At our core, Republicans have comfortably remained the Party of Reagan without figuring out what comes next. Ronald Reagan is a Republican hero and role model who was first elected 33 years ago -- meaning no one under the age of 51 today was old enough to vote for Reagan when he first ran for President. Our Party knows how to appeal to older voters, but we have lost our way with younger ones. We sound increasingly out of touch.
-Republican National Committee's "Growth and Opportunity Project" report.
By now, it's no secret that the GOP is a party with problems. While many reports focus primarily on Republican outreach to Latino or women voters, the fact is that the party has alienated Americans across the board. The list of demographic groups Republicans have either lost by actually attacking them or merely by ignoring them is far, far too long to post. Listing the demographic left to them is just as informative, if much more concise: middle-aged straight, white Evangelical males. The end.
The Republican Party is in deep trouble and everyone knows it. They can't hope to win the White House without radically reforming. And, since they're one appointment away from losing the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, that means real trouble for a conservative agenda that relies more and more on judicial activism. They could conceivably lose that SCOTUS majority before the next election. But it gets a lot more likely if they lose the presidency in 2016. On the presidential side, even in normal circumstances, a Democrat winning 2016 puts 2020 in danger, through the advantage given by incumbency alone. Add in unresolved demographic issues and defeating a Democratic incumbent in 2020 would be an exercise in futility. Especially without a Supreme Court willing to hand Republicans Citizens United-type advantages.
Enter the Republican National Committee's "Growth and Opportunity Project," a 100-page report recommending major reforms to the Republican Party in advance of the 2016 elections.
"When Republicans lost in November, it was a wake-up call. And in response I initiated the most public and most comprehensive post-election review in the history of any national party," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in prepared remarks in advance of a Monday morning speech at the National Press Club. "As it makes clear, there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement."
There's only one hitch: conservatives, especially those in the base, hate change.
...Many of the reforms proposed by the Growth and Opportunity Project, however, will encounter stiff resistance in corners of the Republican Party and broader conservative movement — because of a deep distrust of the official GOP among the grassroots.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin encapsulated the sentiment during her speech on Saturday before the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home, and toss the political scripts," she said, "because if we truly know what we believe, we don't need professionals to tell us."
I'm fairly well convinced that Sarah Palin spends her days scrolling through rightwing websites. She doesn't read the posts there, she reads the comments. Then she leads by following. Sarah Palin has never had an original idea in her life. So when she showed up at CPAC, waving a Big Gulp around like some sort of revolutionary war flag and complaining about consultants and "professionals," she was delivering not what she believes (I'm just as convinced she believes nothing), but what she knew the audience would applaud. CPAC was her crowd, her area of expertise. These are the people who leave insane comments at Breitbart.com. These are the lunatics Sarah studies and emulates. If there's one thing wingnuts love, it's hearing their own beliefs bounced back at them uncritically. It helps them believe the crazy things they say are true. Palin knows it and keeps her fifteen minutes of fame on life support by doing exactly that.
Long story short, if Sarah Palin's remedy for the GOP blues is "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!" then that's the base's opinion as well. And the base is where candidates and voters come from. It's who decides the primaries. Reince's little project is DOA unless he can get the talk radio crowd to play along -- and you know they won't. Republicans have spent far too long courting the torches-and-pitchforks crowd. Angry mobs don't have time for carefully laid out manifestos for the future. Angry mobs are formed to satisfy anger. Reaction is the rule, not planning. Strategy is proactive. Angry mobs are reactive.
The Republican Party has spent far too long choosing their voters to change anything now. Using wedge issue after wedge issue, they split off demographic after demographic until they created the perfect rightwing lunatic. Even if they had a great plan to move forward and win the White House, their perfect voter is the one steering this bus now and he's going to go where he wants to go.
It was probably a mistake to release this report immediately following CPAC, where rightwing purity was the rule. But the mistake is only one of public relations. The party's base are just as resistant to change now as they would be later.
And it's there that the "Growth and Opportunity Project" dies in its cradle.
[photo via Gage Skidmore]
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