So Cantor gave his aforementioned big speech yesterday, the one about turning the GOP into an expansively inclusive party of multiple ethnicities and income brackets, and MSNBC was there to tell the tale. Their description is curious, however, in that they seem to think Cantor’s goal is to disassociate his party from its current image of being a bunch of penny-pinching budget obsessives:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sought to lead Republicans past their dollars-and-cents fights of the last two years, arguing Tuesday for a more expansive agenda that resonates with a broader scope of Americans.
As the GOP works to redefine itself in the wake of an electoral drubbing last fall, Cantor outlined a series of policies he said Republicans would pursue over the next two years. The agenda includes staples of Republican politics — tax and entitlement reforms, for instance — but also education, immigration and research and development, particularly in the sciences.
“In Washington, over the past few weeks and months, our attention has been on cliffs, debt ceilings and budgets, on deadlines and negotiations,” Cantor said at a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington. “But today, I’d like to focus our attention on what lies beyond these fiscal debates. Over the next two years, the House majority will pursue an agenda based on a shared vision of creating the conditions for health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families.”
The speech fits squarely within the rubric of reinvention sought by the GOP at the advent of President Barack Obama’s second term. The Virginia congressman offered generally familiar proposals, couched in the rhetoric of middle class advancement. This “softer” approach to policy-making squares with an emerging Republican consensus that the party does not necessarily need to change its policies so much as frame them in a way that is more relevant to middle class, minority, and women voters.
In case anyone was wondering whether the GOP reboot was anything more than a cynical attempt to spit-shine the party into something that can win a national election without cheating — consider yourself free from uncertainty! The flimsiness of the Cantor rehab is such that even those Republicans with a vested interest in persuading you otherwise are happy to call it like it is.
Well, OK, I guess. I’m not much of a moderate, much less a conservative — so it’s not like I particularly want Republicans to fix what’s ailing them. To some degree I do, of course, because we live in a two-party system that has more than enough veto points for a batshit minority to exploit to the nation’s detriment. We’ve seen what that looks like. It’s not fun. But beyond abstract concerns for constitutional governance, I’d be quite happy if a Republican (as the term is currently understood) never even caught a faint whiff of 1600’s potpourri.
If I were a conservative, though, and one who didn’t think Newt Gingrich stood as an exemplar of right-thinking gravitas, Cantor’s nonsense would really piss me off. Because at heart what Cantor and his supporters are saying is that they’ve done nothing wrong. There’s an implicit acceptance of blame, I suppose, in saying that the party’s “framing” has been askew; but “framing” is contracted out to PR shops and sundry other yarn-spinners. So their admission of guilt only goes so far as to say, We weren’t quick enough to stop all those other people from F’ing up.
What’s more, the framing (there’s that word again!) MSNBC transmits — the idea of the GOP moving on from its single-minded focus on fiscal issues — is bizarre and, I’d say, only believable if one wants to believe it. Does anyone really think that the party that’s suffered Sarah Palin, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Steve King, and on and on and on; are we really to believe that these pols went over with the American public about as well as a Lance Armstrong interview because they were too diligent in their focus on dollars and cents?
I’m sure many do, actually; but these people are Republicans or Republican apologists. They’re repackaging Paul Ryan’s self-spun myth of the accountant-in-chief by attempting to push its boundaries far enough that they’ll encircle the entire party. I suspect this tactic will work about as well as the time I tried to fix a broken R key on my Macbook with copious amounts of superglue and half-muttered invective.