(LOS ANGELES) — Republican leaders have descended on California this week to discuss the future of their party, and while the goal is unity, some activists are threatening to turn it into the political equivalent of the Wild Wild West.
The Republican National Committee is holding a three-day gathering in Los Angeles in part to discuss the recommendations in the party’s 2012 “autopsy” report (the RNC prefers to call it by its official name, the “Growth and Opportunity Project”).
According to an RNC official, “the meeting will be focused on our efforts to grow the party and implement a bottom-up grassroots organization in every community.”
But even as they assemble for their spring meeting in a city that is a magnet for immigrants, back in Washington, some conservative leaders are balking at the way immigration reform legislation is being drafted in Congress. Former senator and current Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint told reporters this week that he found it disturbing that the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” group’s bill was being “developed behind closed doors,” according to a BuzzFeed report.
Nevertheless, members of the Senate group, including prominent Republicans like Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, are preparing to introduce their preliminary bill. And their efforts are in line with the recommendations of the RNC’s post-election report, which counseled greater outreach to the Hispanic community.
“If Hispanic-Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence,” the authors of the “Growth and Opportunity” project wrote in a reference to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s support of self-deportation. “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
But internal disagreements over immigration reform are not the only ones party leaders might have to contend with at their meeting, which takes place at a hotel near the Hollywood hills. At least one RNC committee member plans to introduce a resolution doubling down on the party’s platform, which supports traditional marriage.
The move comes just weeks after the GOP’s post-election report called for greater outreach to the gay community. The authors wrote: “For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view. Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”
And even though many Republicans are hoping for a semblance of unity, others within the party are gunning for a fight over a set of controversial rules that were passed at the national convention in Tampa last summer. Detractors, including Virginia RNC Committeeman Morton Blackwell who is leading a charge to roll back those rules, say they amounted to a power grab that gives the committee and national Republicans too much control over picking the party’s presidential nominee.
Other committee recommendations contained in the “Growth and Opportunity Project” report include shortening the primary season and reducing the number of debates, and not all of them were met with universal approval by GOP activists.
Despite the infighting, the RNC has been seeking to show signs of progress in other areas. Chairman Reince Priebus this week announced the hires of two new staff members to conduct outreach to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The committee brought on board a national field director and a national communications director to focus on Asian voters. And recently, Priebus has been meeting with Silicon Valley leaders and GOP technology gurus in an effort to catch up with Democrats on the digital front.
Although this week’s meeting will be focused on the Republican Party of the future, state chairman and committee members will also be paying homage to one of the icons of their past. The capstone event of the three-day meeting will be a dinner and tour of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.
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Dylan Byers Sara Murray and Kevin Liptak, CNN
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