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Do the Republicans Have an Imaging Problem or is it More Complicated?

Updated on March 27, 2013

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.

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    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great analysis, Steven. I believe their problem all boils down to their political contributors. They are the wealthy and corporations. They are beholden to them. Therefore they do their bidding which is against the interests of all the rest of us.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

      Can't help but wonder if the Dems, when they've lost elections, have decided their whole approach is wrong and they should start over? In my humble opinion there are good and bad parts to both parties and basically they're both dishonest sell-outs who have little or no real concern about this country. Just as the Repubs are accused of catering to the rich and big business -- the Dems cater to the poor and non-working. Seems there could be a middle ground in there somewhere which would be more beneficial to all of us -- may be time to rethink both parties because they're both inefficient and playing a "watch this hand" game with the American public. Excellent and thought provoking Hub! Best/Sis

    • Steven Dison profile image
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      Steven Dison 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      That's a good question. The last election that's the Dems lost was in 2004. Technically, they won in 2000. And in 2004, they only lost by Ohio. Perhaps they had to retool their message a bit, but their problem was always that their voters didn't quite turn out on Election Day, and not that their policies were unpopular. In fact, if you poll most Democratic policies individually, you find that they are quite popular. Expanding health care, defending entitlement programs, raising taxes when necessary, balanced deficit reduction, and defense of the poor and working class (which, I do disagree that they are "non-working" or "lazy" as some people put it" since it is statistically inaccurate).

      So, that's the real issue. Dems have growing demographics and Repubs have dying ones that support them.

      But, there's also another inherent issue. The Repubs can't just switch on a bunch of issues. That would seem crass and opportunistic. So, they might just have to lose a couple more elections before they can "evolve" on some positions, if not all of them.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

      Apparently I am one of those persons you're referring to -- I call non-working people "non-working" because if you aren't working you are non-working. I did not state nor infer why the non-working -- weren't. "Non-working" does not connotate "lazy" although that is sometimes the case -- just like some "non-working" are physically unable to work. My son was among the non-working for two years before his death due to complete physical disability -- and "lazy" he was not. As an independent I don't find much to admire in either party at this particular point in time so will be very grateful if both "evolve" to something better. 'Nuff said by me. Best/Sis

    • Steven Dison profile image
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      Steven Dison 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      Sorry that I misunderstood. I only thought that because of how you put it. The way you said that Democrats protect the non-working too much. Seems like that's the right thing to do, don't you think? It's also very healthy for our economy. People on unemployment usually spend their entire check on things they need. That helps the economy. If they had no income, they wouldn't be able to buy anything, and thus, business suffers. So, it seems quite logical to help the unemployed while they try to find a job.

      But, I've also never liked what some independents say, which is where they go "oh, well both parties are corrupt and are just as bad as the other!" When you compare the two parties, that is simply not true at all. It's all too easy to lump them together, but when you get down to the nitty gritty...it's a pretty clear picture.

      It's not that Democrats are completely innocent, either. They protect the entitlement programs a bit too much. They are unsustainable in the future, but they have been open to modest reforms, and hell, Obama has been open to linking Social Security to the CPI index, which went further than many Democrats were willing to go. Also, Republicans focus on cutting the social programs in such a way that hurts the elderly and the poor the most. They wouldn't dare ask the rich to pay into the programs any more, but they'd be willing to cut benefits from the poor and elderly. That just doesn't seem right to me.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      They have a history problem. With out question Bush was the most evil lying president ever elected. His partner in family crime Jeb should give up any idea of running unless the plan is to lose. This party is nothing but a patsy for Corporate America but not all Corporations. They are to blame for the past and current financial situation in this Country. Bankrupting and bailing out their only interest and only continuing to do nothing to balance the books. Their plan continues along the idea of paying the average population the lowest wages as they increase the tax burden on them. No taxes for the rich and no taxes on Corporate America. They are opposed to Obama care not because it is unaffordable, but because it will lower the profits of big medicine. The average citizen to them are labour and that is all. Its no surprise that they do not understand and despise ethnic groups and women. After all they view ordinary people as cattle and a product that they can buy, sell or ignore.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      I live in VA and I'm a woman. I am pro-choice because I feel no politician should take away an individuals' or both parents' rights to choose. The trans-vaginal ultrasound is invasive and as you say it is a rape of the woman as many women agree they don't want politics pushed upon them in such private matters. The decades of inaction where race is concerned has come to bite Republicans but if more sincere attention and action is put into place in this and on womens' issues, there is little reason for them to keep losing. Sincere attention and action is key and it will take time.

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 4 years ago

      "...reducing access to birth control and abortion (both of which Latinos largely support)" ?? Wrong. Latinos are more pro-life than their non-Latino friends, by far. However, they are fine with contraceptives, (except a few Catholics) which are available at any clinic, anytime, and always will be.

      However, I agree that Republicans need to become more moderate regarding some social issues, (like homosexual rights) but being Ok with abortion will never be one of them. The GOP has always defended the right of the unborn. The U.S. performs over one million abortions a year. That number is way too high.

      Also, cutting taxes for small business owners is what allows our economy to grow and to build a strong middle class. But Republicans have failed to adequately inform the public of exactly how much they have accomplished historically, and most people don't bother to read for themselves. Thus, the rich guy vs the poor guy label has stuck, but it is not accurate.

      Having said that, I agree that the perception of the GOP is not good, and if they want to survive, they will have to understand where they are failing, and learn to make some alterations. However, they cannot simply turn into Democrats either.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 3 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I left this comment so I could find again and finish reading, but another demographic the GOP has lost is you, voters between 18 and 29. Essentially, the only people who overwhelmingly vote Republican today are white men over 29. The majority of white women over 29 also vote Republican; that says a lot about this nation.

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