David Graham of The Atlantic has a good piece wondering whether we should take seriously the recent murmurs of GOP rebranding emanating from the Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio camps. The basis for the speculation is a Politico scoop in which off-the-record (this is Politico, after all) sources claim both men sincerely want their party to become more demographically inclusive. (Translation: give non-white people a reason to vote Republican.) Here’s what Politico reported:
Marco Rubio doesn’t want to be the “Hispanic candidate.” Paul Ryan doesn’t want to be the “austerity guy.”
Both want to run for president, or keep the option wide open. So each is trying to change his own image — and with it, the Republican Party’s… While Congress dawdled this summer, Rubio, 41, assigned his policy experts to figure out ways to help make the middle class wealthier — and add a dose of substance to the charismatic presidential hopeful’s résumé. Reaching out to academics and think tanks to build Rubio’s network, the senator and his staff developed a two-year reinvention project and an “upward mobility agenda,” including programs like early childhood education, school choice and incentives for entrepreneurs….
Top Republicans tell us Ryan tried to push his ideas for a more creative “war on poverty” during the presidential campaign but was muzzled by nervous Nellies at Mitt Romney’s Boston headquarters who didn’t see an immediate political payoff. So Ryan seethed when the “47 percent” tape emerged, convinced that the impact was worse because the campaign had no record on issues relating to inclusion or poverty, exacerbating the out-of-touch image that the hidden camera cemented.
On Twitter, I told Graham that while I’d certainly like to see Republican leaders take income inequality seriously (which would require their consistently acknowledging its existence) I’m skeptical that we’re going to see that happen until Republicans lose again. Until the GOP loses without Barack Obama being on the ticket, I doubt there will be sufficient appetite within the party for a real shift to the middle. And make no mistake — taking income inequality seriously, in both policy and rhetoric, will represent a real move away from the hard-right.