Bob Franken

King Features Column

(The usual razz-a-ma-tazz: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release because the syndicator says so. The current one is in your paper. If not, the editors might need to be informed about the error of their ways. Feel free.)

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So the Republicans want to broaden their appeal beyond angry white guys and entitled fat cats? In the ashes of defeat, it has occurred to their leaders that the hatefulness and greed they’ve represented for decades has meant modern life and demographics are passing them by. Now they want to put lipstick on the elephant.
Realizing that the times, they are a’ changin’ (I made that up) and that the politics of exclusion aren’t selling anymore, they’ve decided to try to improve their image with the immigrants, minorities and women they have alienated.
They’re sweating marginalization even though their deception and intolerant messages still attracted the votes of almost half the country. Obviously, though, trends are going in the other direction. That’s why they’re talking about initiatives that would broaden the party’s appeal to those they have abused with spitefulness and selfishness. Apparently, they’re counting on mass amnesia.

The party’s divide-and-conquer tactics have been financed by the super-rich, who want to make sure they can operate without any constraints or responsibility to their society. It is in their interest to deflect attention from their various schemes, so they provide the wherewithal to religious extremists and create an unholy alliance that distracts by fanning the flames of ignorance.
The candidates have been only too glad to pander in the same way they spewed intense anti-immigrant viciousness on cue. So if the Republicans are serious about reaching out to Hispanics, the first thing they need to do is get their reactionary zealots to engage in some wholesale self-deportation (I made that up, too).
Actually, you can’t make up a story like the GOP suddenly discovering inclusiveness. An overriding impression each time we see a gathering of Republicans is how overwhelmingly white the crowd is. It’s no accident. Richard Nixon’s henchmen famously created the “Southern Strategy,” which was an open attempt to woo bigots from the Democratic Party. It succeeded. So did the strategy of joining forces with groups like the so-called Moral Majority and other theocrats who stand against enlightenment and for continued oppression.
Interestingly, their fundamentalist successors now are talking about outreach after they got wiped in this election. It’s amazing how rigid narrow-mindedness can be overtaken by expedience.
Now they all want to unmake the bed they’re lying in after they pushed out all their non-fanatics. But what are they going to do? How can they pretend that their base is comprised of reasonable people who are open to give and take when the tea-partiers who dominate the House majority consider compromise to be treason? They can’t.
What do the moderates do in the face of such immoderation? There is a lot of talk that the time has come to form a third party. But others argue the move would further dilute their influence.
Maybe it’s the moment for all of them to introduce a revolutionary concept: reason. Perhaps in the wake of a losing battle there might be some appeal in a message that emphasizes practical deals that set aside unyielding ideology to avoid the national disasters that are inevitable if everyone refuses to budge. Perhaps an appeal to patriotism would resonate, since sticking to hardened positions certainly will cause the demise of the country everyone claims to love. Then again, such thinking may be hopelessly naive. Those who prosper by espousing divisiveness have a stake in maintaining the insurmountable impasse. Consensus would kill their golden goose.
If their message of anger continues to define our politics, all the conservative reaching out, even the sincere part, will fall short. The Democrats will expand their constituency, and Republicans will be stuck with an ever-shrinking segment of Americans that will wither away over the years. GOP stands for Grand Old Party. Without real change, it will become the Grand Obsolete Party.

© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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