We Are Rebuilding a Religion, We Are Building It Bigger

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 28 2013 12:57 PM

We Are Rebuilding a Religion, We Are Building It Bigger

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Customers at a Chick-fil-A restaurant enjoy their food in Hollywood on August 3, 2012 in California. Gays and lesbians puckered up in protest, staging 'kiss-ins' outside Chick-fil-A outlets across the United States over the fast-food chain's opposition to same-sex marriage.

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GettyImages

I spent the weekend at National Review's third-ever post-election D.C. summit, an event that only occurs after a party debacle. (The others happened in 1993 and 2007. All took place in hotels on Connecticut Ave.) In short: Conservative reporters and pundits occasionally proposed policy reforms or walk-downs, as when Bill Kristol said it was "crazy" to dig in against women playing combat roles in the military. The elected Republicans did not back down.

Every elected Republican at the conference attempts to prove that. On Friday, NR’s Jay Nordlinger asks freshman Rep. Tom Cotton to swat away some of the liberals’ myths. Why did Republicans lose Hispanics? “We’re quasi-racist, or maybe racist without the quasi,” says Nordlinger. “It’s supposed to be killing us.” Cotton doesn’t know how to fix it. “I think Romney only got 27 percent [of Hispanic votes], but John McCain four years ago got 31 percent when he’d been the sponsor of an immigration bill,” he says. “It’s presumptuous and condescending to think that Hispanics, as a class, are only focused on immigration.” Will conservatives have to accept the “momentum” for gay marriage? “It’s only this last year that people in any state have decided to accept gay marriage,” says Cotton. “In California, four years ago, [they] voted for traditional marriage.”

Jonathan Chait, who read Paul Ryan's speech to the room (Ryan's office pushed it out to the press), was unimpressed.

[H]is solution to the party’s identification with the rich is simply to assert that Republicans are the party of “growth” and “opportunity.” Not only is he sticking with the same anti-tax policies that have dominated Republican thought for three decades, he is proposing to sell them with the same buzzwords Republicans have been using for three decades.
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I hope I get this across in the piece: The fact that Ryan was actually on the ticket in 2012, and that the man considered the smartest, most adept messenger in the party got to do some messaging, is being written out of election history.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.