Why Today Was a Very Bad Day to Be a Republican

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Dec. 21 2012 8:22 PM

Two Debacles in 12 Hours

Why today was a very bad day to be Republican.

(Continued from Page 1)

The NRA response is a different matter. The NRA has been far more successful at working the system than House Republicans. So, as Dave Weigel points out, Wayne LaPierre was backing a position on Friday that at least has the popularity of the assault weapons ban the president is pushing. This Gallup poll asked Americans how to prevent the next massacre. Sixty-four percent wanted “at least one person” at every school to be armed, and 87 percent were open to more “police presence” at schools. 

But the question at hand is whether the defiant tone of the NRA event will be as popular as those policies. For most people, the post-Newtown public conversation has had some element of self-reflection. The president, NRA-supporting politicians, and Hollywood have all taken a step back and examined their views. Most have recognizing that they need to at least modify their positions in some ways. Even if no one changes their tune ultimately, the participants have at least nodded to the possibility that a decent respect for the opinions of others requires sensitivity to opposing positions.

The NRA did not go this route. It was calling for a conversation but it was starting an argument. LaPierre blamed culture—movies, video games, and music—for a mass shooting but wasn’t willing to even brush up against considering what role guns might play.

Advertisement

That is where the interests of the NRA and the GOP separate. A full-throated argument with President Obama helps the NRA by riling up its members who write big checks. This, in turn, provides money to keep lawmakers in line.

For a national party so closely aligned with the NRA, this poses a challenge. Right now its leaders are trying to send the message of inclusiveness in all forms. The Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections. Something has to change. The precise road back to the majority is not clear. But as a matter of basic math, it's pretty clear that the party must show that it is open: open to ideas, new people (i.e., minorities who are growing as a larger share of the voting population), and the new challenges of our daily lives.

Holding more firmly to your views despite new circumstances can offer stability, but it also opens you up to looking remote, unconcerned, and out of touch. To those who might think you hail from another planet, it helps to speak to them in their language. That language requires a conversation, not an argument.

It is a virtue to stay true to your principles. But the great patron saint of conservatism, Ronald Reagan, knew that you had to do it in a way that didn’t offend people. Reagan had plenty of critics, to be sure. Clark Clifford famously called him an amiable dunce, but even that cheap shot allowed for the fact that he was amiable. There is nothing amiable in these recent public stands by conservatives. It can’t be true that a party returns to national greatness on an anti-amiable platform.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 12:43 PM Watch Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey Do a Second City Sketch in 1997
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.