What can the Republican party learn from Wolf Blitzer? A lot, actually, when it comes to understanding who and what 21st century America looks like.
Blitzer caught some deserved heat when he was interviewing a woman who survived the tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma last month. The interviewee had managed to escape her home right before the twister came through town. And as she held her child amid the wreckage, Blitzer said, "You've gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?"
The woman paused awkwardly before saying, "actually, I'm an atheist." Blitzer recovered, saying, "you are. All right. But you made the right call."
It was a silly question to ask, not only because it injected religion into a news story unnecessarily, but because it was terribly leading and presumptuous. Can we finally get away from the idea that everyone who lives in the middle of this country is a Bible-thumping, born-again Christian?
And for that matter, nor is that region of the country all white. What was notable for people watching the TV coverage of the storm was how many of the residents were black or Latino. True, people self-select their communities, contributing to greater political polarization in this country. But we are simply becoming a far more ethnically diverse and religiously diverse nation – including, even, Oklahoma atheists.
The GOP officially gets this. The party paid a hefty sum for a report stating the obvious – but an important and insightful obvious, nonetheless – about the changing demographics of this country. Hispanics are an increasing segment of the population, not just in places like New York City and California, or even in places like Colorado and New Mexico, but in place like North Carolina and, indeed, Oklahoma. The writers of the GOP report get that their party may never win another national campaign unless it adapts and updates to address the needs of a nation that is becoming more ethnically diverse (and for that matter, pro-gay rights).
The country may not be making some big shift to the left, but it is simply not the father-knows-best, working-women-need-to-be-home-at-5pm-to-make-dinner-for-their-families, dominantly white and male power structure that losing presidential candidate Mitt Romney seemed to envision.
The party, former GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bob Dole said recently, ought to have a sign out saying "closed for repairs."' Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus disagrees, saying over the weekend that the party's moniker should be "open for repairs." Watching Blitzer's interview with the Oklahoma atheist would be a good start.