The Republican National Committee today revealed an extensive report on the perception that Americans have of the Republican Party. It also includes strategies on how fix these misconceptions. The report has been three months in the making, with people at the RNC working to compile information based on focus group data, surveys, conference calls and meetings.
I, for one, think this is a good first step. It's no secret that the Republicans have had trouble in recent years. When asked to describe the Republican Party, the report cites words such as “scary,” “narrow minded,” “out of touch” and “stuffy old men.” Those words don't exactly paint the picture of a Party that excites voters or generates enthusiasm.
So how did the GOP allow itself to get to this point and what does it need to do to overcome these perceptions? Those are two huge questions that this report attempts to tackle and they are important for the future of this country.
The report acknowledges the changing demographics of the country. It's no secret that minority voters aren't too keen on the Republican Party, and yet minorities are a rapidly-growing part of our voting population. Those are just the facts. But what does the GOP do about this? I would argue that the GOP doesn't need to try and change its core values in order to woo these voters. The GOP needs better candidates, communication and message discipline that allow voters to really see exactly what it really stands for. In my opinion, these values should be freedom and opportunity and they should be reflected in the policies of limited government, a balanced budget, energy independence, lower taxes, and lower regulations. I truly believe that Americans, regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status would agree with the GOP on many of these issues. The key, as the report points out, is not just about the policies but it’s about humanizing these issues. A balanced budget seems like a great idea in theory, but how does that ultimately affect a single mother trying to raise her kids in Dayton, Ohio or a minority small business owner in Apopka, Florida? Liberals are very good at humanizing these issues. That's not to say that the GOP needs to over-dramatize them but they need to start talking to the American people like adults and being honest in how conservative principles can affect their lives positively.
Something interesting cited in the report is that the GOP needs well-funded conservative groups to do what Democrats did in 2012 by digging up opposition research on candidates. This is all well-and-good. I'm sure that Democrats say a lot of dumb things out there that are rarely reported, let alone in the lapdog Obama-mania media. The GOP wants to employ this same tactic because it gives you the upper hand in an election. But the Republican Party should just be mindful not to become the anti-party. As important as it may be to try and bring to light dumb Democrat comments, it is more important to be a party that stands for something. People need something to vote FOR, not just against. That's something I think we learned in this last election of Barack Obama.
I think that this report came at the perfect time, right on the heels of CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference. If you take a look at what happened at CPAC, it seems as though a newer, younger strain of conservatism is starting to take hold, and I believe the GOP will benefit from this. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the CPAC straw poll winner with Florida Senator Marco Rubio a close second. Both of these guys are whom I would label as up-and-coming All Stars in the Republican Party. They represent a younger, fresher approach to conservatism that, quite frankly, has the base more excited than I have seen in quite some time. Now, some people may disagree with the Republican Party taking on a more Libertarian approach to some issues, particularly on social issues. We can debate that in time, but what is undeniable is that the Republican Party is truly at a crossroads. As long as the GOP continues to speak clearly about conservative principles and – here's the important part – actually vote like conservatives when they get to Washington, then I think the Party has the possibility to become relevant again in communities all across this nation.
This report is a good first step and I anticipate we will be discussing many more of its ideas and strategies over the next few months.