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An Inclusive GOP Requires New Leadership

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After serious research and soul searching, the Republican National Committee (RNC) recently unveiled its new and refreshing "Growth and Opportunity Project," calling for inclusiveness across generational and minority groups. The plan calls for outreach and support for issues of importance to groups who have been typically excluded from the party, including generations X and Y, women, the LGBT community, Latinos, African Americans, Asians and non-Christian minorities and communities. These demographic groups comprise the vast majority of voters, and the RNC acknowledges that it cannot win elections without them. The plan calls for the GOP to move into the 21st century, becoming relevant to today's younger voters and their "gateway" issues (such as LGBT equality), women (single or married, with or without children) and minorities of all kinds. It also states that this approach must be implemented at all levels, from D.C. to the grassroots, from national elections to local offices. In addition, the plan acknowledges a need for greater sensitivity in how Republicans talk about and talk to minorities, as well as establishing an "Inclusion Council" for outreach to minorities of all kinds.

Unfortunately, the RNC members apparently have decided not to take their own advice. A few weeks ago in Hollywood, members of the RNC voted to reaffirm the party's stance that marriage is between "one man and one woman" and implored the Supreme Court to uphold DOMA and California's Proposition 8. On Hardball With Chris Matthews, RNC committee member Robin Armstrong from Texas admitted that this was to be the GOP's permanent posture until the end of time (or perhaps until the party collapses).

A few months ago I attended the Oregon GOP's biennial Organizational Meeting, where a member of now-Chairwoman Suzanne Gallagher's campaign team distributed a handout to all delegates that said that the Republican Party is based on "conservative Christian principles" and that "[i]t is time to stand our ground, to hold to the Christian Principles upon which this nation was founded." Suzanne Gallagher went on to win the chair that day. It seems that the Oregon GOP leadership rejects the inclusion of all those Oregonians who do not classify themselves as Christians, and people of other faiths and beliefs are not welcome in the party. It also appears that Oregon GOP leadership view the party as a narrow extension of their church, and not the broad-based party that the authors of the "Growth and Opportunity Project" envisioned. Seated next to me at the convention was a Jewish Republican who was sickened by the anti-Jewish language and walked out of the convention once Suzanne Gallagher was elected.

In March Chairwoman Gallagher distributed another handout that said that the Oregon GOP "believe[s] in equal rights, justice and opportunity for all -- regardless of race, creed, sex, age or disability." The language explicitly ignores equal rights based on sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, family relationships and all other groups protected by Oregon law. Moreover, it fails to reference religion or color (which are the terms specifically noted by Oregon anti-discrimination laws). One would think that the Oregon GOP would follow Oregon statutes relative to equal rights provisions. Mind you, all these groups are the very communities targeted for outreach in the new RNC plan.

Prior to last month, I believed that the Oregon GOP leadership was standing in the way of positive movement that would align with the RNC's new "Growth and Opportunity Project," because their archaic positions (and language) stymy the party's overall ability to reposition itself. But since the meeting of the RNC in April, I now realize that the so-called autopsy wasn't meant to change policy at all but was an exercise in repackaging an already damaged brand. And if that isn't bad enough, they have their state organizations out there setting unrealistic, and frankly absurd, goals. Chairwoman Gallagher set a goal of 200,000 additional new Republican voter registrations in Oregon over the next two years. Since November 2012 the number of registered Republicans in Oregon has declined by over 5,300 people. People aren't walking away from the party; they are running. The only way to reach the 200,000 growth number is through magic. Are Democrats, other party affiliates and independents suddenly going to switch en masse to a GOP that is unwilling to broaden its base? To be sure, there are many Republicans who are forward thinkers and embrace diversity. Many are like me, Margaret Hoover and Meghan McCain, the younger Republicans, and it's delightful to see them standing up to help the party evolve. But without leadership at the top, the party is quickly becoming obsolete.

The recent Supreme Court hearings were historic, and many conservative leaders on a national level are now actively endorsing the freedom to marry. Republicans throughout the country are now standing up for other important minority issues, such as immigration reform, women's rights and many other critical rights for minorities, all with the goal of embracing pluralism. But the message doesn't seem to have made it through to the members of the RNC, the "old" in "Grand Old Party." Like a deer caught in the headlights, frozen and unable to move, the GOP continues in its decline all because of the few who are in power.

I think it is important to note that I am not a conservative voice for the freedom to marry and other LGBT causes because I think the issues need my help. I am a conservative voice for these issues because this party is in serious trouble. The freedom to marry will pass here in Oregon in 2014 and throughout the nation within the next five to 10 years, and it will pass with a very healthy majority. The GOP leadership will seemingly continue to be our roadblock, the stubborn elephant on the wrong side of a clear civil rights issue. Young conservatives like me will stop pounding on the doors of the RNC saying, "Let us in! We're the future of the party, and we want to help!" No, we will slowly walk away from what was supposed to save us from being the bankrupted generations that we will now become. And why? Because the far-right relics refuse to get out of the way.

Dear GOP leaders, it is time to step aside. You have clearly demonstrated that you will continue to reflect the views of the old and reject the concerns of the young. Unless you read your own memo and start taking notice that things are rapidly changing, and changing for the better, you will kill the only chance that young conservatives have at inheriting a formidable party.