Not Dead Yet?: The RNC Autopsy of the 2012 Election
The Republican National Committee just published a 100-page report, the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” that critiqued the party's performance during the 2012 election. Part of the report focused on the GOP's perception and messaging and part focused on the party's campaign ground game.
The report offered some surprisingly harsh criticism of the party:
-- Insular and narrow-minded: "The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue."
-- Compassionate whatacism?: "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" and "Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people’s lives. Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers."
-- Too white, too old, too male: "The nation’s demographic changes add to the urgency of recognizing how precarious our position has become. America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans are able to grow our appeal the way GOP governors have done, the changes tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction."
The report also made some interesting recommendations, though the authors went out of their way to say that they were not a "policy committee," which meant they couldn't quite come out and say "stop acting like racist f*cks" and "stay out of women's vajayjays."
Some recommendations clashed with the GOP's current modus operandi. For example, the report recommended that the GOP embrace early and absentee voting as well as promote voter registration. Those fly in the face of the GOP's actions during the last election cycle to increasingly restrict and limit voting and to effectively disenfranchise certain types of voters.
Overall, the report shows that the GOP is at a cross-roads and that it is battling itself. It singled out third-party groups, such as conservative news organizations, bloggers, and the like, and said that they were actively hurting the GOP's electoral chances by promoting ideological purity instead of new ideas. It also offered oblique criticism of the GOP's overtly partisan primary process by saying that "winning primaries is not enough" and that "to affect public policy, the Republican Party must win general elections and not only primaries."
An event at CPAC over the weekend put the gap between what the RNC report says needs to be done in order for the GOP to remain a viable political party and what it actually is today in stark relief. The RNC report cautioned that if the party really wants to appeal to minorities, women, gays, and the young it has to watch what it says:
The Republican Party is one of tolerance and respect, and we need to ensure that the tone of our message is always reflective of these core principles. In the modern media environment a poorly phrased argument or out-of-context statement can spiral out of control and reflect poorly on the Party as a whole.
As part of an effort to figure out how conservatives could better reach minority groups, CPAC had a panel discussion entitled "Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?" But that wasn't the punch line. The punch line was when the discussion leader explained how Fredrick Douglas forgave his slave master and an audience member quipped "For giving him shelter? And food?"