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ROBINSON: Republicans are lost in their own wilderness

  • (NICK ANDERSON / Houston Chronicle)

Republicans shouldn't worry that President Barack Obama is trying to destroy the GOP. Why would he bother? The party's leaders are doing a pretty good job of it themselves.

As they try to understand why the party lost an election it was confident of winning — and why it keeps losing budget showdowns in Congress — Republican grandees are asking the wrong questions. Predictably, they are coming up with the wrong answers.

They prefer to focus on flawed tactics and ineffectual “messaging” rather than confront the essential problem, which is that voters don't much care for the policies the GOP espouses.

In post-debacle speeches and interviews, Republicans are sounding — and there's no kind way to put this — paranoid and delusional. House Speaker John Boehner said in a speech to the Ripon Society that the Obama administration is trying to “annihilate the Republican Party.” Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party's fiscal guru and failed vice presidential candidate, claimed Sunday on “Meet the Press” that Obama seeks “political conquest” of the GOP.

It is no secret that Obama is trying to advance a progressive agenda. He promised as much in his campaign speeches. Were Republicans not listening? Did they think he was just joshing? In five of the last six presidential elections, Democrats have won the popular vote. Republicans have done well at the state level and through redistricting have made their majority in the House difficult to dislodge. But it's not possible to lead the country from the speaker's chair, as Boehner can attest. To have a chance at effecting transformative change, you have to win the White House.

And to win the White House, you have to convince voters that the policies you seek to enact are the right ones. This is what the GOP doesn't seem to understand.

“We've got to stop being the stupid party,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of the GOP's brightest young stars, said in a much-anticipated speech at the party's winter meeting last week. “We've got to stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people.”

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