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Letter: Beyond Bumper-Sticker Politics

To the Editor:

There’s been a lot of talk about what the Republican Party needs to do to keep itself from going over the Demographic Cliff. That’s the disaster the party will face if its policies render it irrelevant to an increasing majority of voters.

I have a suggestion: Republicans should abandon bumper-sticker slogans for their policies.

We Democrats have admired these slogans for years. It’s hard to combat a clear, precise, appealing rallying cry like “no new taxes,” or a definition of the estate tax as a “death tax.” But the proliferation of these slogans and the party’s slavish devotion to them has led the Republicans to a dead end.

The basic reason for this is that these slogans limit thought. They are simple answers to complex questions when our country needs answers, or solutions, that are as complex and nuanced as the problems we face. But because the party relies on these one-line positions, it finds itself unable to deal practically with our problems. And the effects of these slogans are worse than this. One such effect is that some people (Tea Party members) actually believe that they represent practical solutions; that, for instance, we can really solve the immigration situation without some acceptance (“amnesty”) of people who are already here.

The second consequence of the simple-solution approach is the emergence of Republican enforcers; individuals or groups who have decided that they will punish any office-holder who dares to deviate from their narrow line. These include Grover Norquist on taxes and the NRA on firearms, but there are others.

A third is that the very simplicity of these positions makes compromise difficult. If you believe your solution is perfect, why accept changes?

Back to the Demographic Cliff. Increasingly influential minority groups don’t see things the way Republicans do. And, crucially, they are joined by women, who, in fact make up more than half our population. This is a majority that won’t go along and won’t go away. If the Republicans can’t escape from limited ideas and limited people, it’s over the edge with them.

Steve Rounds