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Sunday, Sep 21, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Same ol’ stuff from GOP conference

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I have a friend from Tampa who is a true believer in the tea party, a believer to the 10th power. We have interesting talks. Mention any subject and he will speak with the authority of someone convinced the only possible answer is the one he is giving you.

I listen, because — and I really mean this — I want to understand where he is coming from. And once I got a better handle on things, I would ask him: “How do you ever expect to win a national election again if you don’t work with other people and compromise when you need to?”

He always answers: “Why should we compromise when we’re right?”

This is why: In this country, we don’t get everything we want.

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But, bless ’em, staunch conservatives keep trying. Take the chatter we’ve heard this week as Republicans gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference.

You don’t need to see a menu to know the main dish was red meat and mud pie (the better for slinging at anyone dressed in blue). You know the themes: Don’t fix Obamacare, repeal it. Resist immigration reform. Bash the media.

That’s cool. No one expects speakers there to extol the virtues of Obamacare or The New York Times, or to excuse Benghazi as a slight miscalculation in judgment.

There was a recurring theme at the conference, though, that tells me Republican and tea party leaders still don’t get it.

Speaker after speaker said the real problem in the last two presidential elections was that GOP candidates weren’t conservative enough.

We’ll pause here for a moment.

Are Republicans really trying to say that conservative voters were so upset in 2012 over Mitt Romney’s campaign that they voted for someone they called a socialist community organizer?

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, turnout in the 2012 presidential election was down by about 5 million votes from 2008, even though there were 8 million newly eligible voters. Republican turnout was actually higher, though, in 15 states compared with 2008. Democratic turnout was only higher in two states — Louisiana and Iowa.

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Let’s chew on that statistic.

Voters watched the likes of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich say increasingly stupid things so they could appeal to conservative voters. In living on the fringe, they insulted the intelligence of every potential conservative voter and delivered the White House to the Democrats again.

And here they go again.

It’s the same type of disconnect Democrats had when they were slaughtered in three consecutive presidential elections by Republicans who appealed to the mainstream. It took Bill Clinton to steer the party back to the center, where most people live.

Someone should tell CPAC that you can be pro-family without arguing for an electrified fence to keep out illegals. You can believe in God without casting someone of a different faith as a spawn of Satan.

You want lower taxes and less government intrusion in your life? That’s fine, but then don’t argue for laws that tell gay people they don’t have the same rights you enjoy.

Republicans don’t need to be more conservative. They need to be smarter. They need to quit being scary.

It’s a big, wide, wonderful mosaic mix out there. They should grab the microphone from Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and end the freak show.

Either that, or just keep telling yourself everyone else is wrong.

Oh, and you’re going to love Hillary Clinton.

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