The GOP faces a huge challenge: Recovering its position as a viable political alternative for an electorate that fears its extreme positions. To achieve this, the first step would be to stop using paranoia as a strategy, instead of dressing itself up with a discourse that Latino and independent voters find reasonable.
Among the GOP’s political base, the claim that President Obama was not born in the U.S. was repeated for years. This myth persisted until the election, when the Republican establishment realized that it would hurt it. It was only then that lawmakers and party leaders stopped backing what they knew to be a lie with their silence. By being quiet, they had supported a base that spread the falsehood, all in the name of eroding Obama’s image.
Something similar is happening now with the debate about firearms.
An opinion survey by the reputable Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that 44% of Republican participants believe that in the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary to protect constitutional liberties.
This is a very serious finding because of what it depicts about the current political moment, which is causing all types of reactions. What was not visiblejust like in the debate about Obama’s birthwere reasonable Republican voices that recognize the error of this perception.
Doing so would have forced them to admit that this viewpoint resulted from the exaggerated rhetoric used during the firearms debatea rhetoric that focused on a supposed government attempt to disarm the public with the goal of suppressing civil liberties.
The cool heads of the GOP have remained silent here. Like in the past, this tacitly allows this extremist notion to expand, as long as it provides political brownie points. In return, a series of Republican politicians paraded this weekend around the convention of the National Rifle Associationan organization that encourages the anti-government conspiracy theory.
This type of irrational position is what scares away voters who are open to considering the Republican political option. Supporting immigration reform, for example, is a positive strategy to capture the Latino vote. But it won’t be worth much if the paranoia of its base is still the cornerstone to regaining political ground.