Critics see post-mortem as GOP sellout for votes, balk at ‘elite’ group’s push for change

Long hailed as the savior who restored much-needed financial order to the GOP, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in his third year in the high-profile post, suddenly finds himself in troubled waters.

Tea party conservatives and even fellow RNC members are grumbling about some of the recommendations and proposed policy shifts in the post-mortem, written by five Republicans hand-picked by Mr. Priebus, ordered up after the party’s disappointing election results last year.

“The RNC has, for too long, had a reputation among the grass roots as being imperial — for being run by an elite who simply want the rest of us to do what we are told,” said Missouri GOP Chairman Ed Martin, a tea party-supported lawyer who was gubernatorial chief of staff to Matt Blunt. “Having five people appointed by Reince Priebus tell the rest of the Republican Party how things are going to move forward is exactly the kind of act that reinforces that reputation.”

The post-mortem

Among the annoyances of Mr. Priebus‘ critics is a line in the 100-page report that the press interpreted as a cynical abandonment of the party’s positions on marriage in order to win the youth vote. Young voters appear to be increasingly tolerant of same-sex marriage.

“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be,” according to the RNC report.

“Nonsense,” Marianne Gasiecki, a national Tea Party Patriots council member, said after reading the “gay rights” recommendation. “Showing weakness in principles is not a ‘gateway to youth.’”

Critics also complain that three of the five authors of the report are loyal to a party establishment that covets exclusive power to set policy and pick candidates rather than to the conservative activists in the party’s base.

The Priebus appointees — with ties to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former President George W. Bush or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — held “listening sessions” with RNC members to find out what the members wanted to see in the report.

Priebus spokesman Sean Spicer maintained that all sides of the RNC membership and the broader GOP voter coalition were heard and their voices were included in the final report.

“The statements and recommendations of the report’s authors, which included three members of the RNC, were the result of input from over 50,000 people and countless calls from the 168 members of the RNC,” said Mr. Spicer.

Missing social conservatism?

But Iowa RNC member Tamara Scott, a religious conservative, said neither her views nor those of other conservative members were reflected in the report.

She also objected to party leaders “like former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman flying into Iowa for closed-door meetings with a select group of Iowa Republicans to promote same-sex marriage.”

“It is this type of unfortunate confusion that causes our base to lose confidence; and we all know, a shaky foundation cannot support its own weight, let alone additional growth,” Mrs. Scott said in an email to fellow RNC members. “If we are seen as pandering our principles for the hope of some possible expansion to our party, it will be temporary, as we will see a split that will far outweigh any potential gain.”

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

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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