I’ve been focusing lately on the extremist, ideological legislation offered up by some state Republicans in Oklahoma this year.
It’s a cornucopia of crazy that overflows with paranoia and cultural divisiveness, but, meanwhile, the national GOP leadership seems to have recognized there’s a problem with Republican extremism and wants to rebrand, especially given the party’s dismal showing in the 2012 presidential election.
Basing a political platform on the demonization of one man-President Barack Obama-and ignoring obvious demographic and cultural change has an electoral price. Yes, ultra-conservative legislatures, like the one here in Oklahoma, have a mandate developed through fear mongering, but passing senseless, ideological bills on the state level only further isolates the GOP from any chance for national success.
State Rep. Sally Kern, infamous for her mean-spirited, conservative views attacking gay people, can win lopsided votes for her bills in Oklahoma, but, and this is an understatement, she doesn’t play well to a national audience.
The GOP can pass all the crazy bills it wants in places like Oklahoma or Kansas or Texas, but the feds are still going to be making the call on many important issues, especially in poorer, fed-dependent southern states. Democrats are going to control that in the conceivable future.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, supposedly recognizes the Democratic triumph on the national level. The RNC just recently issued a report about conservative rebranding that includes the need for the GOP to support immigration reform. The growing Hispanic voter population is growing, and it is clearly rejecting Republican xenophobia.
It’s also clear that younger voters are far more accepting of gay rights than older voters, especially in the GOP, and that Republicans are losing voters because of the party’s bigoted, official positions on same-sex marriage. The RNC report notes this conundrum. Are the Republicans serious about changing?
But let’s return to Oklahoma politics. No one symbolizes the so-called “old” GOP more than U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe on many issues, and one of them is gay rights. Inhofe once claimed proudly on the Senate floor, for example, that there was never a “homosexual relationship in the recorded history of our family.”
Inhofe made the national news recently over his non-comments about Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Ron Portman, a conservative Republican who recently said he now supports same-sex marriage. Portman’s son is gay.
When Inhofe, 78, and running for reelection in 2014, heard the news, according to a radio show host, he seemed to have a “stunned look on his face” and said he was “surprised.”
Determining a “look” of a face, of course, can be ambiguous and arbitrary, but given the state GOP craziness, Republican national rebranding and the changing cultural paradigms, such as the growing acceptance of gay rights and the growing ranks of minority voters, the visual symbolism is just too difficult for me to pass up.
There’s the stunned face of Inhofe, and there’s the world marching on without him and the old GOP.