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
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT