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Stunned by electoral losses last fall, the Republican National Committee commissioned an analysis of the GOP. It found the party had come to be defined by what it’s against, not by what it stands for. In a recent speech, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said, “Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker.” Some believe extremists have hijacked the party – hurting moderates at the polls and in Congress. In a TV interview over the weekend, former Republican Senator Bob Dole suggested he barely recognizes today’s GOP. Diane and guests assess the future of the Republican Party.
- Adam Brandon executive vice president, FreedomWorks.
- Alfonso Aguilar executive director, the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles; chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship in the George W. Bush administration.
- Michelle Bernard founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy.
- David Winston Republican strategist, president of the Winston Group and CBS News consultant. He has served as an adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Many Republicans are asking themselves if their party is broken. Polls show Republicans seem out of step with most American's on a range of key issues. A recent report on the party concluded that many voters view the GOP as narrow-minded and dominated by stuffy old men. And there is growing concern over divisiveness within the party between moderate and Tea Party Republicans.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about the future of the GOP: David Winston of the Winston Group, Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks and Alfonso Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. I hope you'll join our conversation. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you and welcome.
MS. MICHELLE BERNARDGood morning.
MR. DAVID WINSTONGood morning.
MR. ADAM BRANDONGood morning, Diane.
MR. ALFONSO AGUILARThanks for having us.
REHMGood to have you all here. I'd like to begin the conversation by hearing a tiny portion of the interview that Chris Wallace conducted with former Senator Bob Dole on "Fox News Sunday."
MR. BOB DOLEI think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs until New Year's Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.
MR. CHRIS WALLACEYou describe the GOP of your generation as Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans. Could people like Bob Dole, even Ronald Reagan, could you make it in today's Republican Party?
DOLEI doubt it. And I -- Reagan wouldn't have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn't have made it because he had ideas.
REHMDavid Winston, let me start with you. What did you think about those comments?
WINSTONWell, I mean, I -- he represents, I think, one area of frustration although I disagree that Reagan or Nixon or a variety of other previous officials couldn't have succeeded in this party because it does come back to the one thing that I think there is agreement, and that is we need to have ideas as a party. And I would suggest that one of the things that we've showed in 2010 when John Boehner focused just on the idea of the pledge, winning issues, that was obviously a successful dynamic for Republicans as we've won women.
WINSTONWe got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote. But when we turned it around and decided it was just going to be a referendum on the president and somehow, our candidate didn't matter, it's just about Barack Obama -- President Obama and where he was and what we had to say as ideas didn't mater in that political construct, I think what you saw is sort of the -- our political operatives taking control of the policy process in a way that was just not helpful at the Republican Party.
REHMDavid Winston is Republican strategist, president of the Winston Group. Turning to you, Michelle Bernard, what ideas do you believe the Republican Party stands for today?
BERNARDWell, here's the problem: I don't know that anyone clearly understands what the Republican Party stands for today. It is fractured. It is splintered. There is what I -- with nothing but kindness -- call the normal Republicans in the Republican Party who are people who, I believe, are good on economic issues but are also good on issues that deal with civil rights and personal liberties. There is the Tea Party fraction of the Republican Party that we see engaged in this budget battle right now on Capitol Hill. And it creates a large problem for the country.
BERNARDI will tell you, when I heard Bob Dole's comments as a woman and as an African-American, I thought something very different than a lot of other people thought. I thought, hallelujah, Bob Dole gets it because, in the Republican Party, there is a problem with women. There is a problem with African-Americans. There's a problem with regard to immigration. There's a problem with religious liberties. And a lot of people are unable to -- they get so wrapped up into the economics. They don't understand how important these issues are as well.
REHMMichelle Bernard, she's a conservative political analyst, founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. Adam Brandon, as executive vice president of FreedomWorks -- and that's a Tea Party-affiliated political action group -- what do you believe the Republican Party stands for today?
BRANDONWell, there's what you hear they stand for and then there's what they actually do in practice. So I guess my main concern is that, you know, it's nice to say you're for lower deficits, you're for making the government more efficient, but where's the actual action? So one of my main concerns is that, if you look at the deficit right now, $360 billion a year in interest, if we go back to just the historical average, about 5 percent, that's $1 trillion a year in just interest payments, so what I'm looking for is a Republican Party that's actually serious about getting that debt deficit and budget under control.
REHMDo you think that Republican Party is, in any way, fractured about that deficit and getting it under control?
BRANDONWell, I think that's the debate between the old the new guard. Tim Scott, Ted Cruz, they're very serious about getting it under control. Mike Lee, you know, Bob Dole, when I was hearing his comments, I'm thinking that sounds like the old guard giving way to the new guard.
REHMThe old guard giving way to the new guard. Alfonso Aguilar, you're executive director of the Latino partnership for conservative principles. You were chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship in the George W. Bush administration. How do you see the Republican Party today?
AGUILARWell, I agree with some of what has been said, but at this point, I think we're confronted with two poles within the Republican Party. And one, I think, it's dominated by the establishment. I think the establishment controls the structure of the Republican National Committee. I think they're looking at promoting candidates who only focus on the economy. They want to toss aside social issues that are important to our base, issues like marriage, life. But even on the economy, they don't -- they haven't developed a populist economic message that connects with the working class.
AGUILARAnd we saw it in the last election with Gov. Romney. That, I think, articulated a very elitist economic message about, you know, entrepreneurs. But the reality is that the majority of Americans are not entrepreneurs. They're working class. And we need to have populist conservatives like Ronald Reagan defended. I think on the other pole, we have strong conservatives who I agree with 100 percent. But sadly, many of them...
REHMOn what? On what issues?
AGUILAROn the importance of reducing the size of government, on doing away with the debt, on reforming our monetary policy and going back to sound money policies, on state rights, but also on life and marriage, being full conservatives like Ronald Reagan was. But some of them, however, have a hard time opening themselves to Latinos.
AGUILARAnd on immigration, instead of going back to the principles that Ronald Reagan stood for, who was pro immigration, they have adopted a restrictionist narrative that is really not conservative. So those are the poles that we have right now within the -- with the Republican Party, and we need to find a way of standing on principle but engaging communities like the Latino community.
REHMAdam Brandon, you know as well as I do that many people who consider themselves moderate Republicans blame the Tea Party activists for creating these divisions. How do you see it?
BRANDONWell, I see Tea Party activists actually at the dead center of American politics. They're saying we can't spend money we don't have, end of story. And when I look at -- through that lens, that's the core issue. I think that's what we did well, you know, heard earlier talking about 2010. If we stick on that issue, we're going to do fine.
BRANDONI believe the -- leading with that concern right now, we're -- everyone's talking about jobs, creating jobs. I think most Americans, they may not -- they're not necessarily looking for a job. They're not worried about losing their job. But they know the job they have is not getting it done like it used to.
REHMWhat about the issues that Michelle raised, the issues of women and family and that kind of issue?
BRANDONWell, one of the problems -- I think we'll always struggle as conservatives -- is we have a hard time locking people into different groups. We're trying to look at it as, what are the policies that are going to be good for all Americans? And I know I always struggle trying to figure out what policies are going to be good for women, what policies are going to be good for Asian-Americans. I'm trying to figure out what policies are going to be good for everyone. So...
BERNARDI just want to raise a quick point. One of the things that sometimes gets lost in discussions when we talk about the Tea Party -- as a woman, I feel it's important to mention it -- is that a lot of the very, very early Tea Party activists were women. Some of them supported Hillary Clinton. Some of them were self-identified independents, Republicans and Democrats, who basically said, you know what, a pox on both of your houses.
BERNARDI can't run my household like this. The U.S. government should not be permitted to run their household like this. We have to live within a budget, and we want the country to change. And I salute those women, and I salute those people who are part of the Tea Party. With regard to the Republican Party at large, you cannot just look at the economy.
BERNARDAnd I know that people are reticent to look at people in terms of voting blocks -- African Americans, Asians, Hispanics -- however, that is the reality of the nation that we still live in in 2013. And when you have, for example, state-elected officials who are Republicans who go out and talk about the Equal Pay Act and say, well, for example -- and I'm paraphrasing here.
BERNARDBut a state person in Wisconsin, who said, one could argue that money is more important to men that it is to women. How many Republican women are going to vote for him? How many women, period, are going to vote for somebody who says -- hearkens back to the days when women "used aspirin as birth control" or when people make negative comments about African-Americans and Hispanics. That's not an inclusive party.
REHMMichelle Bernard, David Winston, Adam Brandon, Alfonso Aguilar. We'll take a short break here. I see we have many callers who'd like to join the conversation. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. There are four people with me in the studio representing different facets or factions of what is known as the GOP. The Republican Party under somewhat of a strain because of the pressure coming from those very, very conservative Republicans, the Tea Party members and those in the more liberal faction.
REHMHere in studio, David Winston, he is a Republican strategist. Michelle Bernard is a conservative political analyst. Adam Brandon, he's with FreedomWorks. That's a Tea Party affiliated political action group. And Alfonso Aguilar, he is with the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. David Winston, explain what's going on in the Senate and why the Tea Party freshmen are stalling reconciliation on the budget, which as you've heard Adam Brandon say, money is at the top of the Tea Party list of priorities.
WINSTONWell, if I could actually explain the Senate...
WINSTON...give me a Ph.D. somewhere, I don't know.
WINSTONBut anyway, what's going on in the Senate in terms of the budget reconciliation is you have Tea Party folks, members who have been particularly focused on this whole idea of the debt ceiling, creating a budget dynamic where the debt ceiling doesn't -- does not go up at all and having that be a part of the reconciliation.
WINSTONThen you got another faction in terms of Republicans who simply want to get this to conference. Conference being in the House has passed a budget, getting a budget of some form from the Senate to that conference where the House and Senate meet and trying to resolve that. My sense is the concern from the Tea Party folks is, once it goes to conference, that a lot of those concerns would be dropped out, specifically in terms of not raising the debt ceiling.
WINSTONBut I think what this gets to is a much broader discussion of the economy that is going on with the party. And that is, is this about -- and what the president is trying to do to Republicans is make the Republican Party the party of austerity.
WINSTONAnd you can see it in a lot of the economic arguments that are emerging from the Democratic side, that if we become the party of austerity, then President Obama and the Democrats become the party of economic growth. And to some degree, that reverts us back to sort of the late '70s, where Jerry Ford, in terms of budget cutting, was perceived as the party of austerity. And the fight between he and Reagan was, was it going to be about economic growth or austerity? And that fight has now begun to reemerge again.
REHMHow do you see that, Alfonso?
AGUILARWell, I mean, I think that the Tea Party conservatives are reclaiming the mantle of Reagan. I mean, I think the Tea Party was inspired by Reagan. Reagan was a polarizing figure. He didn't compromise. And I think on this -- I mean, look, we have a debt of about -- over $6.5 trillion. We cannot continue giving a -- extending the credit to Congress.
AGUILARAnd I think we have to be principle and make the point that we cannot continue raising the debt ceiling. So, yes, I think standing on principle means that we're going to have this type of confrontation. But it is essential for the future of the country. We have to stand on principle.
REHMMichelle, there are four Tea Party freshmen -- Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio -- who say they're not going to budge.
BERNARDIt is absolutely fascinating to watch. It is one of the things that makes our democracy exactly what it is today. You -- I mean, this is really unprecedented. If you think about what they've done, they have joined forces with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They have voted against or, you know, sort of come out against their own Republican Party 11 times to block a conference debate going forward on the budget.
REHMAnd that's why I'm wondering about what David Winston said, that it's actually President Obama who's trying to make the Republican Party the party of austerity.
BERNARDWell, what this four-member Tea Party faction is doing what they were elected by their constituents to do. We live in a representative democracy. I think I read a quote recently that the president of the Tea Party Express -- I believer her name is Anne Kerner (sic) -- said they're doing what we want them to do.
BERNARDWe didn't vote them in to be a part of the old guard. We have asked them to go in and dismantle the old guard. That is what they are doing. Here's the problem for the Republican Party: How do you complain about President Obama and Senate Democrats' -- Senate and House Democrats' inability or alleged inability to pass a budget four years in a row?
BERNARDAnd now Republicans can't do the same. You know, we see this outside bickering. I think it is good for the democracy in the short term, but only in the short term. In the long term, they've got to come together because the American public just wants our government to work. We don't want dysfunction. We want a government that works. And they've got to figure out a way to compromise and move forward.
REHMAnd is the money what the American people want to see happen? Is it at the top of their list?
BERNARDI don't know that the debt ceiling, whether we raise it or not, is at the top of the list. I think at the top of the list -- and this is anecdotal, my personal opinion -- is the economy, job creation, the unemployment rate, particularly in communities of color, the ability to get credit and to open businesses, education reform. I don't think your average American sits at the kitchen table and talks about the budget ceiling and whether or not it should be raised. They want jobs.
MS. ADAM BRANDONWell, I don't think this is a debate between austerity and growth. I think this is a debate between, you know, fiscal order and becoming a nation like Greece. And I don't see how -- I mean, Greece has just given away several generations of growth because of their debt problem. And that's what we're trying to avoid in this country.
WINSTONYou know, but I have to say what the president...
WINSTON...what the president is doing, and he's been doing this for a while, sort of using the French model in terms of what happened, in terms of the French elections, where the conservatives there were perceived as the party of austerity. And the Left Party in France was viewed as the part of economic growth, and he saw that success. He's just simply trying to duplicate that. And I -- let me go back to one other point in terms of the whole concept of focus on balancing the budget and spending.
WINSTONThat was the big debate between George H. Bush and Ronald Reagan. George H. Bush was very much of everything had to be focused on balancing the budget first, and then you could deal with the tax cuts. Reagan was very adamant in him saying, yes, the deficit is important, but we have to get the economy growing first. And that was the fundamental fight that occurred in the late '70s was in the Republican Party that Reagan won.
REHMAll right. And here you have moderate Senate Republicans who want to name a conference committee to reconcile these differences between the Democrat-led Senate budget and the GOP-controlled House. Don't you have to get somewhere, David?
WINSTONOh, yeah, no. And I think what your...
REHMHow long is it going to go on, though?
WINSTONBut I think part of what's occurring here, and this is a good thing in terms for the Republican Party, is you've got a lot of disparate points of view, and somehow, there's got to be a resolution through discussion in terms of doing that. We are clearly not there yet, I mean, as being seen in terms of occurring in the Senate at this point.
REHMWhat's it going to take to get there, Adam?
BRANDONYou got to see some actual change. We have to see that Washington is changing its ways. I take -- I think the firs step was the sequestration, where there were some miscalculations that this new group of Republicans, well, we're not going to cut defense. Like, we'll talk a big game, but we're not going to do it. And then stone-faced, they were like, sure, you know, every single department, every single...
BRANDONEverything should be on the table.
REHMCut everything. And now they're putting things back in.
BRANDONWell, this is why -- I mean, getting back to the Senate is an odd creature. But if you look at some of these -- the same senators that we keep coming back to, what -- I think we're at the very beginning of a process. And the process at the end is going to be that we're actually, you know, the debt is narrowing. The deficit's getting under control.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about some of the other issues. Alfonso, what about Tea Party Republicans and the old guard on immigration?
AGUILARWell, let me say that there's not a monolithic position on the GOP and immigration clearly. But there's not a monolithic position within the Tea Party on immigration. What unites the Tea Party is an aversion to big government. There have been efforts in the past to try to get in different Tea Party proclamations and statements against immigration.
AGUILARBut they never made it to those statements because there are a lot of Tea Partiers who actually are very supportive of immigration reform. I think this is an issue where we have to be constructive with -- clearly, if we're going to be competitive at the national level -- with Latino voters, and we have to if we're going to -- if we want to recapture the White House, we have to get this issue right. But it's not a matter of moving to the center or adopting a liberal position. It's actually embracing the pro-family, pro-market principles that let Ronald Reagan to be for immigration reform.
BERNARDThere's a -- there was someone who was quoted, I think, during the 2012 election cycle that said, you know, Hispanics or Latinos are the new black, meaning that, you know, this is the group that we -- that people need to focus on, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to attract their voting bloc. And what we saw in 2012, what we saw is that the Republican Party has lost a large number of Hispanics who voted for George Bush in the -- in his first two election cycles...
BERNARD...because of the rhetoric. The rhetoric has been horrible. For example, during the last election cycle, claims that the DREAM Act were going to be a magnet for illegals just was a very insane -- an inane and insane comment to make.
BERNARDHow we talk about people who are living in the country, who are making a concerted effort to help us be a -- the nation of immigrants that we have always been, and to talk about people in such a negative way, the immigration reform legislation that we saw passed in Alabama and in Arizona and states all across the country, those are all absolutely un-American. They don't have anything to do with the principles that the country stands on. And if that continues to happen, Republicans will continue to lose the Hispanic vote.
BRANDONOne problem that we have in talking with one of our staffers, Ana Puig, who's from South America, she mentioned that the GOP talks to her every four years and then goes away. When you look at the other side, they're outside, in the churches, they're in the community, and they're talking and they're there, and we have to be there. And this gets to another larger problem of the GOP. I don't think the GOP is going to solve this problem. It's the grass roots. It's the bottom-up approach of getting out into the community that's going to solve this problem.
BERNARDAnd there's this whole question of listening. You know, one of the -- one of my favorite examples of the importance of listening for the Republican Party because Democrats listen. Right after President Bush was elected for a second term, he had a -- held a meeting at the White House with African-American leaders. I attended the meeting. And what you saw were most of the people that were there were ministers, people in business, most of whom were Democratic.
BERNARDThese ministers had overwhelmingly Democratic congregations, and the president didn't say, I want your vote. He said, what are the issues that are important to you? And what we heard was HIV and AIDS in Africa, gay marriage, abortion rights. And for the African-American community, that was there, meaning anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage. And what we saw was a translation in policy by the Bush administration.
BERNARDGeorge Bush will probably go down in history, as of today, as doing more for HIV/AIDS in Africa than any other president in U.S. history. He came out against gay marriage, which is not my personal viewpoint, but I'm just saying that's what happened in the meeting. He was anti-abortion, right. This is what this community wanted to hear, and George Bush got eight to 9 percent of the African-American vote. There are people who say that's no big deal. Well, ask John McCain, who only got 4 percent of the African-American vote in 2008. It's a huge deal.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Alfonso.
AGUILARYeah. I think it's important to underscore that immigration is not the most important issue for Latinos, but it's important. It's a gateway issue. If we don't get it right, they're just going to tune us out. They just don't listen to us. However, if we do get it right, if we're constructive on this issue, if we're able to get immigration reform out of Congress, they're going to be responsive to the conservative agenda.
AGUILARThey're very socially conservative, extremely entrepreneurial. They're opening businesses three times as fast -- than the national average. So we have -- we can make inroads. It's not a monolithic community that we're going to lose for a generation. If we get immigration right, we can make inroads.
WINSTONIn terms of looking at the Hispanic vote and looking at specifically the issue of immigration versus other issues, yes, it's an important issue. But the bottom line is, for Hispanics, overwhelmingly, in the exit polls, the economy was the number one issue. If, in fact, the immigration issue had been the sole focus, John McCain should have done much better than the 30 percent that he did.
WINSTONAnd, in fact, what you saw when Republicans focused on the economy and laid out the economic argument, that grew from 38 -- 30 percent of the Hispanic vote to 38 percent in 2010. And, by the way, we won women. And so what you need to do is start with the numbers, really lay out, in fact, what the reaction of communities are to what political parties are saying.
REHMAll right. And, Michelle, I want to turn to the issue of women. Are Republicans making gains among women voters?
BERNARDNo. Absolutely not, and there's no reason for Republicans not to. And there are women who will hang in there with the Republican Party and will continue to press the Republican Party when it comes to being smart about women. First, I should say that every woman I know will tell you that all issues are women's issues. There's not a quote, unquote, you know -- for example, there might be issues that are more important to women than others: for example, health care, the Violence Against Women Act.
BERNARDThose are issues that are maybe -- women pay more attention to, but all issues are women's issues. Women care about how they are treated in the workforce. They are -- they care about education. They care about national security. However, every four years, when the Republican Party wakes up and says, wow, we need the women's vote, let's see how stupid we can be about it this election cycle, women listen.
BERNARDSo everything that happened in the debate about the Violence Against Women Act was critical. All of the comments made about birth control hearken back to discussions that took place in the 1970s. People thought these issues are way behind us, and we're talking about them in 2012. If you're going to go back to the Stone Ages, women are going to vote for another party.
REHMAll right. I want to mention that the recent favorability polls show Republicans are at a low point, and that's despite Benghazi, the IRS, the AP phone record seizure. So why is that, David?
WINSTONWell, because all those are problems with the other party, right? That's nothing to do -- I mean, so the moral equivalent is saying, gee, I'm Chrysler, and Ford's having a real tough time, so the Chrysler brand should somehow get better because Ford's struggling. And...
REHMBut Republicans are pursuing those issues front and center.
WINSTONOne -- no. And here -- and here's where you get to a big moment in terms of what the Republican Party's got to sort of come back to. What John Boehner did in 2010, by coming up with a pledge, is he basically said, here's what you get when you -- with the Republican majority. He defined that. Now, the question, obviously, in the election was did that matter to people or not? And at least in that particular case, yes, it did.
WINSTONThe problem you have at this point is that if you take a look at our political discourse in terms of our campaigns, I would suggest that most -- if the Democratic candidate didn't exist, most of our campaigns wouldn't know what to say. And what does that do? That means that we don't get a chance to improve our brand at all because we don't define what you get with the Republican majority.
REHMDavid -- Republican strategist David Winston. When we come back, it's time to open the phones, take your questions, comments. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd, of course, we're talking about the Republican Party, its various factions. During the break, Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, which is a Tea Party affiliated political action group, put it well. He said the Republican Party is at a crossroads. Let's open the phones now, first, to Bradenton, Fla. Good morning, Tyler.
REHMHi there. Go right ahead.
TYLERHi. Long time listener. I'm a big fan. Thank you for taking my call.
TYLERI just wanted to make a -- kind of shift it away from financial policy towards social policy. And as a marketing guy, I always look at politics kind of through that lens. And it seems that with the two party system right now, there is one party that seems as more or less inclusive on immigration, gay marriage, most social issues.
TYLERAnd then you have a party that seems just -- from a general sense is kind of exclusive and kind of closed to those things. And I'm wondering, like, long term -- excuse me -- if there an issue that the Republican Party can lead on and be seen as not just a group begrudgingly accepting to get votes but actually taking initial stand as a leader.
BRANDONI would say school choice is the first thing that comes to mind there. This is one that's going to cut across all communities. Education is important to the Hispanic voters, it's important to rural voters, it's important to everyone. And our education system needs a lot of work.
REHMAll right. To David in Lexington, Mass. Good morning.
DAVIDHi, Diane, love your show.
DAVIDRepublicans may have a diversity problem, but they do not have an immigration problem. Even American voters of Hispanic extraction support a national mandatory E-Verify, that's the policy that would encourage self-deportation by a whopping 69 percent. Latinos are Democrats, like Jews, which is my ethnicity, and African Americans, and immigration is not the partisan issue...
REHMAll right. Michelle.
BERNARDI absolutely disagree, and I think that we are using the term immigration in different ways that are confusing. But here is the bottom line. You have to look at policy. You have to look at the principles that the country allegedly stands for. And we are at a crossroads. We have to decide. Do we want to stand for a country that believes in freedom for all, or are we going to be bigots?
BERNARDThe immigration laws that we have seen passed in Alabama and Arizona that basically give people, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, permission to engage in racial profiling are anti-Hispanic. They are anti-American. They have been embraced by too many people in the Republican Party. And that, I believe, is going to drive Hispanic voters to the Democratic Party.
REHMAll right. Here is an email from Dominic in Washington. He says, "How can the Republican Party expect to grow or even keep the numbers it has if they're alienating young people who support abortion rights and gay marriage. Every college-age person I know thinks the GOP has been taken over by big business, the Tea Party and the religious right. And they feel disenfranchised by their knee-jerk turn to the right until the GOP embraces the enviable progress on social issues. It will continue to struggle to be viable." Alfonso.
AGUILARI disagree with that completely. In fact, the establishment would actually agree with that email that we have to stop talking about the right to life and marriage. I don't believe we're losing elections because we have pro-life candidates and candidates that believe in the sanctity of marriage. Those voters who vote exclusively for those issues are going to vote for the conservative candidate.
AGUILARIndependents, young, are not voting primarily because of those issues. They're voting because of economic issues. If we don't talk about social issues, we lose our base. We have to be careful that in this effort to be inclusive that we end up with a nice big tent but that it's very empty.
BRANDONWhen you look back at the last presidential contest, who won Republican primary voters under 30? It was Ron Paul. And it certainly wasn't for his persona, his charisma. It was because of his issues. And I believe what you saw with the Ron Paul movement, what you see with the support that Ron Paul had on his filibuster over drones, that's a sneak peek into the future.
REHMAll right. To Daniel in Dallas, Texas. Good morning.
DANIELYes. Alfonso touched on my point that I wish to make. The Republic Party, I think that their faith in religion is what is holding them back on their social issues, which prevents a dialogue, a more -- a mature dialogue on economic issues. So I'd like Alfonso to share his position if he can on gay marriage and abortion. And I'd also like to make a comment that I believe if the Republicans are to survive, they need to return to reconstruction era ideas of like amending the Constitution to enshrine people's rights. That's your job as Republican.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling.
AGUILARYeah. Well, I think that to build a winning coalition, we have to go to the Reagan motto of the three-legged stool, stronger national security, strong on family values, life, marriage...
REHMYou're not answering his question. He wants you to clarify your position on gay marriage and abortion.
AGUILAROh. I believe we should protect life from conception to natural death. I think that we should defend the institution of marriage between one man and one woman and because it's an institution based on natural law, not because of religious reasons. Natural law predates...
REHMAll right. Now, where does that leave young voters, Michelle?
