Now, never mind (and he doesn't) that everything from the GOP Autopsy, the Jeb Bush warning memo about talking about immigration, the Bobby Jindal speech, and so on are all written by high-profile Republicans. And never mind that The Omnivore almost never gives advice--Zach believes he has broken the code:
Try writing something different than "Republicans need to stop saying it like it is" just so they can win elections.For the record, and to be clear:
- Republicans are not "saying it like it is." If they were, we wouldn't have gotten Romney's 47% pitch. There wouldn't have been the massive, pervasive, and, dare I say it, humiliating poll-unskewing discussion that raged from conservative blogs to Fox News and even the Romney campaign. We would not have had Herman Cain leading in the primaries for a time--much less Michelle Bachmann.
- As I have said, bluntly, "changing the message" (which can mean a few different things--but in this case we'll assume it means soft-peddling the terms used and the tone used on things like immigration and racial politics) cannot work for the GOP at this time. Why? Because the base is driven by victim politics and until that changes there can't be any change in policy or messaging. In other words, even if being more diplomatic or having some modest policy changes might work, the structural tools to make the party change course simply are not there. Counseling the GOP to change its message is pointless.
First: Watch This
Romney Blames Loss On Successfully Communicating His Message To Minorities
Would It Work? Could Being Nicer Work For The GOP?
But let's play "What If"? Suppose I had a window to an alternate reality and I could set a dial where the GOP keeps its policies but refers to Illegal Immigrants as Undocumented Workers? Suppose that instead of some yahoo standing up at CPAC and asking whether we could go back to racial segregation everyone in the audience just sat and nodded? What if, when polled, Republicans in the deep south lied and said they thought, in the 21st century, mixed race marriage was 'fine and dandy'?
Would the GOP win elections?
There is some evidence that when a politician takes an obscuring position on an issue--or just plays it 'by-the-book-safe' (I'm against abortion but I'll leave it up to the states or the courts to decide that as the United States of America's Constitution requires!) voters are willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. If I otherwise like a candidate but he's iffy on one of my pet issues I may let myself assume he really agrees with me--but c'mon, he can't just go and say that.
If you're a Republican and reading this and going "IT WOULD NEVER WORK!" consider how the blank-slate that was Obama appealed to all kinds of people in 2008 as they projected their hopes and dreams onto his empty resume.
It certainly can work. Whether it would work for the GOP right now is another matter entirely.
Immigration: Illegal vs. Undocumented
The Change: Stop referring to [those guys] as Illegals immediately. Drill the term "Undocumented Worker" into everyone's head. Talk about how otherwise law-abiding undocumented workers are hardly evil but need to obey the law at which time they will be welcomed with open arms.
Would It Work? Changing the terms used when referring to those guys would certainly not help a lot. Firstly, some polling shows that while Immigration is an important issue it isn't the top one for most Latinos--it's the economy. But worse (for the GOP) Latinos see "more government" as a means of getting ahead rather than the Republican proscribed less-government. Just changing your term won't help there.
On the other hand, one group of Latinos, Cubans (who don't have the same immigration issues that other Latinos do) are irked by the terms used and much more reliably vote Republican (part of that is Bay-of-Pigs backlash). So you might win a few more Cuban votes if you don't piss people off.
Deception or Discretion: Discretion. The change of the term, if it doesn't change policy, is not a lie. Illegal Immigrants / Aliens are also Undocumented. The only thing it does it lower the anger-level directed at them. Making this change would not fundamentally change what's being done policy wise or what is being said in literal terms.
The Problem: The problem, of course, is that the base believes that undocumented workers--even if they are currently otherwise obeying the law--are a big problem. They're sucking up American jobs. They're taking up beds in hospitals. They're on the freakin' dole. Never mind that this largely isn't true--it's what the base believes.
Instead: If you want to move the dial at all on immigration, adopt the DREAM act. It impacts a relatively low number of people (those who were brought to the US as young children, have completed school, are in good standing with the law, and are in college or the military) who are mostly innocent and definitely identify as American. This is a policy change that would stand against charges of anti-immigrant racism.
Would It Work: A little. You'd get back some Cubans you lost with "self deportation" and "papers please" laws. Supporting the DREAM act might get more. You could erode the slide a little from the last election.
