levels – falling in favorability below colonoscopies and root canals. Obama has – with full assistance of that Republican “majority” – secured a stronger bargaining position while Congress – especially the House – has become a swamp.

To the aforementioned skeptics, we now safely advise – it’s gonna get worse for the GOP. And it will be at their own hand.

Several Republican 2016 presidential wannabee’s are already flitting about the country, doing dozens of media interviews, popping more antacid pills because of all the rubber chicken dinners attended and proposing all sorts of new legislation to make the party more “open and welcoming” They’re demonstrating – in spades – they haven’t a clue how to improve the standing or acceptance of the GOP. It’s just so much verbal flatulence.

In weeks since the election, there’s been a single, lifelong Republican voice worth the hearing. After accurately quoting the ignorance of former Republican governors Palin and Sununu, he said this:

“Let me be candid. My party is full of racists and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.”

Colin Powell also accused his own party of ignorance – of intolerance of different views – of demanding ideological purity rather that proposing solutions to the nation’s many problems – of failing to offer an acceptable and viable alternative to the Democrat Party – of failing to understand the fundamental changes of ethnicity taking place in this country today.

To the minorities the GOP is trying to attract – to the independents with whom the GOP must connect – to disaffected Republican moderates who have been exiled from the GOP table – Colin Powells may be the most respected Republican voice in the country today. If other Republicans of similar stature don’t follow his lead – if the Party continues to ignore such right-thinking – there will be Democrats living uninterruptedly in the White House for the next 30 years or more. And controlling Congress.

To the Rubios, the Santorums, the Bachmans, ol’ Newt and the other rabbits out there, all that’s needed are some speeches, some new immigration legislation – some talk of a “big tent” – some new curtains in the windows. So, that’s what they’re proposing. And they’re dead wrong.

What’s absolutely necessary – before any of that – is a change of culture within the Party. Culture. Top to bottom. Culture defined by doing. Culture defined by change. Culture defined by action. That’s really what Powell was saying.

But don’t look for significant action despite the wisdom of his words. Don’t look for any fundamental changes within the Party. Because to change the basic culture you have to change the people in charge – the people who make decisions – the people who have the power. And they’re not about to easily give that up. The far right worked long and hard within the national Republican Party organization for several decades before getting their hands on the machinery of committee structure – control of nominations- of electing “their people” to office. They run the place. And changing the culture is not in their DNA. Because they typify the culture that needs changing most.

Powell’s message was, it seems to me, directed as much to Republican moderates – if any there be – as it was to the right wing now calling the shots. I think he was saying to all Republicans to the left of the fringy right – We’ve lost our relevancy – we need to regain our balance – we need to demonstrate Republicans are responsible and responsive. We need to go back to our roots and conduct ourselves and our party by articulating and doing what we learned and used to do very well. And, if those things are going to happen, you and I are the ones to do it.

Though 2014 is far, far away – and 2016 even further – if the heartfelt admonitions and advice from a most respected American are unheeded within his party – the outcomes of those future contests are not hard to predict. There will be no viable second party in our two-party system.

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