BERNARDThat leaves many young voters completely alienated. We are in a nation now where many -- most young voters and many people believe as I do, which is that anyone who wants to get married should be able to get married. Many young people are not pro-life but believe that a woman has the ability to choose, and they're going to feel alienated.
BERNARDAnd if I could just add very quickly, when you've got very loud mouth, super conservative, ultra-right radio hosts take over the Republican Party, people like Rush Limbaugh, people like Ann Coulter, there is a feeling in the -- to many disenfranchised voters right now and to many members of the American public that no one in this room, for example, speaks for the Republican Party, that the Republican Party are those people and that disenfranchises most of the nation.
REHMDavid Winston, what about that half right-wing radio host began to speak and direct the conservative wing of the Republican Party?
WINSTONThat I would consider a direct -- the discourse, I mean, that's clear what they're interested, and they've got a significant following, and those individuals tend to agree with them and...
REHMAnd they tend to be politically active.
WINSTON...and they're politically active. But I think there's another element here and part of this discussion is frustrating in that regard. And I think this is why the country instead looks at the Republican Party, and they're listening to discussion right in there, and they're hearing literally what just went back and forth here. And what they can't translate, then that's really interesting. What does that mean to my life? I've got to pay a mortgage tomorrow.
WINSTONI've got to figure out the health care bills for my children. I've got to figure out how to send my kid to school, right, and you're having that conversation? To some degree, that was very reflective of why we won in 2010. The president decided jobs and economy secondary to getting my health care bill through, that it was the health care system that was the most important thing and it wasn't. John Boehner, again, had it right. Where are the jobs in terms of -- that was the number one issue, and that's what drove things. And that's the problem we're having.
REHMBut let's be clear. Let's be clear. President Obama won the 2012 election...
WINSTONOh. No -- and that...
REHM...and it was not just because of the health plan.
WINSTONNo. I mean, I'll tell you why he won in 2012.
REHMLet's not talk about that.
WINSTONNo, no, no, no, no, no, no.
REHMLet's talk about what's happening to the Republican Party.
WINSTONNo, my -- no, my point to -- no. But that's my point, Diane, is the -- one of the key reasons why he won is because we decided to make it a referendum on him. We didn't offer any alternative. We didn't offer a choice.
REHMAnd are you now offering a choice?
BERNARDAnd I will tell you, I don't see the choice that is being offered in any way that matters. The talk about the economy is absolutely critical, particularly if you are a person who is a person of color. The unemployment rate for African-American has been double that of whites for many, many years now. It is absolutely critical. But here's the bottom line, I think we have to remember that in a society where white people are very close to becoming the majority -- minority, the issues that are important that deal with civil rights and civil liberties are going to continually trump the economy.
BERNARDBecause as an African-American woman, I can't go out and consciously vote for a party that basically makes me feel like there is no room for me in that party because there is disdain for African-Americans, for women, for Hispanics, for Muslims. It's a huge problem. We can't just put it aside and say the economy trumps all because it doesn't.
BRANDONWell, I -- we -- often, when you hear a presidential campaign, everyone talks about job creation or people are concerned on keeping their jobs. I think the main issue -- and I think we've touched on it -- is that, OK, I have a job. I'm not worry about losing my job, but what does that job get me and my family? And then it usually comes back to health care and education. You know, I'm leaving the studio today. I'm going down to Louisiana to address 200 black conservatives who are, you know, they want to get more involved.
BRANDONI know there's this interest out there when people look around their community and they see these problems that you've been referencing. And I believe our policies, our vision is -- it's a change, it's something cool and different that we could bring. We just need to get out into these communities and say, hey, this is what I believe.
REHMHere's an email from Luke in Caledonia, Mich. who says, "I sway towards the libertarian and the political spectrum, but I cannot vote for the Republican Party. As it currently stands, the Tea Party wing seems to hold everyone else hostage during the primaries. They claim to be a wing of the party which purely advocates libertarian values. But whenever they open their mouths, they start talking about religion, abortion and all kinds of social issues. I am completely turned off." Adam.
BRANDONRight. And I think I referenced earlier that if you look at Rand Paul and Ron Paul, you're getting a snapshot of the future. But if you look at Mike Lee and you look at Ted Cruz and you look at Tim Scott, these are all the future rising stars. They do have a small libertarian message. And I have to -- I'm -- outside of a few candidates that put their foot in their mouth in the last cycle, when I'm listening to the folks that are actually speaking, those senators I just mentioned, they're leading with the issues. I think they're making the impact to matter.
REHMAll right. To Charlotte, N.C. Good morning, Chris.
CHRISHey. Good morning, Diane. I just want to thank you for covering these topics. It is critical to our country, so thank you. You know, I -- first, I just want to mention, you know, I think the Republican Party is probably a generation behind in their thinking socially. But I wanted to focus on the economic side 'cause that's kind of where I'm closest to.
CHRISI did -- it just seems to me -- I'm just wondering why the American public, the leaders, Congress, everybody in general is sort of, I think, ignoring the reality -- I consider it the reality -- the last 30 to 40 years of over -- massive overspending, you know, somehow led to this economy of $14 trillion annual GDP.
CHRISAnd somehow we can, you know, after we had the implosion in '08 and '09 largely, in my opinion, because of that massive overspending building up over those three decades, somehow we can overspend even more through tax cuts or increase government spending to get our way out of it. I just think us trying to grow from here when the last 30-plus years really is just a mirage built on overspending, I think, is insanity. So...
REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Adam, would you like to comment?
BRANDONWell, I agree wholeheartedly with the caller there. You know, you can't -- we have -- when we're talking about growth and we're talking about all these issues, I mean, debt, deficit economy, to me, they're all the same issue. If you have -- we're setting ourselves up for a very dangerous potential crisis, debt crisis, and then all bets are off.
REHMBut he is also saying if you continued to talk about tax cuts, when the last three decades have been filled with spending, spending, spending that you are heading in the wrong direction.
BRANDONThat's also why you have a Tea Party movement that has been critical not just to Republicans and Democrats, it's critical of what's been happening over the last 30 years. And this gets back to one of those conversations we are having about compromise. What you're looking for is not a compromise that continues to kick the can down the roads. We have -- we continue to have these debates. We're actually trying to have a real national debate that's going to solve these problems.
WINSTONAnd here is where you get to one of the -- he referred to tax cuts as spending, right? And to some degree, that's how people look in terms of the context of the deficit. Ronald Reagan -- going back to Reagan principles -- look at tax cuts as the means by which you grow the economy and actually generate revenue. And I'd go back -- and you've heard me do this before, so sorry to do it to you again.
WINSTONBut in 2003, when the Bush tax cuts were passed, by 2007, revenues have gone up $800 billion a year, the largest expansion of revenue in the history of the country, right? And to some degree, that's the sort of thinking that coalesce the Republican Party together in terms of that being the focus. The question is, now, how do we sort of take those elements that clearly succeeded and begin to rebuild a direction?
REHMAll right. And final point from Anthony in New York City. Good morning. You're on the air.
ANTHONYHi, Diane. Thanks for your show.
ANTHONYI just wanted to say that I'm a younger person. I'm 22 years old. And I am a Republican. And I just wanted to say how I noticed that a lot of people that are my age, they want to go to the right. They want to be a little conservative. They want to learn more about constitutionality over other things. But what seems to get in their way, you know, although they agree with a lot of conservative ideals, a lot of Republicans ideals, is that they'll know a couple friends that, you know, who are pro-abortion or pro-choice or they have a couple gay friends.
ANTHONYAnd what happens is they get caught up on these one or two social issues. And then, therefore, they feel like they can't follow into the right. So it kind of -- I guess what my message is to the panel is that there are lot of people of my age that are looking for those one or two social views to kind of be let go by the Republican Party so that they can jump on board.
BERNARDAbsolutely. I mean, he is -- at his age, he is the wave of the future. And these are kids. I know he doesn't think of himself as a kid, but these are kids, at least compared to me, who believe in civil rights and gay marriage is a civil right -- and the economy -- it absolutely makes sense. But people -- if we're going to be smart about this, we've got to remember, civil liberties are critical to pursuing everything that America promises we can be as a nation.
REHMSo you see the future of the Republican Party as representative or represented by Rand Paul and the Tea Party?
BRANDONAnd I would say the small L, libertarian wing. And one thing I'd like to point out, though, is Dr. Paul and his son Rand Paul, they're actually both -- they're against abortion. But that's not the issues that they lead with and that they're popular with 22-years-olds.
REHMAnd Michele Bachmann's decision not to run, what does that tell you?
BERNARDI -- it just tells me that it was a smart move. Quite honestly, I don't think that the country is interested in candidates like Michele Bachmann.
REHMMichelle Bernard, David Winston, Adam Brandon, Alfonso Aguilar, thank you all so much.
REHMWe could have gone on...
REHM...for many hours. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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