Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Focusing On The Wrong Problem

For those people not in the Republican Party, and not aligned with its machinery, the problems their party is having and the solutions to fix many of those problems seem incredibly obvious, based on simple facts.

The troubles facing the GOP seem as clear to us as the news that came out three weeks ago, from the National Transportation Safety Board, that states should reduce the legal blood-alcohol level from 0.08 to 0.05 because doing so would save lives. Indeed, the basic facts do agree - lower blood alcohol levels have already saved lives in other nations where a lower level has been tried. Most people already know that driving buzzed is still dangerous, even though far too many do it anyway. So the solution seems simple.

However, if you think merely lowering the blood-alcohol level by itself, without any other measures, will significantly decrease all vehicle accidents, then you haven't thought the problem all the way through. What about all the crashes that happen because of a driver texting while sober?

In a similar way, while a flood of data continues to come out about what the Republican Party is doing wrong, if all that political pundits are doing is looking at the headlines from that data, their recommendations on how to fix the GOP will likely crash and burn.

From the study by College Republicans of why fewer and fewer young Americans are voting Republican, to the latest Gallup poll on age and sexual orientation, time and again the solution for what ails the GOP seems to be simple to those on the outside. The Republican Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, even made it clear, at the beginning of this year, that he and others also know the outsider's proposed solution for the GOP: "We've got to stop being the stupid party."

Greg Sargent's advice to Congressional Republicans on how to prevent Democrat Harry Reid from using the nuclear option in the Senate echos that simple solution: "If Republicans don’t want Democrats to exercise the nuclear option and do away with the filibuster on executive branch and judicial nominations… drop the endless, unprecedented obstruction of those nominations."

We agree 100 percent with Greg and others that say that first step seems both logical and easy - but we admit, we're not trying to reform the Republican Party from the inside.

The concept of "conservative reform" has been tackled shrewdly by Mr. Sargent, and others lately, including Jonathan Chait, who recently wrote this brilliant note of truth: "In the long run, the resolution to nearly every policy problem [facing the U.S.] depends on the GOP refashioning itself as a normal, non-pathological party."

As one of those conservative reporters, Josh Barro, notes in his new column at Business Insider, the problem is that anyone who is trying to change the Republican Party - including reformists like David Frum and Barro himself - can't get certain others in his political party to actually LISTEN to their advice. Even on simple issues, like the myriad scandals Americans don't care about, GOP elders like Lindsay Graham and John McCain are obviously trying to shut down the destructive scandalmania. Yet right-wing bombthrowers like Ted Cruz and Darrell Issa continue their self-destructive ways, intent on doing everything but listening to either their elders or the GOP reformists.

As we noted earlier with the idea of lowering the blood alcohol level, the solutions for fixing problems may seem simple, at first.

However, as Barro, Frum, and the small handful of Republican reformers on the right are reminding the rest of us, those people who believe a simple solution can fix a complex problem aren't looking at the whole picture.