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Tent of white Christian men

It was a curious story, straight out of the man-bites-dog files:

“California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the chief recruiter for House Republicans, said he wants his party to select candidates based less on ideology and more on their chances of winning,” reported Bloomberg News. “The goal, [McCarthy] said, is to seek out prospects who are ethnically diverse, female, less partisan and even supportive of abortion rights.”

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And then, the punch line: “So far, these efforts are more concept than reality.”

If there’s one thing the GOP doesn’t do (other than win elections outside of the Southeast), it’s diversity. In both chambers of Congress, out of 218 total seats, Republicans are down to a single Jewish member, four Cuban-Americans (and zero non-Cuban Latinos), no African-Americans, and just 21 women. All told, 89 percent of their caucus is white, male and Christian. Meanwhile, former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed the door in the face of one of the few respected African-Americans left in the GOP, Colin Powell: “My take on it was Colin had already left the party — I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”

Less partisan prospects? Republican grassroots activists and conservative groups are gearing up to support former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio over the far more electable Gov. Charlie Crist, in large part because the governor campaigned with President Obama in support of the stimulus package. “It will be closer than it looks right now,” predicted Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, to The Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel. “It’s Crist’s race to lose but there is a pent-up animus against him from mainstream Republican voters who don’t like the fact that he’s cozied up to President Obama.”

In fact, as Weigel further reported, attendance at conservative hyper-partisan “tea parties” may be a prerequisite to grassroots acceptance of Republican candidates. “Rubio went to a tea party,” said Javier Manjarres, chairman of the South Florida-based Conservative Republican Alliance. “Where was Crist? He didn’t go to any tea parties. To stand with Obama like he did was a slap in the face of Republicans.”

Similar dynamics are taking shape in California, where conservative Chuck DeVore, gunning for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) seat, may face a primary challenge from Republican establishment-backed Carly Fiorina, in large part because her brand of politics may be a better fit statewide. DeVore’s new-media adviser (and a tea party organizer) spits, “Carly’s new to politics and has decent name recognition? We’ve been down that road before in California. His name was Arnold.” These people would rather lose with purist candidates than win with Republicans who might occasionally compromise with the enemy.

That leaves candidates who support abortion rights, and we know how that’s going to go. “The Republican Party, at this very moment, is in a tug-of-war between the country club blue-blood Rockefeller types ... who want the Republican Party to get abortion out of the party. They don’t want it to be an issue,” thundered GOP capo di tutti capi Rush Limbaugh. “They don’t like the Christians being in the party.” So, according to the top conservative Kahuna, being pro-choice is being anti-Christian. Well, that’s that.

Democratic dominance in the House and Senate has been built on Big Tent tolerance for non-doctrinaire Democrats. For Republicans to return to power, they’d have to become far more tolerant of the Arlen Specters in their party. But rather than see movement in that direction, we’re seeing the exact opposite — a retrenchment. As such, hopes for a more ethnically and ideologically diverse Republican Party will have to remain more concept than reality.



Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos
(www.dailykos.com).