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Monday, Nov 19 2012 11:00 PM

SOUNDING BOARD: Do Republicans face policy problem or PR problem?

By The Bakersfield Californian

Has the Republican Party painted itself into a corner by seeming to exclude influential voting blocks, such as Hispanics, women, gays and youth? That's the question many observers, Republican and not, have been asking since Nov. 6. Should the party inch toward the center or stand on its conservative principles? Is this a policy problem or a public relations problem? The Californian asked those questions of the members of its Sounding Board. Here are some of their responses.

***

At the Republican presidential primary debates, every candidate except one stated that they did not believe in evolution or global warming. The candidate who was the first to drop out, Jon Huntsman, posted this on Twitter: "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." No, call him smart. Evolution, global warming and gravity are all facts, so when voters with educated backgrounds must choose, any Republican candidate starts out as a bad choice.

According to voting data from Fox Business News, the top 10 states with the highest percent of college graduates voted for Obama. The top 10 lowest educated states, with the exception of No. 7, Nevada, voted for Romney. Latino voters heard the phrase "self-deportation," women voters heard the phrase "defund Planned Parenthood," and Republican voters heard the phrase "the polls are all wrong." And now there's shock among the GOP because they lost the vote from college educated folks, Latinos and women. Maybe a good course on "listening" to people, scientists and other news sources would reshape the party into one I always admired. Remember four years ago: McCain/Palin ran on "cap and trade to slow down global warming," "individual mandates for health insurance" plus the McCain co-sponsored bill to provide a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants living here.

What happened to the party that now thinks all its original ideas are bad?

Dan McGuire of Bakersfield is a writer and musician.

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Former Rep. Bill Thomas of Bakersfield won popularity by being a moderate Republican. By skillfully avoiding hot-button topics, he was able to address the bigger issues facing his constituents. Any reasonable person understands that gray areas exist in everyone's experience. Strict adherence to traditional party ideals regarding personal choice issues is political suicide in today's world.

The strength of the Republican Party lies in the observation that you should not do for others what they should be doing for themselves. The idea that a hand up is better than a hand out crosses all party lines and appeals to the majority of voters. These ideals are what the main message should be.

I am still waiting for the man (or woman) with a plan. A plan that reflects a firm understanding of where we are, how we got here, and what we should do next. I have not seen this in the Democratic or Republican parties. Both are afraid to offend voters with the truth -- that many caused their own financial problems by way of irresponsibility and greed.

The Republican Party is stuck, trying to appease its biggest supporters at the expense of alienating huge blocs of voters. I guess the question the party needs to ask itself is, do we want to survive?

We have an example to follow: Bill Thomas.

Jennifer Cecero of Bakersfield operates a family business.

***

The last presidential election was a close call. There was no clear mandate for Democrats to barrel their socialist agenda down the throats of the American people. While a little more than half our electorate seemed oblivious to where our country is going, an almost equal number of American voters were anxious and wary and opted for change. The beauty of American politics, unlike in other countries with democratic pretensions, is that the two-party system works. But we should take lessons from Bill Clinton's first term when he subtly veered course from hard left to the center. With its demographic profile, America is best governed from the center.

In spite of their seeming rejection in the polls, the Republicans need not change their basic platform of government. It should uphold its conservative principles and should not subrogate them just to attract voters into its fold. That would be glorified prostitution. Like in other endeavors in life, idealism and realism come into play during election time. A realist plays the game on a situational basis. An idealist takes a long, hard look to the future, perceives what is right and sees the possible consequences.

But we are still fortunate and should be proud of what we are in America. Our elections are still relatively squeaky clean, compared to those in some "democratic" countries where an aspiring politician has to have the three G's -- guns, gold and goons -- to win an election. Our eroded middle class is still strong enough to be the basic ingredient of our democracy. It has stood the test of time, and it should be strong enough to withstand the onslaught against American principles of liberty and personal responsibility and our free enterprise system.

Manuel Fuderanan of Bakersfield is a government engineer.

***

After one of the most decisive victories for conservative values over progressive ideology in the 2010 election, the media pundits arrogantly asked, "Why don't voters understand we have the best ideas?"

Why didn't they jettison their beliefs to adjust to the voters' wishes, as conservatives are always demanded to do? That election offered a clear message of traditional conservative values that attracted huge majorities, and revealed a secret of political insiders that conservative values are attractive to Latinos and African-Americans. (See Proposition 8.)

The "root cause" of this election result is the wall of ideological apartheid the media have erected. News, movies and TV endlessly promote the progressive agenda, deriding and mocking conservatives at every opportunity. Conservatives are deemed "outside of the mainstream" -- code for banned ideology. They are not afforded tolerance and the simple understanding that, just maybe, they have a reasoned opinion and should be heard.

Instead, they are shouted down and subjected to ad hominem attacks. This is purposely done to ensure that no one dare speak openly of this banned ideology, as the price is too high. This is precisely why conservatives "whisper" out in public. What a testament to conservative ideology that it still thrives even with such hostility directed at it.

Virgil Pattarino of Bakersfield is a safety consultant.

***

Demographics are only a small part of the problem. As a registered Libertarian, and one who left the GOP many years ago, I've seen this coming for a long time. Each of the two major parties has a base that agrees with most of the party line, and a large faction that cowers against one edifice or another, in fear that the "other side" will take over and ruin their lives. To come back, the Republicans need to step away from the battle. Liberals have succeeded in "defining their opponent," owning the conversations and then the elections. Republicans need to shift their stance from the strict conservative line toward increased freedom for all.

Those in the middle aren't really "undecided," they are just not being asked the right questions, and don't have someone they really want to vote for. We mostly want to be left alone and allowed to do as we will, not forced to adopt someone else's mores or pay for their big ideas. This is what tea party groups stood for, and why their candidates have been successful. At this year's GOP convention, the tea party was brutally kicked to the curb in the interest of "solidarity" and maintaining the fictional electability of the country club candidate. If party leadership keeps believing its own press and focusing on their narrow "principles," they will continue to be more irrelevant and fail. Freedom needs to be the Republicans' watchword and new battle cry.

Fred Valenzano of Bakersfield is an engineer.

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