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Reince Priebus's Plan Recommends Not Behaving Like Reince Priebus

Getty/Win McNamee

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is winning accolades for the wide-ranging plan he presented Monday morning in Washington that charts a way forward for the party after its demoralizing performance in the November elections. Drafted by a five-person committee—which included former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer—the plan recommends, among other things, holding fewer presidential primary debates, to limit the drift toward comedic extremity that those events encourage, and spending $10 million on new staff to do outreach to the constituencies (women, young voters, racial and ethnic minorities) where GOP support lags.

It’s all well and good, but in reading through the report's 99 pages I had a nagging sense that what it was recommending was directly at odds with what I remember hearing not long ago from the very people putting forward the report. To wit:

Page 7: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

@Reince: Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic. (Sent on September 11, the night that four Americans were killed in Benghazi.)

Page 7: “If we are going to grow as a Party, our policies and actions must take into account that the middle class has struggled mightily and that far too many of our citizens live in poverty. To people who are flat on their back, unemployed or disabled and in need of help, they do not care if the help comes from the private sector or the government—they just want help… The perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.”

@AriFleischer: I increased donations to charity in 2012. This deal limits my deductions so I, & many others, will likely donate less in 2013. (Sent in late December, in reference to the deal averting the fiscal cliff, which slightly reduced the value of the charitable deduction for high-income taxpayers.)

Page 20: “The RNC must embark on a year-round effort to engage with African American voters. The engagement must include not only persuasion based upon our Party’s principles but also a presence within community organizations… The African American community has a lot in common with the Republican Party, and it is important to share this rich history. More importantly, the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and a spirit of caring.”

@Reince: We need to call out Obama for trying to water down the voting privileges of our military men and women in Ohio. (Sent in early August, in reference to the Obama campaign’s lawsuit attempting to allow early voting on the weekend before the election for all Ohio voters, not just members of the military and their families, an expansion that would have by far the greatest benefit for black voters in Ohio’s larger cities.) 

This is not to pick on Priebus and Fleischer. There are countless similar examples to cull from other high-profile Republicans. It is just to note that the problems that the RNC says it is seeking to address cut deep, into attitudes and instincts that again and again reveal themselves even in the offhand exclamations of the party’s allegedly more sober-minded functionaries. It will take much more than focus groups and a “growth and opportunity inclusion council” to change what lies at the heart of today’s Republican Party—like, say, self-awareness.

Follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis