The Republican National Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Reince Priebus, said the party must change if it ever hopes to win the White House again.
So it issued a 97-page report that describes the GOP as “out of touch,” “narrow minded,” and the party of “stuffy old men.” (Those are some of the quotations in the report from focus groups the committee held.)
“Public perception of the Party is at record lows,” the report said. “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”
Unless something changes, the report indicated, “It will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” So what should be done?
If the GOP is to become more relevant to today’s voters, the report insisted, it must “be inclusive and welcoming” on social issues. Plus, it needs to embrace “comprehensive immigration reform,” a code phrase that usually means providing illegal aliens with a path to U.S. citizenship.
Oh, and it’s important for Republican policy makers to realize that voters who are struggling to make ends meet in this economy “do not care if the help comes from the private sector or the government — they just want help.”
Do they think that’s the sort of message that will have millions of voters rushing to support Republicans next time around? Who are they kidding?
It sounds to me as though they’ve been watching too many Democratic commercials. What else can you think when the report offers conclusions like this: “The perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.”
It was no surprise that Democratic activists loved the resulting publicity. Jesse Ferguson, communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the report is “a total indictment of the Republican agenda in Congress.”
The report is a result of something called the Growth and Opportunity Project of the RNC. We’re told there were thousands of interviews and more than 50 focus groups, led by a team that included former George W. Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, RNC National Committeeman from Mississippi Henry Barbour and Jeb Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw from Florida.
To make the Republican Party “more relevant,” RNC chairman Priebus wants to spend $10 million to reach out to black, Hispanic and Asian communities. Here’s how he described this part of his plan:
“It will include hundreds of people — paid — across the country, from coast-to-coast, in Hispanic, African American, Asian communities, talking about our party, talking about our brand, talking about what we believe in, going to community events, going to swearing-in ceremonies, being a part of the community on an ongoing basis, paid for by the Republican National Committee, to make the case for our party and our candidates.”
I have no doubt that having real live human beings reaching out one-on-one will be a lot better than pouring millions more dollars into television commercials no one wants or watches. But wouldn’t it make more sense to put most of that effort into areas where a substantial number of people agree with your core principles?
Oops, sorry. “Core principles” are something the Beltway consultants want to ignore, not play up.
Before Republicans make such drastic changes in how they deliver their message, I hope they’ll consider a few important points.
First, remember that they won resounding victories in the House of Representatives three years ago — the biggest gains in more than 75 years. And they held that majority through last year’s elections. Yes, the Democrats got Obama re-elected (with fewer votes and by a much smaller margin than most people realize). And they made some gains in the House and Senate.
But there are plenty of reasons to be more optimistic about next year. For one thing, the Democrats have more to lose. There are 22 Democratic Senate seats that will be decided in 2014, compared to 14 now held by Republicans.
And be aware that seven of those Senate seats now in Democratic hands are in states that Obama lost last year. In fact, his average vote in those States was a dismal 41 percent.
Already, four incumbent Democratic Senators have announced that they are retiring next year. I’d be willing to bet that there will be several more who decide to hang up their hats rather than run in a race they are likely to lose.
Yes, I’m aware that the Democrats have made all sorts of noise about how they’ll not only keep control of the Senate next year, but they will also regain control of the House. I don’t buy it for a second — if the Republicans will field candidates who stick to the message that brought them victories in the past two campaigns.
I’m talking about winning candidates such as Rand Paul in Kentucky, Marco Rubio in Florida, Mike Lee in Utah, Ted Cruz in Texas and the dozens of tough-minded conservatives who swept to victory in the House. Plus, let’s not forget that Republicans won governorships in 30 states.
My point is that the right message will resonate with a majority of voters. Oh, maybe not in New York City or in the People’s Republic of California (with a handful of exceptions).
But in area after area and State after State, a message of curbing government growth, eliminating trillion-dollar deficits, stopping wasteful government spending and living within our means has proven that it will appeal to most voters most of the time.
Rather than soft-peddle their beliefs, Republicans must point out that in the past 10 years, Federal spending has increased a whopping 89 percent. Meanwhile, the median wealth in this country has dropped 23 percent. And the median household income has fallen 5 percent. In other words, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) recently pointed out: “While families have been doing more with less, government has been doing less with more.”
That’s a message the average voter can relate to. And as candidates like Paul, Rubio and Cruz have demonstrated, when voters understand the message, they’ll elect the messenger.
Let’s hope we see more like them running for office next year.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.