Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Big Tent Theory

NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed Mike Duncan, the current chairman of the RNC this morning. The party is hosting a website — “Republican for a Reason” — where party members get to offer ideas and suggestions. One writer said that the party needs to distance itself a little from the Religious Right. When Mr. Inskeep asked Mr. Duncan if the writer’s assumption was wrong, Mr. Duncan’s answer was quite cogent:

[crickets]

Mr. Inskeep repeated the question. After an audible chair creak, Mr. Duncan replied with the big-tent answer: the Republicans welcome all comers. Sure, as long as you’re not gay or don’t believe that a woman has the right to her own uterus.

Actually, Mr. Duncan should look to Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who has some great ideas for the GOP:

Ideas like a balanced budget amendment, school-choice vouchers, health savings accounts and welfare reform should take center stage in the Republican agenda. And we must have a vision for defending the cherished values of life and marriage whenever they come under attack from the courts, the new administration or congressional liberals. […]

If Democrats are true to their campaign promises, Republicans will have the opportunity to take a stand on behalf of the American people — to give Americans more access to American oil, to preserve secret-ballot elections in the workplace, to defeat Fairness Doctrine censorship on the airwaves of talk radio and to defeat any effort to overturn reasonable restrictions on abortion at the state level.

Steve Benen parses it for you.

* A “balanced budget amendment”: A discredited idea from over a decade ago, which would be blisteringly stupid in the current financial crisis.

* “School-choice vouchers”: A discredited idea from over two decades ago, which even conservative activists are giving up on.

* “Welfare reform”: This already happened, 12 years ago.

Pence throws in some predictable shout-outs to drilling the coasts, undermining unions, restricting abortion rights, and waging a battle against the imaginary forces anxious to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Mr. Pence did not go so far as to suggest that as part of the auto bailout Chrysler should start building the K-car again, but it would be right along with his thinking. But with ideas like these, the GOP is sure to need a big tent, especially since they’re going to be camping out in the wilderness for quite a while.