Gazette opinion: The right message and the right-wing message

2014-03-23T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: The right message and the right-wing message The Billings Gazette
March 23, 2014 12:00 am

Montana has already embarked on a political season long on promises and rhetoric, short on what voters really care about.

With a hotly contested U.S. Senate seat and Montana’s lone Congressional seat up for grabs, we’re already hearing a lot about candidates and fundraisers — the precursor to a long, protracted and mud-filled political season.

As we begin to hear from the candidates, it seems like within the Republican Party of Montana there’s an incessant battle for GOP hopefuls to out-Republican themselves. There are purity tests in hopes of wooing the “true conservative,” and the Tea Party. In Montana that’s complicated by a formidable Libertarian party that has begun to pull voters away from the GOP base. Oddly, this hasn’t necessarily meant that Republicans have opened wide the canvas of what used to be a big-tent party to try to build a wider, broader base. Instead, Republicans throughout the state continue to define themselves narrowly even while Democrats at the state and national level continue with a rather ham-handed approach to issues of foreign policy and health care.

Republicans, forgive us using the word, there seems to be hope for your party.

Recent rallies in California, including a key speech by former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, show that there is still a silent majority left who have a broader, more inclusive definition of the GOP.

It’s probably not surprising that Rice’s speech on broadening the Republican base came in California — a diverse state in which immigration reform isn’t just some abstract political litmus test.

In a Reuters story, Rice was quoted saying, “We have a responsibility to those who do not yet have the liberties and the rights that we enjoy.We cannot abandon them ... We were once them.”

Certainly the Republican Party platform is more than just the immigration issue. However, a more tempered, broad-based approach seems to be exactly the kind of middle-ground, common-sense thinking that voters seem to be searching for.

Sure, it could be argued that these may be the early musings of a potential presidential candidate. Even if it’s nothing more than political pablum, there’s a strong lesson in Rice’s words for any GOP candidate: There is a yearning and desire for a middle ground. The take-no-prisoners approach may leave some standing on a perceived moral high ground, but it has produced precious few good results in a political system that depends on compromise and relies on pragmatic middle ground.

We believe Montanans have always valued a common-sense approach to life as well as politics. And we have to believe that bringing more people into the Republican Party will strengthen and balance it, rather than make it captive to extreme factions of the party or drive others into third or fringe parties.

It’s true Rice’s words were high on ideals and short on specifics, but they spoke to the need to find real solutions. They were a departure from the normally fiery rhetoric of immigration that sometimes includes villainizing immigrants by reducing them to stereotypes.

Her speech was also a good reminder that sound bites that pander rarely solve the problems that won’t go away even as the rhetoric continues to amp up.

If the GOP this election season doesn’t want to listen to her message, it should at least try to adopt the tone.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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