One of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes was entitled "Foreign Affairs." Originally run during the series' 11th season, the episode centered around a gorgeous visiting French Red Cross worker (played by Melinda Mullins) who falls for the staid, priggish Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (played by David Ogden Stiers.) At one point, "Martine" (the Red Cross lady), having rebuffed the advances of the randy Hawkeye (Alan Alda), invites Charles to sit with her at the "Old Club." Seeing this, Hawkeye asks his tent mate B.J. (Mike Farrell), "What did he (Charles) try that I didn't?" "Maybe Sincerity?" B.J. answers. Hawkeye gets the laugh line when he responds "Sincerity? I could fake that!"
Hawkeye's retort might well serve as the slogan for the Republican National Committee's recently concluded gathering out in Hollywood. For in attempting to figure out what went wrong in the 2012 election and how to fix it in time for 2016, the GOP has essentially come to the same conclusion as the fictional Captain Pierce: when all else fails, fake sincerity. Of course, there are two huge differences between Hawkeye Pierce and the RNC:
1.Hawkeye was -- and always shall be -- a fictional character; the RNC is (supposedly) made up of real people;
2.Hawkeye's aim was to win over a woman; the RNC's to convince women, gays, African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans that they really aren't a party that caters only to older white gun-owning Christian men, and that they -- the GOP -- really do share their concerns, respect their differences and speak their language.
Without question, it's a tall order; one, which if it were to succeed, would require a lot of serious soul searching and a new found commitment to compromise and inclusion. But alas, it would appear that the RNC, like the beloved Benjamin Franklin Pierce, believes they can fake sincerity and get away with it.
Without question, the GOP is in a state of utter turmoil. Its base -- the folks who provide the primary votes -- make up the party's most implacably, unrelentingly ultra-conservative wing. These are the folks who are steadfastly pro-life, pro-gun, pro-balanced budget amendment and anti anything proposed by any Democrat. For the most part, these are the ones who believe that the president and his party are committed Marxists; malevolent spores of Satan consciously turning America into a nation of takers. This, the GOP base, is made up mostly of white males -- and a few women. They are at odds with the party's less ultra-conservative, more institutional wing; those who seem to understand that if their party is ever to recapture the White House, they'll need to make some serious changes. On the surface, they "get it."
Or do they?
According to reports coming out of the Hollywood conference, the 168-member RNC seems to have concluded that the party's problem is not with their positions . . . it's with the manner in which they broadcast or express those positions. During their four-day get-together, they refused to face up to the central problem facing their party: that their stance on issues such as marriage, reproductive rights and President Obama's healthcare plan are diametrically at odds with some of the very voters they are trying to win over. Fascinatingly, many of those attending the Hollywood conference rejected any suggestion that Republican positions in 2012 alienated voters in those key groups (single women, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc.) -- insisting that the party lost because Mitt Romney was a weak candidate. Instead of rethinking positions, they concluded, all they need is a change in perception.
In other words, fake sincerity.
The conference was addressed by a handful of Hispanic, African-American and Indian-American speakers, all of whom pledged to work hard convincing their various communities that the GOP stands with them. And yet, at the very moment its leaders were seeking to put a better, more inclusive, open-minded face on their party, House Republicans were doing what they do best: standing steadfastly against the 21st century.
On Thursday, Connecticut Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, the sponsor of the "Paycheck Fairness Act" filed a discharge petition. This petition would have immediately forced a vote on her bill -- which mandates that men and women doing the same jobs should receive the same pay -- if she could collect 218 signatures. Democrats also put forth a motion known as the "Previous Question," which would have enabled them to put the act up for a vote. However, virtually every single House Republican voted against the Previous Question; they killed the effort by a vote of 226 to 92.
Unbelievably, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said on the House Floor Thursday afternoon that DeLauro's bill is a "liberal plot" meant to perpetuate the narrative that Republicans are somehow anti-woman. DeLauro countered that she has yet to hear a reasonable excuse for Republicans to oppose the bill. (n.b. Recent Census Bureau data shows that full-time working women make 77 cents for every dollar men make per year. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which DeLauro has introduced in eight consecutive Congresses, would expand the Equal Pay Act to close certain loopholes and allow employees to share salary information with their coworkers. It would also require employers to show that pay disparities between their male and female employees are related to job performance, not gender.) But the Republicans, to a man -- and woman -- were against it.
At the same time, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" that he thinks same-sex marriage discourages marriage between a man and a woman.
"Would we be discouraging heterosexual marriage by allowing gay marriage?" Bill O'Reilly asked Santorum.
"Yeah, I believe we would," Santorum replied.
Santorum then suggested that legalizing gay marriage results in Americans having fewer children.
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