Stung by an image that it’s too rigidly conservative and too “stupid” about its words and tactics, a somber Republican Party vowed Friday to change its ways.
But the party’s first meeting since the November election featured little public dialogue about how specifically to adjust, or at least tolerate, policies that would have broader appeal, particularly on guns, immigration and social issues. Few wanted to discuss where the conservative and politically difficult Tea Party movement fit.
The party re-elected Wisconsin’s Reince Priebus, 40, to a new term as chairman, but the talk centered on the need for change.
“Demographic changes in America are changes in the Democrats’ direction. We have to figure out how to make it come our way,” said Ari Fleischer, who was the White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. Fleischer is among several leaders who’ve spent recent months studying ways to expand the party’s reach.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was more blunt.
“We must stop being the stupid party,” Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential hopeful, told colleagues.
Republicans are still studying how to proceed – as Fleischer put it, they’re in the fourth inning of a nine-inning game – and throughout the meeting, which began Wednesday and is to wrap up today, they’ve been inundated with tactical ideas.
Most involved reaching deeper into communities where the party has had trouble winning votes.
President Barack Obama won 93 percent of the black vote last fall and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also lost the women’s vote.
Republican Party leaders take some solace in history, knowing that in this age of instant communication, neither political party stays up or down very long. Priebus displayed a chart recalling how, in 1988, Republicans carried California, Illinois, Connecticut and Delaware.