Republican Party 2.0: 4 GOP leaders share ideas for political upgrade

In the aftermath of election 2012, four prominent Republicans share their visions for how the GOP can adapt its messaging to reflect a diversifying US electorate.

Sal Russo, Tea Party Express

Sal Russo Tea Party Express

The echo chamber of conservative media and GOP candidates' tendency to preach to the choir did the party a disservice in 2012, says Sal Russo, a founder of Tea Party Express and a longtime Republican political-action committee manager.

Still, he is not in a postelection panic, saying, "I don't think the party is going to look very different [in 2016 or 2020] than it does today."

What ought to be different, though, is whom future candidates woo and how they articulate long-defined GOP positions, Mr. Russo says. "Gerrymandering and 'safe districts' tend to make [candidates] ... go where everybody agrees with them instead of reaching out to non-Republican constituencies" such as local Latino groups or labor unions, he says. Addressing diverse audiences would teach candidates to communicate bigger, more positive ideas.

"[Ronald] Reagan and [Jack] Kemp had it right: Both ... were big at ... expanding what the Republican Party stood for – not by changing what it said, but who they said it to and how they said it," he says. Republicans are fundamentally social conservatives, "but you don't have to be judgmental."

Russo also suggests that any crusade against gay marriage is futile in the end, because younger voters have little interest in fighting that fight: "If you are concerned about marriage and sacrament, then confine those concerns to protecting the institution in the church and find a way to gracefully get out of the political battle."

– Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer

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