Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

GOP, big tent or big mess?

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
updated 8:39 AM EDT, Tue August 28, 2012
Republicans gather for their convention in Tampa, Florida, as a party with deep divisions, says Ruben Navarrette.
Republicans gather for their convention in Tampa, Florida, as a party with deep divisions, says Ruben Navarrette.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: The deep divisions in the Republican Party are evident
  • He says some Republicans emphasize social issues, such as opposition to gay marriage
  • Others want to play down social issues, focus on the party's economic message, he says
  • Navarrette: The only thing that unites GOP is a strong desire to defeat Obama's re-election bid

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

(CNN) -- Now that delegates have converged on Tampa, Florida, for the Republican National Convention, one has to wonder whether there is enough room in the arena for all the conflicting and contradictory elements of the modern Republican Party.

There is the camp that claims it wants to be more inclusive, broader in its appeal and more welcoming to women, gays and minorities. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently warned that, because of changing demographics, the GOP has to "reach out to a much broader audience than we do today."

But then there is the camp that ensured that the Republican platform included language rejecting not just same-sex marriage but also the watered-down alternative that many elected officials find more palatable: civil unions. The GOP platform committee also defeated a proposed amendment that said all Americans should be treated "equally under the law" as long as they're not hurting anyone else.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is known for his immigration hard-line, implied that it was fine to treat gays and lesbians differently because: "Our government routinely judges situations where you might regard people completely affecting themselves like, for example, the use of controlled substances, like, for example, polygamy that is voluntarily entered into. We condemn those activities even though they are not hurting other people at least directly."

Opinion: What the GOP needs to do in Tampa

There is the group that insists it wants to focus on economic issues as the best way to defeat President Barack Obama. Many political observers see Mitt Romney's choice of spending hawk Paul Ryan as his running mate as pretty strong evidence that this view is prevailing at the top of the ticket.

Politics behind Republican Convention
Touring the floor of the RNC in Tampa
What Romney needs to do at RNC
Romney far behind Obama in likability

But then there is the group that can't seem to resist the catnip of social conservatism and that charges into the abortion debate. The platform also includes an across-the-board ban on all abortions, even in the case of rape or incest. And in 2012, as in previous election years, even with all the supposed emphasis on the economy, being pro-choice was considered a liability for those vying for the Republican presidential nomination and a disqualifier for anyone chosen to be vice president.

There is the camp that calls for states such as Arizona to have the last say in shaping immigration policy by enlisting local police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants or attempting to punish landlords who rent to them.

But there is also the camp that insists that states shouldn't have the final word with regard to immigration if it means they can grant drivers' permits to illegal immigrants or opt out of a program such as Secure Communities, which requires local police to submit to federal authorities the fingerprints of anyone they arrest to determine if they're in the country illegally.

There is the faction that still thinks you can keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico and the rest of Latin America by building walls and fences on the U.S.-Mexico border, but also the faction that wants to create new ways to bring in an ample supply of Mexican immigrants to work legally in agriculture, hospitality, construction and other industries.

There is the group that supports Romney's plan to encourage illegal immigrants to simply "self-deport" by making the country more unwelcoming and drying up employment opportunities, and the group that worries about a labor shortage and economic slowdown if that happens.

Opinion: Romney's 'birther' remark is no joke

The party platform expresses support for something that some employers want: a temporary guest worker program that imports foreign labor to offset worker shortages in fields such as agriculture. And it also backs something that many employers don't: a requirement that all businesses participate in the government-administered e-verify system, which is supposed to determine whether an employee is legally eligible to work.

This is some strange hash. What does it mean to be a Republican these days if unifying principles are so hard to come by?

A generous explanation could be that this is an example of the GOP "big tent" that some conservatives have always dreamed of, where Republicans with different views can put aside their disagreements and come together in a common purpose.

A more realistic explanation is that, in 2012, the Republican Party has become a patchwork of individual interests united only by a shared desire to ensure that Obama is limited to a single term. We'll have to see if that is enough to hold the coalition together. And if so, what it means for the future of the Grand Ol' Party.

What happens in Tampa will be our first clue.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT