January 30th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
5 years ago

McConnell warns of grim GOP future

 McConnell painted a dismal picture of the state of his party.

McConnell painted a dismal picture of the state of his party.

(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted a downright dismal view of the state of his party Thursday afternoon, telling Republican National Committee members the GOP is in grave danger of being marginalized to a regional party.

"We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us," the Kentucky Republican said on the second day of the four-day gathering.

"And we should be concerned that, as a result of all this, the Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party than a national one.

"In politics there's a name for a regional party, it's called a minority party," said McConnell.

The sobering remarks came one day before the 168 members of the RNC are set to elect a chairman tasked with steering the party out of its beleaguered status, and win back some of the voting blocs virtually abandoned the party last November, including minority and younger voters.

"My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery," McConnell also said.

McConnell also laid some blame at the feet of former President Bush, whom he described a "man of principle," but one who did "not win any popularity contests."

"History shows that unpopular presidents are usually a drag on everybody else who wears their political label," he said. "It happened with Truman. It happened with Johnson. It happened with Nixon. It happened with Clinton in ‘94. And it happened in ‘06 and ‘08 with President Bush."

He said particular effort needs to be applied to attracting African American and Hispanic voters. Black voters have historically voted heavily Democratic, while Hispanic voters were significantly more Democratic than they had been in previous presidential elections.

"Too often we’ve let others define us," McConnell said. "And the image they’ve painted isn’t very pretty. Ask most people what Republicans think about immigrants, and they’ll say we fear them. Ask most people what we think about the environment, and they’ll say we don’t care about it. Ask most people what we think about the family, and they’ll tell you we don’t — until about a month before Election Day."

But McConnell addressed a a group deeply divided on where the Party should head in the next four years, a tension that has played out in the unexpectedly cut-throat race for the party's chairmanship.

The Senate Minority Leader, who faced an unexpectedly competitive race last year to retain his seat, told the Republican gathering it's not too late for the party to rebuild itself. But he warned the GOP cannot change its fundamental values in the course of trying to appeal to a wider cross-section of the country.

"You don’t get them back by pretending to be something else," he said. “And you certainly don’t gain voters by running away from the ones that are most loyal. But it’s clear our message isn’t getting out to nearly as many people as it should."

"...We should avoid the false choice of being a party of moderates or conservatives," he said. "America is diverse. The two major parties should be too. But this doesn’t mean turning our backs on commonsense conservatism, or tailoring our positions to suit particular groups. Our principles are universal. They apply to everyone."


Filed under: Mitch McConnell
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Donnamarie

    I was a republican for over 25 years before I switched to "no party affiliation" a few years ago and I have to say Mr. McConnell, your (GOP) message is getting out and it's not pretty. I got your message that as a non-conservative I was not welcome or more importantly, not respected in the GOP. Same for the fact that I am not religious, wealthy or a faithful viewer of Fox News. I am however white, so I guess that is one point in my favor. Sadly, 1 point is not enough. When republicans get back to smaller (effective) government, respect one's privacy and keep out of individual's bedroom and doctor's offices and respect diverse opinions without labeling those who disagree with them "unpatriotic" or "unamerican", then perhaps more people will look towards the GOP again. Respect the american people and they will respect you back!

    January 29, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  2. The Omen

    Mitch has his finger on it, but like his colleagues, he doesn't get it.

    How can you be the culture of life party and indiscriminately send young people into harm's way with no plan for exit, and then treat them as if the their disposable when they return home?

    How can you be sensitive to the immigrant experience when one wing of the party is afraid of them while the other seeks to exploit them as cheap labor?

    How can you be the party of small government when your uber-candidate (W) expanded the federal bureaucracy to the nth degree and spent money like he was printing it in his basement?

    How can you be the party of freedom when your core constituency won't allow people to love who they want, how they want.

    I agree that the power of definition is awesome, but the Republicans are being defined by their choices, not liberal rhetoric. He said it himself, "we can't change our fundamental values". Maybe these 'values' need to re-evaluated because they don't resonate with the majority any longer.

    January 29, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. jc943045

    lol he looks like micky mouse

    January 29, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. jim from mississippi

    Poor rich white guy. I'm feeling sorry for him while I drive my 90 Volvo with 280 thousand miles looking for cheap gas and the promise of the American Dream. Where will he get to play a free round of golf? Oh the humanities...

    January 29, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  5. Daniel, Atlanta, GA

    Dear Mr. McConnell,

    Why should we put our hopes and faith in the GOP? When Reagan was president, I was a fairly well-to-do midwestern Caucasian young man who idolized him in many ways. He was a hero who took on the USSR and won! I didn't know much about Republican ideology back then, but then I got educated and started working with the inner city poor and immigrants in America. I soon discovered that life wasn't so glamorous for so many of the down-trodden and disadvantaged. I looked to my Republican party for help for the people that I had come to care about. I advocated for better education and programs to enhance their job skills, because deep down WE ALL want to live better lives and are we ARE willing to work hard and sacrifice to make ourselves better. But the GOP has never been a "party for the people" in my lifetime. GOP ideology is as bankrupted as Wall Street! And the problem with the GOP is that you guys know that you are out of touch with 90 percent of the real world. So what did you guys do? You borrowed ideology from the "religious right extreme nutcases" and tried to turn their bigotry into secular policies. Well, guess what? You're still out of touch with the world! The GOP is still a party of old white men with old ideologies that don't workl! Personally, I am glad that Mr. Obama's election has given you all a wake up call! America is not served well with just one political party, we need a two or more party system. Beware! Any party that does not represent ALL Americans is going to die a slow and painful death.

    January 29, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  6. Larry from RI

    Hey McConnell, you are mistaken – Your message has been heard loud and clear and it has been rejected by the MAJORITY of the American people.
    NO ideas
    NO leadership
    NO governance
    NO cooperation
    NO courage
    NO sacrifice
    NO common sense
    NO understanding of how the rest of us live
    = NO GOP

    January 29, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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