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Thursday, Nov 15 2012 11:00 PM

SOUNDING BOARD: GOP's biggest issue: It's the culture, stupid!

By The Bakersfield Californian

American politics has a natural ebb and flow. One party's dominance tends to subside with time, leading to changes in the government's leadership. But some say the Republican Party has painted itself into a corner that may be difficult to escape. Is that a lot of baloney, or has the party reacted so slowly to America's changing demographics it will never be the same? Should it inch toward the center or stand on its conservative principles and simply do a better job convincing voters of its virtues? The Californian asked those questions of the members of its Sounding Board. Here are some of their responses.

Have you tried to change the culture of an organization? It's very difficult -- yet it can indeed be accomplished. However, changing the culture of any ethnic group is an entirely different matter. So what do you do? Answer: You work within existing cultures to accomplish common goals.

Conservatives laughed when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke to different ethnic groups with contrived accents. Obama and Clinton had the last laugh.

The solution is to work within each culture to find common ground. And for Republicans, there's lots of common ground! It simply hasn't been explored properly. Witness the overwhelming support by Latinos and blacks of Proposition 8, the California initiative to ban same-sex marriage. How is that consistent with the philosophy of Democrats? These two groups support many of the same social, economic, and traditional values of conservatives -- yet essential cultural connections have yet to be made. Conservatives need to work from within each separate and distinct culture.

It's not solely ethnic cultures that need to be addressed. Have you listened to the music your kids or grandkids hear? Is it the same music you enjoy? In most instances, it will be very different because they represent a different culture today. The same is true for other cultures within American society ranging from union members to evangelicals to libertarians -- and beyond.

Republicans can no longer approach separate and distinct audiences from their own cultural perspective. Their approach must be based on that of each audience to be addressed. Then find common-ground principles that surely are there.

John Pryor of Bakersfield is a risk management consultant.

A request to opine on what "What the Republican Party must do" can be interpreted as either an invitation to rewrite the party platform or to formulate campaign strategy. I will attempt to do both, at the risk of providing suggestions that reflect my views rather than those that would be accepted by the majority of Republicans.

* Reproductive issues: State that life is precious and must be protected. Since our society cannot agree when life begins, accept the status quo (Roe v. Wade) but accommodate religious objections related to abortion. Support access to contraception while accommodating religious objections.

* Taxes: Set revenue maximization as a goal. Close loopholes like those allowing investment fund manager multimillionaires to avoid income taxes. Support moderate progressive tax increases linked to spending cuts.

* Gay rights: The party of Lincoln should vocally support full rights for gays and lesbians, including civil unions and protections from discrimination.

* Public assistance: Emphasize that the goal is to help most people reach economic independence and life fulfillment. Provide support and incentives to move people to these goals. The safety net must be maintained for those who are truly needy. Waste, fraud and abuse must be eliminated to preserve resources for the most vulnerable.

* Rightsize the military: Stop talking in abstractions. The military must have the resources to keep us safe and to deter aggression, but we need a careful but hard-edged look at all military expenditures. Cuts are inevitable but should be made based on mission.

* Immigration: Support a guest worker program. Those that enroll may earn "points" to move up the list for citizenship by completing education, acquiring needed skills, paying taxes, being continuously employed and maintaining a good credit record.

* Climate change, energy and environment: We must protect the environment while growing the economy. Decisions in these areas must be made by carefully considering both costs and benefits.

John Tarjan is a Cal State Bakersfield management professor.

The Republican Party's roots are those of love for God, country and family. We cannot ever stray from those beliefs. We can open our doors, welcome both conservatives and moderates into our party. We need not be like the Amish people who still drive horse-and-buggies while living in the middle of a modern society. We need to update our party, listen to all who would come to join us to stand up for what is right, to build our country, not dissolve it.

We need to get back to instilling in our young people the excitement of having dreams and goals as well as the sense of satisfaction of achieving those goals rather than watching life drift by while someone else pays the way. This is existing, not living.

We need to better educate the public on just what we believe in, the core values that make families strong. To teach the building of businesses. Why it's the middle class that makes it possible for jobs to be available for all. How it is possible to sweep floors in a gas station or wash dishes in a restaurant and eventually own the business. We need to bring people into the Republican Party by showing the road to success.

Latino and black voters are our neighbors, friends and family members. There is no excuse to exclude them from the Republican Party. United we stand, divided we fall.

Irene Edmonds of Bakersfield is a retired homemaker.

The Republican Party has allowed itself to be cowed and intimidated by the tea party. The moderates have all but disappeared and the party leaders have refused to call out the far-right faction. The party is on the extreme side of several issues: taxes for the wealthy, abortion, immigration and marriage equality.

The Republicans carried only one demographic: White males. They lost on every other demographic: women, blacks, Latinos and youths. Conservatism is a viable point of view but the Republicans have moved it so far to the right that it only appeals to their base, not the nation as a whole.

As a Democrat, I would be pleased to see them continue on this path, but the pendulum always swings. It will be interesting to see what they do.

Carol Lair of Bakersfield is a retired social worker.

Barack Obama's re-election made it clear that Republicans failed to move people to the polls. As soon as Obama's victory was announced, it was abundantly clear from social media posts that Obama was not the choice of the majority of people posting. It is important that minorities be encouraged to vote. However, in California, many people had not yet even cast their vote when mainstream media were already reporting the winner. How is this fair? It makes people wonder why they should even vote when the system is not based on popular vote but an outdated Electoral College system that clearly failed our country.

Since I don't listen to Spanish radio, I don't know if the Republican Party carries commercials or public service announcements encouraging Latinos to get out and vote. Certainly with the proliferation of households with Internet service, perhaps we need to focus on a method of voting from home, making it easier for people. Clearly, the Republicans were not heard.

Jim A. Luff of Bakersfield is the general manager of a transportation company.

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