Rove: GOP relies too much on white vote

ASPEN — Republicans need to work on increasing their party’s appeal beyond its traditional base, Karl Rove and some other party luminaries said Thursday.

GOP speakers at the Aspen Ideas Festival also stood up for some of the party’s core positions on the economy, while saying more should be done to ensure that the disadvantaged have opportunities to move up.

Political strategist Rove, the former adviser to President George W. Bush, spoke in two sessions Thursday at the multiday festival, which is presented by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic magazine. During the second he was joined by Elaine Chau, who served as secretary of labor under Bush, and Michael Gerson, a policy and strategic planning assistant to Bush.

“I think Republicans felt very intensely the loss of 2012,” Chau said in reference to President Obama’s defeat of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Rove referred to that win as a “tactical victory” by Obama, resulting from a gamble to make up for his own weaknesses by working to “irradiate” Romney through attack ads during the summer. Rove also blamed Romney’s own failure to help voters get to know him better.

Rove also acknowledged Republicans are over-reliant on white voters even as the percentage of nonwhite voters grows.

Said Chau, whose family is from Taiwan, “I think there needs to be more outreach to groups of color.”

Gerson said he thinks the Republican Party will remain pro-life, but will start to have a more diverse view regarding gay marriage.

Rove called abortion a “weird issue,” saying millennials from 18-29 are both the most fervent in favor of a woman’s right to choose and most likely to deem abortion morally wrong in all instances. He said candidates need to be able to talk about providing alternatives such as adoption.

Thursday’s speakers agreed about the need to ensure the ability of all Americans to have upward social mobility.

Chau said she’s concerned about a widening skills gap that leads to a growing earnings gap in a knowledge-based economy.

Gerson said a third of workers lack the education, skills and family structures and background needed to succeed.

“Republicans shouldn’t downplay this as if we’re not concerned about inequality,” he said.

He said if people can’t move up, that becomes a caste system. A Republican policy focused on low taxes and high economic growth “doesn’t speak to that,” and more specified policies are needed, he said.

Rove said the solutions lie more at the state level, where there is a need to “break up the education oligarchy” and improve schools.

The speakers said the Democrats have problems of their own, such as Obama’s current controversies involving everything from the IRS to drone use, and what they called a lackluster economic recovery.

Chau blamed things such as excess taxation and regulation for slowing job growth.

“The message is simple but it gets kind of boring after a while even though it is totally true,” she said.

Rove said that meanwhile there’s too much corporate welfare involving tax breaks for industries that don’t need it, paid for by borrowing money the country doesn’t have.

“We’ve got a tax system that benefits the big guy over the little guy and we’ve got to reform it,” he said.


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