Ever since the Montana Republican Party’s ideology went so far askew it caused several of its own members to start voting independently during the 2013 legislative session, the Montana GOP has been busy trying to put some spin on the problem.
Former GOP Speaker of the House Mike Millburn is the latest to do so with a guest opinion in the Great Falls Tribune, saying that the GOP must “stay the course” on its hard-right ideology. Milburn says the real problem is that the GOP’s message “just needs to be refined.”
It’s easy to see why the “message” theory is so appealing to Republicans. It allows them to tell themselves that they need not be concerned that most people disagree with their ideology. It allows them to believe that if they just had better polls and slicker advertising all of their problems would be solved.
But while Republicans think their problem is one of message rather than bad policies, a look at recent polls shows the public does not share that view.
By 47 percent to 22 percent, Americans say they disagree with the GOP’s approach to social and cultural issues, according to a NBC/WSJ poll. Polls also show that people think the GOP’s policies are indeed too extreme:
a majority of Americans (53 percent) say the Republicans’ problem is that they are overly conservative and unconcerned “with the welfare of the people, particularly those in the lower and middle income levels.”
So if the GOP wants to stop losing votes and voters, the answer isn’t that yet another round of road show tours in which they repeat the phrase “jobs for Montana” ad nauseam when they voted to block 14,000 Montana jobs just last session. They should listen to voters instead of right-wing think tanks. They should start funding public school classrooms and improving wages and health care for working people instead of focusing on corporate welfare and conspiracy theories.
Milburn also advises Republicans to stop the debilitating race to the bottom that the party has seen recently, with every conservative candidate and officeholder trying to prove how conservative they are, and trying to prove that they are more conservative than their colleagues. Milburn says the GOP is “a big tent” open to all Republicans. He might be hopeful that the GOP could be such a tent, but his viewpoint is a minority one. The right-wing has lately been dictating the course of the GOP, and there is no sign of anything changing.