The RNC “Autopsy” Report, Part 1: General Observations
The recently released RNC report of what went wrong in 2012 has been met with diverse criticisms and analysis almost in keeping with the number of times the word “diversity” is mentioned or intimated in the actual report. This is the underlying theme of the report- that the Republican Party is viewed as a group of stodgy old white men, dominated by voices from a by-gone era and ignorant of modern American demographics. In the next few articles, I wish to dissect some of the recommendations made within the report. There is no denying the poll results from 2012 where Republicans fell behind with Hispanic voters, with women voters, with young voters. Furthermore, the GOP remains woefully behind with African-American voters and in urban areas where even the white voters are tainted with the stain of liberalism.
Perhaps one of the biggest things to be taken from this report is that at nowhere does it suggest, other than immigration, that the Republican Party change course in any policy area. That includes the social issues like abortion, gay marriage, and other such ideas. What it does do is suggest that the Party can respectfully agree to disagree with certain elements within the Party who wish to change the stated views on these issues, yet still be accepting of these elements. For example, it would be perfectly fine to have a pro-choice Republican contingent or a contingent that supports gay marriage. Some may call this ideological apostasy; I do not. We are talking about the Republican Party, not the Conservative-At-All-Costs-On-Every-Issue Party. Likewise, the Party should certainly not shun or turn away from voices within the Party with heartfelt beliefs on the sanctity of human life in general, or the sanctity of traditional definitions of marriage. Healthy debate on these issues within the Party is certainly more indicative of “inclusiveness” than anything the Democratic Party can put forward where their social conservatives or even fiscal conservatives are relegated to say-nothing minority status. While the media focuses on the alleged “rift” within the Republican Party, they are deaf and blind to the fact that a very few short years ago (2010 to be exact) amid midterm losses, the Democratic Party was likewise wringing its hands over their electoral defeats and loss of the House. The result was a doubling down on the uber-liberal leadership of Nancy Pelosi to the detriment of the more fiscal and socially conservative Democrats within their ranks.
In part 2, I will discuss what forms the bulk of the report focusing on electoral demographic groups and in part 3 I will discuss electoral dynamics and what the Party can do going forward technologically and otherwise. This part will be more general.
For example, they suggest that the GOP (Grand Old Party) rebrand itself as the Party of Growth and Opportunity. This, to me, suggests avoidance of the social issues and emphasis on the fiscal issues. It is exactly that conclusion that Mitch Daniels suggested two or three years ago and for which he was viciously attacked by some conservatives. In fact, they tried to impugn his social conservative credentials despite his actions as Indiana Governor to the contrary. However, in the real world of political campaigns, this “wish” or suggestion is somewhat naive. If, for example, the issue of abortion or gay marriage- the two big social issues- is in no way a conceivable issue, the Democrats and their allies in the media will make it one. Fiscally-speaking, candidates like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin may have been ideal, but what brought them down politically? I am increasingly appalled by candidates who unintentionally shoot themselves in their feet. In response to some “gotcha” question on a Missouri radio talk show, all Akin had to say was, “Everyone knows my views on abortion, but can we talk about (insert fiscal issue here)” because Missouri voters KNEW his view on abortion. And then Mourdock goes out and makes the same mistake. Both should be purged from the GOP not for their views, but for their rank stupidity.
They also suggest that the GOP stop talking to itself which is kind of an oxymoron given the other suggestions. While openly endorsing a policy where the party accepts voices who agree with some but not all policy positions, they are suggesting a utopian world where these other voices will remain quiet and bend to the will of the traditional majority within the party. In other words, “we accept you, but can you please shut up.” If you are going to invite diversity into the party, then you also invite competing views with traditional, orthodox Republican mantra. Competition and challenging the status quo is always good in my humble opinion, but doing so will always result in the party “talking to itself.”
I think we can all agree that the party can learn from successes at the state level and then incorporate those ideas and strategies to the national level. But, they further state this is because at the state level, Governors and other elected officials include people who share some, but not all of stated Republican policies. State-level political dynamics are different from those for national office. Again, take the case of Missouri. At heart, if we exclude St. Louis and Kansas City at either side of the state, Missouri is quite conservative. Todd Akin certainly had more in common with the vast majority of Missourians than Claire McCaskill yet he still lost over a single issue. In New Jersey in 2009, if the sitting Democratic governor was anyone other than Jon Corzine, Chris Christie may have very well lost his election. While it is true that we can learn from successes at the state, it comes with a caveat- there is no tried-and-true formula that guarantees success at the national level.
The report spend some time of the perception that the Republican Party does not care. Much has been written about this in both the liberal and conservative press and on blogs. Human Events recently noted that the Republican Party will never “out care” the Democratic Party. That is because for too long, the Democratic Party has defined “caring” as nothing more than government hand-outs to those they define as “needy.” The fact is that as a group, conservatives actually put more of their money where their mouth is when it comes to true caring- through charitable contributions and non-political volunteerism. These facts are lost on the electorate and drowned out by the liberal press echoing the Democratic Party’s line about “uncaring” Republicans. Every Republican policy proposal is interpreted as being “uncaring” towards our seniors, towards Hispanics, towards blacks, towards homeowners, towards renters, towards college students, towards women in general, towards…you get the idea. A publication like Human Events seems to suggest that the GOP should just abandon this approach of expressing “caring.”
The way the report suggests changes be made is through connecting its policies to real life people. That does not suggest that the Party find and drag out faces to put behind the policies. Instead, it is to show how the policy affects real life people. There is one commonality among all Americans that is embedded in the American psyche- the desire to increase our station in life and leave this life with a better Nation for our offspring. It is here that the Republican Party must demonstrate that its policies have a greater chance of succeeding in that goal rather than the policies of hand outs from the government. As that aforementioned Human Events article noted, Republicans are caring; they just don’t express caring with other people’s money. Also, it is one thing to espouse free market principles in the economic sphere, but those arguments fall on a few select ears. Most voters today do not even know what the free market truly represents or the opportunity- both individually and collectively- it promises. It is doubtful that the Republican Party can also function as a educational institution in this area. So instead, to state the obvious, of course the Republican Party should illustrate how their policies will impact on the individual and they should be upfront about projected pain.
For example, the partial privatization of Social Security should resonate with younger workers and by “partial” I mean that it would be an option to the individual. The current system makes a series of false demographic assumptions that comes to the conclusion that only the government can be trusted to make a decision for the individual regarding retirement security. The wonkish talk from people like Paul Ryan is one thing and likely to be remembered or understood by few. But, by showing how Joe Blow age 22 and entering the workforce would benefit under this system versus Joe Blow B age 22 and entering the workforce would benefit under the traditional paradigm would resonate with more potential young voters. Showing how educational reforms that stress choice can help your average Hispanic child in San Antonio or Miami OR how such programs DID help African-American children our nation’s capital is a must.
I wholeheartedly agree with the concept with the Republican Party should be the one that champions the individual who aspires to improvement for themselves and for their children. Yet, this report then does what? It later on breaks down the electorate into groups- how to win the Hispanic vote, the black vote, the woman vote, the Asian vote, the youth vote. In a way, it works at cross purposes besides stating the obvious at too many junctures.
They then go on to point out that the GOP needs to call out corporate malfeasance when it becomes evident. This, again, is stating the obvious. I assume this was included because the Party is perceived or defined as beholden to special interests and the party of Big Business. I can think of very few rational Republicans who advocate for an absolutely government-free, unregulated, run-amok free market. To me, and hopefully most others, a free market must be truly open. That means that information must be available to EVERYONE so that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed OR fail. Success should not be guaranteed but the means to make those decisions must be transparent. I am quite certain that most sane Republicans disapprove of insider trading schemes or Ponzi schemes. Of course, they happen and they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but passing onerous laws that tie the hands of the innocent because of the actions of a very small few helps no one.
In a way, this statement may be a recognition that the TARP program helped the banking industry while the average American was losing their home and their job. To make matters worse, many of those bailed out were receiving rewards for what can best described as failure. Although I understand that a nation cannot allow its banking system to fall because some people made really bad decisions and bets along the way, neither should it reward the individuals who made those bad decisions and bets. The bottom line is that if the regulators were awake at the wheel, or that people like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were not dissing or dismissing Bush’s warnings in 2003-04, perhaps, just perhaps, there would have been no need for TARP in the first place.
The final general suggestion is that the Republican Party open a dialogue with the “people- all the people.” This implies that the Republican Party was and is close-minded and suborns its policies to the rich or the white. In other words, it perpetuates that caricature created by the Democrats and the liberal media of the Republican Party. Dialogue with various segments of the electorate states the obvious. However, it assumes the opposite has been happening. Where I believe it goes wrong at some points is when it assumes that outreach to the NAACP or some Hispanic group, for example, is “talking to the people” as if these groups represent the views of all blacks or all Hispanics. If I were African-American, I would be proud of the work the NAACP has done for blacks in the past, but I would also be offended by the fact that anyone believes the NAACP talks for me as an individual.
And that in a nutshell is what I personally believe the Republican Party should become rather than the “Growth and Opportunity” party- the party of the individual over the herd- the realization that as we personally and individually succeed, we all succeed. That means that institutional barriers like Social Security that keep African-Americans from entering the investor class “for their own good” must be highlighted, or that abortion is ravaging minority communities as a form of self-imposed population control, or that Obamacare’s promised benefits are not coming to fruition, and so on. This concept of individual opportunity AND responsibility is certainly more American than the collective socialism advanced by the Democratic Party today. And it spills over into a social area like abortion where there is respect for the individual choices of women although the Party may disagree with some of those choices offered. That policy is more respectful of women than the Democratic view that women are defined by their stance on abortion or contraception and that if you do not accept that view, then you must be a troglodyte.
One of the funniest (to me) arguments from recent political campaigns is that the Republican Party has the same old ideas. In fact, it is the Republican Party that has been the most reform-minded in terms of proposed solutions and ideas. Most of this is attributable to the rise of politically conservative think tanks who do the dirty analytic work. But what have the Democrats offered up as solutions besides protecting programs and policies rooted in the 1930s or the 1960s?
In the next part, I will dissect the reports suggestions and recommendations as they apply to this concept of inclusion with respect to Hispanics, Asians, blacks, women and young voters. As will become apparent, I fully admit that the Republican Party has shied away from these groups in the past or they have thrown in the towel with some. Also, the messaging in policy areas that affect these groups have sounded hard-hearted in the past. However, I will argue that is also the exception to the norm and that the Democrats with a compliant liberal media have highlighted the exception to the norm in their endless attempt to describe the GOP as being in constant war with anything that is not a white,older, stodgy person.