DOMA and Voting Rights Act: GOP's Reaction Proves They're Stuck in the Past


The Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project has reached the 100 day mark. The project was commissioned to address the growing concern that the party’s regional success was not translating into the type of effort required to sustain a national party. As Mike Gerson and Pete Wehner noted Republican policies are “very nearly identical to those offered up by the Party more than 30 years ago.”

The RNC noted that the Republican Party had lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and their message was not resonating beyond its core constituencies. The RNC set forward a plan to increase its appeal to the demographics most adverse to its policies — young women, people of color and the LGBT community.

Unfortunately the actions of its elected representatives appear to be inconsistent with that goal. Based on the recent activity of party elected officials, Republicans still appear to be largely anti-gay, anti-immigration, and hostile to women.

Moments after the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA and Proposition 8, Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp promised to exacerbate tension between the LGBT community and the Republican Party by introducing “the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) to amend the United States Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” The Kansas Congressman described the Supreme Court decision as a “radical usurpation of legislative and popular authority.”

The Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA is only the first step in the quest for equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. The hard part will be getting bipartisan agreement on modifying the laws in support of the decision. Huelskamp’s knee-jerk reaction indicates that the GOP is still not ready to support equal rights for the LGBT community.

The bipartisan immigration reform bill, of such importance to people of color, was passed by the Senate, but was met with derision by House Republicans. Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina joked that the House should “fold it up into a paper airplane and throw it out the window.” Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois said “It is a pipe dream to think that that bill is going to the floor and be voted on.” Representative Dennis Ross of Florida said “I don’t think we need to address it comprehensively, like the Senate has.”

In May, Pablo Pantoja quit his job as the Republican National Committee appointee overseeing Hispanic outreach in Florida. Pantoja announced that his resignation was prompted by a “culture of intolerance” primarily centered on what he felt was a growing anti-immigration bias in the party. The House Republican response to the Senate bill indicates that he may be correct.

Republican elected officials continue to make inappropriate comments about women as they attempt to implement ever more restrictive abortion measures throughout the country. Texas Governor Rick Perry used State Senator Wendy Davis’ background as a teen-age mom to chastise her role in blocking a restrictive abortion bill. Davis described Perry’s statements as being “without dignity.”

An all-male Republican House Judiciary Committee voted against amendments to an abortion bill that would have added enhanced protections in cases where the life of the mother was at risk and exceptions for women who were victims of rape and incest. At the hearing Rep Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) had a Todd Akin moment when he suggested that women are not likely to become pregnant via rape.

Republicans appear to have totally given up on the African-American community. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision on voting rights, Republican elected officials, with the exception of Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), were conspicuously non-committal in support of devising a bipartisan plan to ensure that voting rights remain protected. Rather, Republicans sought to move expeditiously on their voter id and redistricting plans.

Some Republicans like to “double-down” on their hostility towards African-Americans. Montgomery County, Illinois GOP Chairman Jim Allen called Erika Harold, black female Republican candidate for Illinois’ 13th Congressional seat, “a street walker” making clear his hostility towards women of color. Crystal Wright writes that Allen’s view sends the message to African Americans that “We’re not expecting you. Nor do we want you.”  

Harold can be a game changer for the party. On the other hand E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia is the type of conservative African American that does nothing but exacerbate the rift between the Republican Party and the African American community. Jackson has compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, has described gays and lesbians as being “very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally,” and believes that the social and civil rights programs of the 60s were more destructive to the black family than slavery. Jackson is so toxic that Tea Party Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli all but refuses to campaign with him.

The RNC strategy to grow the party seems to have died before it even had a chance to start. In January a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 49% of respondents gave the party a negative rating, while only 26% had a positive view of the party. In March a CNN/ORC International poll reported that the negative view of the party had increased to 54%. In May a CNN/ORC International survey showed that a record 59% of respondents had a negative view of the GOP.

This is not the growth the RNC hoped for when they commissioned the report.