CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “Change,” long the mantra of Barack Obama and the Democrats, is now clearly the watchword for Republicans such as Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan. The need for a Republican reset was repeatedly driven home at the party’s annual winter meeting here last week.
The appeal for reform is coming from unexpected quarters within the GOP — including religious conservatives who appear to be moving toward a more libertarian view of the government’s role on same sex-marriage and other divisive social issues.
“Change will require rethinking such important questions as whether marriage is an institution of government or the church, how to realistically address 10 million illegal immigrants in our country and under what circumstances should our sons and daughters be sent to war.”
Virtually every top-name Republican who addressed the party meeting last week urged the GOP to change its image to be more welcoming of people who disagree with it on immigration, same-sex marriage and war — without straying from the party’s core principles.
“How to reach out to new Republicans without alienating old Republicans — it’s a thorny issue and that is part of what we have to work through over the next several months,” said Tennessee RNC member John Ryder. “I think it can be done, but I don’t think we have the answer yet. It will mean listening outside the bubble of conservative media.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told a gathering of Ohio Republican officials on Saturday that the GOP needs to be more welcoming to people who disagree with core GOP tenets on social issues such as same-sex marriage.
“We’re going to have to be a little hands off on some of these issues … and get people into the party,” Mr. Paul said.
Despite the risks of change, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and every other leader to take the podium in Charlotte insisted it could and must be done.
“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party,” Mr. Jindal told the 168-member Republican National Committee. “It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”
“We are the pro-life party and are going to remain so, but that doesn’t mean we have to talk about it 60 minutes out of every hour, seven days a week,” said former RNC general counsel David Norcross. “You should state your pro-life position and move on to things that are of interest to a broader range of people — jobs, economic growth, the national debt — even if many of those people disagree with you on abortion.”
“I oppose same-sex marriage, and as a lawyer who has done a lot of adoption work, I find adoption by same-sex couples not in the best interest of the child in an overwhelming majority of cases,” Mr. Norcross said. “But we are losing that battle with most voters — the polls are going the other way, rapidly. … Do not exclude people on the basis of their disagreement with you on those issues.”
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Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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