In early 2013, following their convincing defeat in the presidential elections in 2012, the Republican party commissioned a study to do some serious soul-searching as to what the problem was and what they needed to do to make their party more appealing, especially to the young, women, and Latinos. The result was a 97-page report (quickly dubbed an ‘autopsy’) that criticized the the party’s attitude towards those major demographic groups and recommended wholesale changes.
Taegan Goddard says that the party seems to be completely ignoring those recommendations this time around.
The 97-page report was an extraordinary public acknowledgement of the party’s weaknesses. It did not mince words. The report said the GOP was “marginalizing itself,” and that without major changes “it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win a presidential election in the near future.”
Three key groups of voters were highlighted for special attention: Latinos, women, and young people. All were found to be moving away from the party.
If the last few months are any indication, Republicans have done little to pull these voters back into the GOP tent.
But if you listen to the Republicans running for president, the reason the party hasn’t won the White House in recent years is because their candidates haven’t been conservative enough. Younger voters — including younger Republicans — are much less conservative than the party. They don’t agree with the party on many issues, from gay marriage to immigration to the role of government itself.
It’s almost as if no Republicans bothered to read the Republican autopsy report. They’re making the same mistakes once again.
But one can sort of understand why. In the 2014 mid-term elections, Republicans won convincingly despite sticking to the old agenda, more emphatically if anything. It is true that one can find reasons for that, such as the traditionally lower turnout of the Democratic party supporters in non-presidential elections, but one can see why some Republicans might think their old message is still a good one.
But we should not be too complacent about the possible long-term decline of the Republican party. In the short-term they can do a lot of damage and they seem to have a way of turning out their most rabid supporters, more so that those who oppose them. But their biggest triumph is that they have been able to shift the framework of political discussion significantly to the right and, since the Democrats are comfortable in the position of being a right-of-center party facing a far-right party, they don’t really try to shift the debate back to the left.
Bernie Sanders is at least trying, hammering away at the things that should be discussed like attacking the power of the oligarchy, calling for reductions in wealth and income inequality, expanding Social Security and Medicare benefits, the need create good jobs, providing universal health care, protecting the environment, and rebuilding our infrastructure. For this he is consistently referred to as a socialist, a label that he proudly wears but resents being used pejoratively as if it were some kind of extremist position when much of what he stands for is actually supported by most Americans. He has told the media that if they feel they must attach the label socialist to his name, they should also say ‘capitalist’ in front of the name of every the other candidates.