Dear GOP: It isn’t your Messaging that’s your Problem

© Josh Sager – March 2013

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In the aftermath of the 2012 election, during which the Republicans incurred heavy losses in national races, the GOP has found itself searching for reasons why they lost. After some self-reflection, the Republican Party believes that it has found the reasons why they are losing support in the country.

In an RNC study titled The Growth and Opportunity Project (also referred to as the “2012 autopsy report”) Republican academics claim to have determined why they seem to be losing the country. According to this report, the GOP has failed in messaging and in outreach to the American people—particularly in regard to the demographics of “Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Indian Americans, Native Americans, women, and youth.” A serious lack of investment in outreach to these communities, coupled with misconceptions about the conservative ideology held by these groups is blamed for the loss of support in these demographic communities.

The Growth and Opportunity Project included numerous suggestions to the GOP in an attempt to chart a path out of the demographic catastrophe facing the party, but at no point did the report make a suggestion that the actual policies of the GOP need to be changed. The central premise of this report was basically that the GOP has great policies, but has seriously failed in selling these policies to the American people.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, their self-reflection misses the mark and the idea that outreach and messaging can fix their problems is absolutely wrong. It is certainly true that the Republicans need to work on their messaging (at this point, everybody knows what “job creators” actually means), but the real problem with their electoral prospects is policy, not perception. The Republicans have lost support in many demographics, not because people don’t know what they support, but because people know what they support and don’t like it:

Poor and middle class people are sick of having their benefits and government services cut in order to fund tax cuts for the rich. The very same Republicans who would cut education and nutrition assistance for millions of Americans in order to “fix the deficit” support adding trillions to the deficit by cutting taxes on the wealthy.

Women are tired of refighting the women’s rights fights of the late 20th century. They have faced hundreds of attacks on their right to control their bodies from members of your party; just last week, North Dakota and Arkansas passed draconian anti-abortion laws that would ban abortion after as little as six weeks. The GOP failed to support equal pay for women when they Lilly Ledbetter Act was brought up

African Americans are angry at Republicans for their attempts to suppress the black vote and for their party’s endemic racism. Over the past few years, numerous GOP politicians have systematically taken power away from African American voters through discriminatory voter ID laws and redistricting. The GOP is even now challenging the validity of the Voting Rights Act and may succeed in striking it down within the year’s end. Right wing politicians and pundits have engaged in thinly veiled racial attacks on Democrats (ex. welfare dog-whistles) nearly endlessly for the past 5 years.

Latinos are repelled by the GOP when they openly espouse racism against them, pass policy to attack their rights, and try to equate all Hispanic Americans with undocumented immigrants. Whether it be the “papers please” law of Arizona that would make all people with dark skin suspect, or the attempts by Florida Governor Scott to throw Hispanics off of the voting rolls, the GOP has simply not passed policies that Hispanic Americans can get behind.

Atheists are terrified of the religious extremists who control the right wing social policy. The GOP keeps presenting religious lunatics—like Santorum, who openly says that the separation of church and state makes him sick, or Bachmann, who says that women should be “submissive” to their husbands—for a vote and atheists are repelled.

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The GOP has become an extremely inhospitable party for a wide variety of demographics and has supported policies that put it at odds with our country’s majority. In focusing on maintaining their extremist right wing ideology and disregarding any compromise, the GOP has shrunk itself into a regional party—they control white, rural areas and much of the south, but have lost virtually every other region of the country.

The GOP’s right wing economic orthodoxy is focused on benefitting rich individuals, while disregarding the interests of every other group. The social policies of discriminating against gays and attacking the rights of women reduce the GOP constituency from rich people, to rich, straight men. Policy-based attacks on racial minorities, combined with the general racism of the party, further limits the GOP’s demographic base to rich, white, straight men.

When racial minorities, women, the poor, gay people, atheists, scientists, young people, and all of the other groups attacked by right wing policies reject the GOP, they are simply acting in their own self-interest. These groups see what the GOP has done once in power and realize that they want no part in voting more Republicans into office. No amount of messaging and outreach can overcome the fact that the GOP is simply not a party which supports the interests of most demographics.

Put plainly: It doesn’t matter how nice the wrapping paper is when you keep sending people the same dog turd. The GOP offers nothing more than discrimination and economic “bootstraps” arguments to huge swathes of the population and is surprised when they aren’t supported politically.

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