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
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT