Republican leaders have one message to Tea Party candidates in the wake of the 2012 election walloping they took: shut up.
The party is split on how to regroup and move forward into the 2014 midterm elections and bridge the gap between the electable, moderate Republican establishment candidates and the social conservatives that the base wants. But while the party may not be able to agree on how to bridge that gap they can agree that their candidates need to do a better job keeping their mouths shut. “We need to do a good job of recruiting; our candidates need more training, keep their foots out of their mouth,” Tea Party Senate Leader Jim DeMint told POLITICO. “There’s a reason why most politicians talk in sanitized sound bites: Once you get out of that, you’re opening yourself up to get attacked.”
The problem for Republicans is not simply that their candidates keep getting caught saying horrific things while holding a microphone. The problem for Republicans is that its extremist base holds beliefs that are horrific to any reasonable person. And even their most sanitized candidates will still make a “legitimate rape” style comment. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is the perfect example here. His beliefs do not differ at all from Akin’s yet Paul’s misogyny gets little play in the press. Akin isn’t the exception in the party and he never was.
If Republicans are successful in this strategy and they manage to better groom their candidates to avoid speaking the truth about the party’s platform on women’s rights and the paternalism it endorses then it will be incumbent on women’s rights advocates to not relent in holding the entire party accountable for its platform. The Republicans want to change the subject but we can’t let them.
There is one other possible outcome. In this process Republicans could purge from their ranks the extremists who have taken over the party. Republicans could sway moderate on women’s issues, civil rights and finally join the conversation about how to address some of the very real problems facing this country. They could, in short, reform and catch up with the electorate that is currently leaving the party in droves.
Photo from DonkeyHotey via flickr.