A Teachable Moment for the GOP

Uber-consultant Mike Murphy believes that the way forward for the Republican Party is to ditch conservatism, particularly its social variety; stop doing campaigns the way they were done 25 years ago; and push back against the Jim DeMints of the world, who recruit “unelectable” candidates.

This is a teachable moment for the GOP, and I’m glad Murphy is publicly making this argument, given that it is a good encapsulation of the message he’s been advancing for a quarter century or so. It provides an opportunity for Republicans to decide who really represents the anachronism in the room and to engage in some creative destruction likely necessary to adapt to the future.

And for this case, Murphy is an ideal spokesman. He is a millionaire thanks in large part to the ad sale commissions from countless campaigns. He represents a way of campaigning based on massive air wars, top down direction driven by ad men consultants, the time when you dominated the three television channels and controlled the narrative from on high … all methods which have proven particularly irrelevant to electoral results in the internet era. You can practically taste the longing of John Weaver for all the ads he could’ve done for a Huntsman general – let a million desert motocross heli shots bloom.

What’s really out of date here – conservative ideas and ground-up grassroots activism, or the rich guy paired with genius consultant, advertising carpet-bomb, write off the electorate as idiots approach? I am increasingly of the view that these two approaches cannot both survive as a house divided – pick one, and send it out hunting with Dick Cheney

As for Murphy’s social issues argument: as I’ve pointed out before, Mitt Romney won white voters under 30, even winning white women under 30. The youth voter barrier to the Republican Party is really the same barrier as it is for all age demographics: an ethnic barrier which concedes black, Hispanic, and Asian voters to Democrats. If abortion and gay marriage really are the decisive issues preventing Republicans from winning those voters, why aren’t they rated higher in the polling data among those voters? Is Murphy basing his argument on data, or on the same cultural biases he’s been peddling for a decade or more? And if it’s the latter, what approach is more adaptable to the future: DeMint and his unelectable social conservative recruits like Marco Rubio, or Murphy and his social liberal recruits, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Though of course, I’d have to concede Schwarzenegger understands outreach to Hispanics.

This essay was adapted from The Transom, a daily email newsletter for political and media insiders, collecting news, notes, and thoughts from around the web.

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