Authored for RenewAmerica.
The Republican Party’s recently-released “Growth & Opportunity” report seems to indicate that party leaders are having a hard time grasping their electoral failings, particularly among young and minority voters.The Growth & Opportunity Project was chaired by former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer (52) and consisted of four additional long-time party members: Sally Bradshaw (47), Henry Barbour (48), Glenn McCall (59) and Zoraida Fonelladas. (Though Fonelladas’ age isn’treadily available, her biography indicates she is the oldest of the group.)
The group came to the mistaken conclusion that the GOP needs to start looking at the electorate in more racial, segregated terms and try to pander to different groups individually. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gayAmericans and demonstrate that we care about them, too,” according to thereport.
When Mitt Romney spoke recently of his own loss, he said, “We weren't effective in my message primarily to minority voters, to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, other minorities.”
After Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, Ronald Reagan’s instinct was to talk about ideas. “The landslide majority did not voteagainst the conservative philosophy; they voted against a false image” of conservatism, he wrote. Unlike the modern GOP, he did not wonder aloud how to campaign in front of different races.
He recognized the appeal of conservatism andthe fact that its benefits were color-blind.
In order to win younger voters, the Growth& Opportunity report suggested that “Republican leaders should participate in [more] interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV, and magazines such as People, UsWeekly, etc.”
At least it managed to recognize the party is struggling to win the younger demographic. Where President Reagan won 59 percent of 18-29 year olds in 1984, Barack Obama won 60 percent in 2012. (He won 66 percent in 2008.)
However,it went on to suggest in subtle terms that as young voters were brought into the party, they needed to be excluded from participating. Page 97 suggested that caucus and convention systems—where poor voters and candidates are most able to participate—be eliminated in favor of primaries, where the rich have an outsized voice.
This suggestion built on measures passed at the national convention last year that prohibited regular delegates from formulating future convention rules, and prohibited delegates from the “poor man’s system” from participating.
It seems like establishment Republicans would rather retain their status than lose it by acknowledging that inept fuddy-duddies are more at fault for losing elections than conservative ideas. How can party members like Ari Fleischer (or Karl Rove, for that matter), who are committed to defending the economic interventionism of the Bush years, really articulate a clear vision of limited government?
By the time you arrive at even more of thereport’s ad nauseam suggestions for reaching young voters, they’re virtually irrelevant. (“Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram is important… we also need to be actively looking for and utilizing the newest and most cutting-edge social media platforms to engage this generation.”)
Young voters don’t need to be “reached.” They are not oblivious. They need to be given power in the party. The commission seemsto want to bring voters in while diminishing their influence. Given the way they want to operate, “Growth & Opportunity” Republicans should be focusing on voters who use the Internet less—not more. They’d be easier to control.
Of course, it may have helped if the Growth & Opportunity group had thought to send their survey to more people. Many Republican National Delegates—myself included—who voted for Ron Paul never received the survey. If the party is unable to locate people who are required to input their information literally dozens of times over an election, they seem to be more technologically-challenged than they have admitted.
Republicans would do better if they conveyed aholistic, consistent, conservative message and allowed their party to be more inclusive. There is no need to view the electorate as mutually exclusive racially, by gender, or by age. The longer Republicans focus on these demographic issues instead of on conservative solutions to public policy problems, the more they will lose.