This week, the Republican National Committee launched a campaign to convince Americans that the GOP consists of more than WORMs (white old rich men). The party may spend $10 million for ads designed to woo women, blacks, gays, Hispanics and other minorities who generally vote Democratic.
Can the GOP make itself seem tolerant and open to all? Maybe -- but Tea Party hardliners immediately renounced the new strategy, implying that narrowness still prevails.
Once upon a time, the Republican Party had numerous reasonable, cooperative leaders who would compromise while they pushed for frugality in government. The era of Dwight Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen, Nelson Rockefeller and Robert Taft abounded with GOP moderates.
But the upsurge of fundamentalist and far-right GOP factions drove the party to extremes.
Now, the Tea Party threatens to defeat any Republican who accepts gay marriage, or supports protections against gun massacres, or favors more taxes on billionaires, or considers reducing the military, or backs women's right to choose, or offers illegal Hispanics a route to citizenship, or voices concern about climate change, etc.
As a result, the GOP has acquired a tone of intolerance that alienates young voters -- which abetted the party's defeat in the November election. A New York Times Magazine report says:
"The GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The party brand -- which is to say, its message and its messengers -- has become practically abhorrent to emerging demographic groups like Latinos and African-Americans, not to mention an entire generation of young voters."
The article described a "focus group" in which participants were asked their spontaneous reaction to the word "Republican." Answers included "corporate greed... middle-aged white men... rich ... conservative ... hypocritical ... narrow-minded... rigid... racist... hateful" and other unappetizing terms.
The report outlined how GOP committees are seeking ways to appeal to mainstream voters and average families. Meanwhile, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker says the party should be recaptured by old-line moderates who have been branded RINOs (Republicans in name only) by the tea party.
"RINOs need to take back the Republican Party," she wrote. She said far-right extremists display a "hysteria-driven obsession" to purge the GOP of moderates -- but this has "become a suicide mission" because the purge "poisons their party's ability to win national elections."
America's demographics keep shifting in ways that benefit progressive Democratic Party values. The nation constantly grows more urban, educated, secular and ethnically diverse. Traditional whites soon will be less than half the population. These trends expand the Democratic base and erode the GOP base.
A generation ago, the Republican mantra of "God, guns and gays" drew wide support, especially in rural regions like West Virginia. But America is changing. For example, the 2012 GOP platform demanded a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage -- but most of America is rushing to embrace equal wedlock.
In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan revealed another spending plan -- his familiar stew of giveaways to billionaires, plus cuts to people-helping programs from student aid to Medicare to food stamps to high-speed rail. New York Times columnist Andrew Rosenthal said it shows that the GOP remains"180 degrees opposed to what most Americans want on just about any issue you care to name."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., commented: "House Republicans are once again trotting out a plan that would destroy programs like Medicare and Medicaid. House Republicans want to break the promises we've made to families working hard but still struggling to put food on the table, at-risk children, and seniors living on fixed incomes."
Can Republicans change their "brand" to appeal to the evolving populace? So far, there's little sign of improvement. Keep reading the news and try to fathom where America is heading.