Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

GOP, take cues on U.S. mood from Obama

By Maria Cardona, CNN Contributor
January 29, 2013 -- Updated 1254 GMT (2054 HKT)
Many in GOP have slammed Obama's inauguration speech as liberal. Maria Cardona says his views align with most Americans
Many in GOP have slammed Obama's inauguration speech as liberal. Maria Cardona says his views align with most Americans
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maria Cardona: As GOP faces future, it should pay attention to Obama's inaugural address
  • Instead of slamming "liberal agenda," note views he expressed mirror polls, she says
  • She says Americans' views on gay marriage, immigration, climate show nation progressing
  • Cardona: Speech was reflection of American mainstream; GOP should catch up to be relevant

Editor's note: Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

(CNN) -- Republicans are dealing with their demons. At the Republican National Committee meeting last week, they seemed to be taking a hard look at what they need to do to compete at the presidential level in the years to come. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the GOP needs to stop being "the stupid party." He is right, to be sure, but it is not simply a messaging problem. It is a policy problem. So here is some advice.

Reread President Barack Obama's inaugural speech and avoid the the knee-jerk impulse to call the president a socialist because of his defense of a so-called "liberal agenda." Instead, observe how the issues he raised align with where the American people are. Simply put, majorities of the country, including an overwhelming majority of the demographic coalition that got him reelected, mainly agree with him.

Maria Cardona
Maria Cardona

The GOP is so in a tizzy about Obama's vision and how they are certain it is all but DNA proof he is a socialist. But Republicans needs to consider that something much less pernicious is at play here on both scores: The nation is progressing.

Obama talked about immigration reform by stating, "Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our work force rather than expelled from our country."

Majorities of Americans have supported comprehensive immigration reform for years. Today, more than 75% support it. Importantly, many Republicans recognize the need to do something real on immigration, given the shellacking they received from Latinos in November: 71% supported Obama. To his credit, Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed some common-sense measures that are a great start to ensuring the GOP gets serious about real reform. And on Monday, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a sensible plan on this important issue, further proof the GOP knows it has to do more than just change their rhetoric.

Avlon: Can Jindal change 'the stupid party'?

To the offense of many conservatives, the president said, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well." On this issue, Americans' evolution is recent, but has been quite dramatic, and given the generational divide, support for it will only get stronger. Currently, 53% of Americans support gay marriage, while 46% oppose. Even the Boy Scouts, a staunchly conservative organization, announced Monday it is considering "potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation."

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Obama's mention of climate change further rankled Republicans, He said: "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But Americans cannot resist this transition. We must lead it." Interestingly enough, 63% of Americans believe that global warming is a serious issue, according to a poll by Rasmussen, which skews rightward. And while there is certainly no consensus on what should be done legislatively about it, the president's focus on alternative energy sources and renewable fuels also is in line with where many Americans stand.

But the line in Obama's inaugural address that opponents have pointed to as proof that he is and has always been an extreme leftist president, was this:

Jindal: Stop being the 'stupid party'
Priebus: GOP has to be a 'happy party'
Obama: 'We are made for this moment'

"...Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone."

Some Republicans, once again, choose to make hyperbolic, hysterical proclamations about looming socialism. The reality, as always, is less dramatic and more straightforward. The fact is Democrats, buoyed by majorities of its winning coalition of Latino, African-American, women and young voters, believe the government has a constructive role to play in society. Not a bigger role, which is what the Republicans' sky-is-falling reaction has been. But one that can protects the individual as a consumer, levels the field so that everyone is playing by the same rules and jobs are based on merit, and ensures smart investments in innovation, work force, military, and infrastructure. These, spurred by our American ingenuity, will continue to make us exceptional.

What the president's opponents need to understand is that this is the face of progress. This is the face of the America that exists today. Obama's vision is mainstream -- a guide to where majorities of Americans already believe we need to go as a country. Once Republicans understand it is not a legislative roadmap designed to annihilate them, maybe they too can realize they would do well to start to embrace these changes and evolve along with the rest of us.

If they don't they may as well change their symbol from the elephant to the woolly mammoth.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Maria Cardona.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT