On this morning’s Morning Edition on NPR, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan made his case that the GOP is stronger than people- especially the pundits- think it is. As one who never underestimates the Republican party, I won’t dispute that. But when Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep asked about in-party criticism that the Republican party might consider distancing itself from the extreme religious right, Duncan actually said his is the party of the “big tent”.
Yeah. I just about choked on that one, too. The big tent? The Republican party? Really? I’d be surprised if even Republicans believed that. As I recently wrote for Virginia’s conservative Commonwealth Conversations, part of the problem we saw with Republicans during the past election season is that more and more Americans are falling out of the fold precisely because the Republican party isn’t speaking to them- literally.
I get that Duncan is trying to keep his job. I’m just not sold on his rhetoric. Afterall, saying you’re the party of the big tent doesn’t make it so. You have to actually put that into practice. Perhaps the elections of Gov. Bobby Jindal and Joseph Cao in Louisiana will move things along in that direction. It’s admittedly encouraging, in some ways, to see their success- particularly in the Republican party. And let’s be honest. The reason their success is so remarkable is because the Republican party isn’t perceived as being open to ethnic minorities. The party has a loud, if small (which is debatable), faction to thank for that. Maybe it’s changing. Maybe it’s a ruse. Only time will tell. And Democrats would be wise to pay close attention to how it all unfolds.
But ethnicity isn’t the only cultural battle the Republican party has to face. It is a good start, though. And if Republicans are really on that road, maybe Duncan isn’t crazy afterall.