“You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”

By Ken Feltman

“You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”
-Dorothy Parker
Years ago, I decided that if a telling comment was not from the Bible or Shakespeare, it must be from Dorothy Parker. Now, 45 years after her death, she has managed to sum up the current state of the Republican Party better than any contemporary talking head. No living pundit is her match. The moment you read her comment, you know she’s right – and in the present case, she even tells us what to do to fix things.
Look where the old dogma got us. Why, Parker has a witty, if sad, way to describe November’s Mitt Romney-led slaughter: “This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.” The Romney campaign’s voter turnout program was called ORCA. The orca had no bite, the pollsters had no clue. This was all raisins.
So what to do? First thing we do is not listen to the current leadership of the GOP. Parker has summed up their ability to get anything done. When told that former president Calvin Coolidge had died, Parker remarked, “How could they tell?” Right. This crew of leaders doesn’t seem to know breathing from Bill O’Reilly’s bloviating.
Get new leaders? Not so easy. The current leaders like being mired in their chumminess and little intrigues. Parker had a poem for them:
“If I didn’t care for fun and such
I’d probably amount to much
But I shall stay the way I am
Because I do not give a damn.”
Yep, going to all those meetings and things, with other so-very-important people, that’s what they think is required of the job and just about all they can do. So they do it, and pretty well. Then a man like former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) comes along and offers a solution:
“But the fact is, it’s hard to have perspective and it’s hard to have diversity, with women or black or red or yellow or brown or white, if you have no relationships. How perplexing this is if we think we can get people to vote for us if we don’t know them.” Watts speaks clearly: How can Republicans expect the votes of those they do not know?
Once upon a time, with the wistfulness, ambivalence and cynicism of Parker at her most neurotic, the Republican leadership responds with her words: “Oh, I thought we didn’t have to….”
Republicans: You have to.
This dogma won’t hunt. Get a new dogma.
(a version of this article was published at Politico)

About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Known as a coalition builder, he has participated in election campaigns and legislative efforts in the United States and several other countries.
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