The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

One Year After ‘Autopsy,’ GOP Outreach Is Still Dead

Reince Priebus 427x321

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

One year ago, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus unveiled the “GOP Growth and Opportunity Project,” a public report on how things went so wrong for the Republican Party in the 2012 election.

At the time, The National Memopredicted that the report — which suggested that the party soften its message to become more inclusive — would flop spectacularly.

We didn’t know how right we were.

Here are four areas in which Republicans completely ignored the advice in their own “autopsy” report:

Outreach To The Poor

Boehner and Cantor

Photo: Republican Conference via Flickr

What the report said: “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.”

“The Republican Party must be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life…We need to help everyone make it in America.”

What happened: The autopsy report did nothing to change congressional Republicans’ obsession with cutting programs designed to help the poor (while leaving most benefits for the wealthy conspicuously untouched). Republicans in 19 states continued to block the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, leaving millions of low-income adults without health care (and in one state, they want to stop the poor from even accessing emergency rooms).

House Republicans held up the farm bill for months over complaints that it did not include sufficient cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). After finally reaching a deal that cut food stamps by $800 million per year, Republican leaders have now turned their attention to retaliating against states that are trying to find ways to continue to feed their hungry citizens.

Senate Republicans also spent months blocking efforts to extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed, before finally relenting under intense political pressure. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where Republicans sound eager to block it, lest too many out-of-work Americans rest easy in the government hammock.

And while House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is no longer claiming that he’d rather commit suicide than vote on raising the minimum wage — a policy that could lift nearly 7 million Americans out of poverty — the GOP has made it clear that it has no intention of allowing a vote on that particular ladder of opportunity.

Outreach To Minorities

Paul Ryan

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

What the report said: “If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.”

“[A]mong the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond must be to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”

“The Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.”

What happened: A comprehensive list of the GOP’s many, many, many failures to “show sincerity” to minorities would take days to read, so instead let’s just focus on the past 10 days.

First came CPAC, the annual gathering of conservative activists from across the country. While some speakers reminded the attendees that the GOP’s massive demographic dilemma will not disappear by itself, they were overshadowed by the usual menagerie of race baiters, white nationalists, and worst of all, Ann Coulter (who decried the “browning of America” while threatening to “organize the death squads” if Republicans allow immigration reform to pass),

Days later, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) blew another hole in his own personal rebranding narrative when he blamed poverty in part on lazy men from “inner cities.” After Democrats criticized the obvious racial undertones of his remarks, Ryan claimed that his remarks were being misinterpreted (although the white nationalist whom Ryan was citing when he stuck his foot in his mouth has been perfectly clear about his thoughts on African-Americans).

Meanwhile, the GOP is no closer to passing comprehensive immigration reform than it was when the RNC wrote its report, and it is continuing to actively push voter ID laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from casting their ballots.

Outreach To Women

Mike Huckabee

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

What the report said: “Be conscious of developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women. The Republican Party needs to offer that same vision and message demonstrating that our policies, principles and vision address the concerns of female voters.”

What happened: Instead of leaning forward, the GOP is attempting to legislate women’s health back to the 1950s. Twenty-two states enacted 70 abortion restrictions in 2013 — more than in any year in American history aside from 2011. In fact, more abortion restrictions were passed from 2011 through 2013 than in the entire previous decade.

The GOP platform’s hostility towards women does not end with reproductive health. As Salon’s Katie McDonough recently explained, Republican policies on poverty, voting rights, minimum wage, guns, and more would all have particularly negative effects on women.

The party didn’t do a much better job on the messaging front. Despite training candidates to stop saying terrifying things about rape and domestic violence, Republicans still just can’t seem to stop their politicians from talking about women being “hosts” for fetuses, or lecturing women about “Uncle Sugar” and controlling their libidos.
Stop Saying Crazy Things

Glenn Beck 427x321

Photo: The Rocketeer via Flickr

What the report said: “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.”

What happened: Even the authors of this report must have known that Republicans would never stop “driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac,” as they memorably described the GOP’s steady descent into a swamp of right-wing conspiracies.

It’s difficult to capture the magnitude of just how spectacularly the GOP failed the “stop saying crazy things” test in 2013. But the archives of This Week In Crazy is a good place to start.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Leopard 2 tanks

This is the latest report in my months-long coverage of the war in Ukraine. For more reporting like this, and to read my screeds about the reprehensible Republican Party, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.

Keep reading...Show less
Youtube Screenshot

With Republicans once again setting the stage for gridlock in Congress over raising the U.S. Treasury's statutory debt limit, and using interviews to push disingenuous analogies comparing the federal government’s budgeting practices to that of an average American household. The real danger is that mainstream media could fall for this misleading comparison and pressure Democrats into enacting painful cuts to popular social programs, while also letting Republicans off the hook for their role in manufacturing this crisis in the first place.

These comparisons between federal and household budgets go back many years, and they ignore some glaring differences: Unlike a household or business, the U.S. government issues its own currency and can roll over its own debt. The political utility of this comparison, however, is that it has enabled conservatives to target social programs, while they avoid answering for their own role in running up the public debt through unfunded tax cuts under Republican administrations.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ }}