Republican Party charts course for reinvention: Will it work?
Focus groups told a Republican task force the party is 'out of touch' and full of 'stuffy old men.' Its 98-page plan, out Monday, contains 219 proposals for reform. But it mostly steers clear of policy.
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“In the process of quarantining Democrats, Republicans effectively purged millions of minority voters from their own districts, and that should raise a warning flag,” Mr. Cook wrote in National Journal. “By drawing themselves into safe, lily-white strongholds, have Republicans inadvertently boxed themselves into an alternate universe that bears little resemblance to the rest of the country?”Skip to next paragraph
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In other words, Republican candidates who don’t have many minorities living in their districts may feel less compelled to speak to their concerns.
But in addressing the party’s demographic woes, the RNC plan doesn’t leave it up to the individual candidates or local parties to fix the problem. Priebus laid out steps the RNC will take aimed at boosting party outreach, such as: setting up advisory councils for Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian Americans; establishing “swearing-in citizenship teams” to introduce new citizens to the GOP after naturalization ceremonies; and recruiting more minorities and women to run for office at all levels.
Priebus also addressed the mechanics of the last election cycle. The primaries dragged on well into the spring, delaying the eventual nominee, Mr. Romney, from pivoting toward his general-election campaign against President Obama. The number of primary debates skyrocketed – 20 in all, up from seven in 1988. All the Obama campaign had to do was sit back and take notes as Republicans leveled one devastating attack after another on the front-runner, Romney. Candidates also hurt themselves and the party with numerous gaffes at the debates.
The days of late summer GOP conventions also appear to be over. Romney was not legally allowed to spend any general election funds until he had been formally nominated, and he was effectively out of money for about two months. Mr. Obama, who faced no primary challenger, was able to level attacks during the summer that went unanswered.
“No more August conventions,” Priebus said.
Ultimately, though, the number of debates and timing of the convention probably pale in importance to the substance of policy and how it is communicated. Priebus made clear that one need not agree with the Republican Party on every issue to vote Republican, referring to President Reagan’s “80-20 rule” – that if you agree with the Republicans on 80 percent of the issue, it’s OK to disagree on the other 20 percent.
The question is, which are the “20 percent” issues. Clearly, gay rights is one, given Priebus’s praise for Senator Portman’s announcement. He called gay rights a “gateway” issue for younger voters, in particular – an issue that needs to be overcome before voters will listen to other parts of the GOP message. Already, for many otherwise-conservative young Evangelicals, the idea of gay marriage is not a big deal.
Abortion, which wasn’t mentioned in the report, is a trickier matter. The social conservative wing of the Republican Party isn’t about to age out of its opposition to abortion rights the way it appears to be doing on gay marriage. And so the issues related to reproductive rights that alienated women voters from Republican candidates last November – such as access to birth control under "Obamacare" – are likely to be around for a while.
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