Do the Republicans Have an Imaging Problem or is it More Complicated?
It's the proverbial question. What is the particular reason that Republicans have lost the last two elections and are polling lower as a party compared to the Democratic Party? It's a question that many pundits and politicians are currently asking. Sadly, it is more complicated than just an easy "yes" answer. The RNC has even released a report (today, actually) that outlines how the party went wrong in the last election. It's sort of an autopsy. The report includes over 200 things that Republicans should do to come back to prominence in the next election cycles.
So, let's look at the issues they face and the reality of the situation.
Yes, there's a problem.
That's the first step, right? You must admit that there's a problem and the GOP clearly has a problem. In the 2012 elections, they lost Latinos, Asians, Blacks (it's actually more politically correct than African-Americans, but that's beside the point), and even women by double digits, and sometimes by over 60 points. Basically, they lost every demographic except white people as a whole. But, the demographics of our nation are changing to the point where that alone doesn't win you elections. We are now a majority minority nation. Obviously, the Democrats have a large advantage with this. Now, why is it that these demographic groups don't like the GOP? Now there's a fairly easy question.
Problem #1: Policies toward women
Let's start with the largest demographic. Women make up slightly more of the electorate than men. So, why do women generally vote more for Democrats? Well, there are many reasons. For one, the Republicans had a certain politician last cycle that said the female anatomy had ways of shutting down a "legitimate rape." That person is none other than Todd Akin. Now, does that speak for every Republican? No, it certainly does not. But, he is a Republican. Furthermore, Richard Mourdock said that even in cases of rape, he felt that god intended for it to happen. So, strike two for the Republican party. Both of those candidates obviously lost. But, even Paul Ryan (yes, the P90X congressman from Wisconsin who was the potential VP in 2012) co-sponsored a bill to redefine what rape meant. Why? I have no clue. Seems like it shouldn't be a partisan issue...oh, but what do I know?
Furthermore, there has been a nationwide purging of abortion clinics. Now, the Supreme Court did rule that it will stay legal, but that doesn't mean that state Republicans can't hinder access to said clinics. In some southern states, there is only 1 abortion clinic in the entire state. So, it has been pretty clear that Republicans are the ones removing access to abortion. Women obviously see this. Part of this is what's known as a trans-vaginal ultrasound, which conservatives in Virginia were trying to force upon women who were attempting to get an abortion. In their view, they would see the baby before they killed it, thus making it much less likely it would happen. Essentially, the government was raping women because the ultrasound would be done whether they consented or not. So, I think anyone can see how that would turn women off of voting for Republicans.
Last little note. Many Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act Re-authorization of 2013. Yes, a bill about protecting women against domestic violence...why they voted against it? It gave too many protections to women. That pretty much sums it up. And they wonder why some women might not want to vote for them?
Problem #2: Policies / statements toward Latinos
This demographic the Republicans lost by over 60 points in the 2012 election. There's a pretty good reason for that. Well, many, really. The many include policies favoring the rich (major tax cuts for the wealthy), cutting social programs (aka "reforming" medicare and social security), reducing access to birth control and abortion (both of which Latinos largely support), constant attempts to repeal ObamaCare (over 50, actually), and finally, their view on immigration reform.
Until very recently, Republicans were largely against immigration reform. I mean, they knew something had to be done about it, but they thought it would be cheating if the illegal immigrants were somehow granted a pathway to citizenship that almost every economist agrees is good for the economy. So, up until the 2012 election, Latinos certainly knew which party to choose for comprehensive immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship (or as some Republicans call it: amnesty). Suddenly, upon losing the Latino vote by double digits, the GOP saw it as necessary to their electoral future to pass immigration reform and also look like they are the ones leading on it.
So, this is a problem they are in the process of fixing. Though, some are still trotting out the destructive phrases such as "amnesty" and "those illegals."
Problem #3: Policies toward any demographic other than white people
Basically, copy what I said for Latinos. It applies to pretty much every demographic other than the white vote.
Problem #4: Seen as favoring the rich
Here is one problem that extends to all demographic groups. In focus groups that the RNC (Republican National Committee) paid for, the respondents felt that Republicans were the party of the rich.
Now, let's look at that claim. Why would they think that?
Well...it's not entirely hard to see. The Ryan budget (all 3 versions of it, in fact) have massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The Bush tax cuts were the same, but at least the lower income population also received tax cuts. The Ryan budget also turns MediCare into a voucher program and also guts most welfare programs included Meals of Wheels, SNAP, TANF, etc.
Also, in almost every discussion surrounding the budget during Obama's presidency, the Republicans have always stonewalled over raising taxes on the rich. When the Bush tax cuts were about to expire, they wouldn't allow a bill that protected the middle class tax cuts included in the Bush tax cuts because they felt that it would lower their leverage in the overall deal. So, they were willing to raise taxes on the middle class just to avoid raising taxes on the rich by a measly few points.
So, once again, I can see why people think that. If Republicans really do care about the middle class, they are truly doing a terrible job of showing it to the public.
So, what is their plan for fixing these problems?
The really funny thing about the "autopsy" is that they still thought that their principles were strong. It has nothing to do with our policies, they would say. Surely, if we could just explain it well enough to the American people, we would get elected again. This is a hilarious reaction to the drubbing they received in the last election. Partially, it's true. It is important how you say something. But, their problem is larger.
1. They oppose common sense gun reform like universal background checks. Over 90% of Americans support it.
2. They are in favor of banning abortion. A majority of Americans support it and want it to stay legal.
3. They are in favor of massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Most Americans want a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
4. They want to "reform" entitlement programs, which means reduce benefits to beneficiaries instead of finding other ways. A vast majority of Americans (including Republican voters) do not want our entitlement programs touched at all.
5. They want to cut many popular and vital welfare programs. This is not popular with their target demographics.
6. They are also against gay marriage. A majority of Americans now support it and that number will only rise.
Those are just a few of the hurdles they face. Here's the main hurdle for them: recognizing that there's even a problem. They still haven't realized that it's not just how you say it, it's what you say. So, for them, it's a double problem. People don't like what they're saying or how they are saying it. But, until they realize that, they are in for more electoral issues in the future.
I, for one, hope that the moderates of the party like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush take over the party and bring it back to compassionate conservatism, which has served them well in the past. I think once they shake off the more radical members of their party, they will have much more success in future elections because they won't have as many Todd Akin's or Richard Mourdock's. It's the vocal minority of the Republican party that is really hurting it. Until they can stamp that out, they are in trouble.
But, it looks promising when you look at the recent batch of polls that show Christie to be a front runner in the 2016 Presidential Election. He is a conservative governing a very blue state, but is also known for not giving up his conservative credentials in the process. His favorite word seems to be compromise and that's what the republicans need to do if they ever want to win the White House again.