Reflecting on the Republican National Committee's "Growth and Opportunity Project," Dave Weigel noted that the blueprint "is less a program of reform than a rough blueprint about how to marginalize the nutters."
That's clearly true. The structural reforms are intended to "marginalize the nutters" in terms of their electoral influence; the rhetorical reforms are intended to "marginalize the nutters" in terms of public perceptions of the party; and the policy reforms are intended to "marginalize the nutters" who are pushing Republicans to embrace an even more radical policy agenda.
At times, Reince Priebus and his report aren't subtle on this, specifically criticizing "third-party groups that promote purity."
With this in mind, the simmering intra-party "civil war" between the Republican base and the party establishment is intensifying, right on cue.
"It looks like a system of the establishment, by the establishment, and for the establishment," said conservative P.R. executive Greg Mueller, a veteran of Pat Buchanan's campaigns. [...]Davie Bossie, head of the conservative group Citizens United, fretted that the proposals would mean conservative grassroots candidates, already outmatched organizationally and financially against the GOP establishment on the presidential level, "even less opportunity to break through.""I don't think that is a good thing for the party and I definitely don't think it's a good thing for the conservative movement," said Bossie.
Rush Limbaugh wasn't happy, either, saying Republican leaders have been "bamboozled" by focus groups. "They think they've gotta rebrand and it's all predictable," the radio host said. "They gotta reach out to minorities. They gotta moderate their tone here and moderate their tone there. And that's not at all what they've gotta do. The Republican Party lost because it's not conservative."
This is probably going to get worse before it gets better -- and for a party in transition, it's a fight that's probably unavoidable.
Priebus' plan is not necessarily going to be what the party does in the near future. The RNC's membership will need to debate and approve any changes, and that will take place over the course of several months, starting in April at the party's spring meeting in Los Angeles. One assumes those meetings will be quite lively, with the fights playing out in public.
And here's the kicker: that's not necessarily a bad thing, since the Republican Party really does need to have these fights. At the presidential level, the GOP has lost the national popular vote in five of the last six elections. The electorate has elected a Democratic Senate majority for four consecutive elections. The party hasn't been this unpopular since Watergate; its ideas are struggling for public support; and with no real leaders, it's not even clear what the party's core beliefs are in several key areas.
There are still about 19 months before the midterm elections and nearly three years before the party begins choosing its new standard bearer. This is, in other words, an ideal time for the party to have a knock-down, drag-out fight over what the party intends to be.
It won't be pleasant, and some party contingents won't be pleased with the results, but it's arguably a worthwhile endeavor for the party's long-term health.