Gender Politics: The War On Women
The Change: The GOP's messaging issues with women come in three parts:
- Rape gaffes (both the Legitimate Rape thing and various defenses or soft-pedal explanations thereof)
- Tangents around contraception access (Planned Parenthood, Insurance Mandates, and Santorum speculating that a state should be allowed to outlaw contraception)
- Abortion access--especially in the extreme cases (rape, incest)
To change the messaging the party would need to:
- Have someone stand behind every candidate or elected official with a sledge hammer and vow to strike them if they say anything about rape other than that it is a horrible violent crime.
- Sing the praises of contraception access for those who want it and make it clear that attempts to de-fund Planned Parenthood are around protecting the unborn and maybe propose other programs designed to keep contraception access going. Say it's fine--great even--for all employer insurance Other Than Religious Employers to provide contraception access. Maybe try to pass a law that makes Catholic insurance cost less as they don't provide contraception. Keep Santorum from speculating about anything until after he is elected.
- Say that while abortion is always a moral wrong, the state's job is to defend mothers as well as children and that in the cases of incest or rape (or the life of the mother) the sate will leave that choice up to her--possibly providing some assistance should she decide to keep the child. Give up on trans-vaginal ultrasounds.
Deception or Discretion: This is actually deception. The GOP platform offers no exceptions to its abortion stance and while that doesn't prevent candidates from adopting one, the fact remains that the position of the base is hard core. There are also problems with belief about rape and contraception that go beyond ignorance of biology. Let's see what those are ...
The Problem: The problem with the rape-exception for abortion is that if the woman says "I was raped" you then have to have some kind of police investigation to prove it was so--what if she's lying just to have an abortion!? You also make allegations of rape go from a nightmare scenario that only someone really victimized (or really degenerate) would participate in to something the woman feels she "has to do" since she isn't ready to have a baby. The right knows this. Legitimate Rape may have referred not to forcible rape (which is what Akins fell back to after thinking on it) but actual rape as opposed to the woman lying about rape.
It's probably good he didn't clarify it in that way.
The second problem is that a portion of the hard-core So-Con religious base really does believe that contraception is a moral wrong. This is both for religious reasons (every sperm is scared!) and for societal ones (removing the baby-producing consequences of sex has led to increased promiscuity! STD's! Women getting educated!). They don't like to talk about it--but it's there.
In other words, for the religious base their basic for-real stance is probably going to alienate young unmarried women if it's correctly understood. Right now the GOP is frantically engaging in a cover-up of this and it isn't working too well.
Instead: Rove's Super PAC might work if he can target candidates who appeal to this section of the base to help ensure that while, yes, some people feel this way, they, mostly, don't get into office.
Would It Work? Yes. Women can be Republican voters so long as the So-Con's base's views aren't rubbed in their faces. Akins did a lot of damage and while he did get backlash against him, if it had never happened in the first place he might well have won his election and not damaged countless more.
Racial Politics: Black Voters
The Change: Today the GOP has virtually written off black voters themselves. They want more black candidates and spokespeople because it'll help defend against the charge of racism but that's about as far as they think they can go.
In this case the change would be to speak favorably of government programs that help majority-black populations ... like Obamaphones ... noting that until such a time as something better can be found the GOP would support them too. You can get a Romney Phone! It has gold leaf.
They would also acknowledge that there is actual institutional bias against blacks in many walks of life (as studies show) and that as a party that champions civil rights, they would be good with the government taking a stand against those.
When that guy stood up at CPAC to suggest segregation the audience would have booed him ... instead of applauding.
The GOP would support early voting and pull way back on voter ID card rules.
Deception or Discretion: This would be deception. Firstly, the GOP more or less does not acknowledge studies that suggest there is institutional racism remaining the United States and does not really see the government as a method for doing much with civil rights anyway.
The GOP top brass may realize that "Obamaphones" are actually from a program started under Bush but it seems likely to be one of the things they'd cut anyway. The CPAC audience was gathered to hear how to "refute the charge of racism"--you aren't having those sessions if you don't already have a problem and nothing short of mind control would make the audience boo the guy.
The Problem: The GOP base believes that there is massive voter fraud. Enough of the base felt that separate-but-equal was reasonable for the CPAC guy to not get heckled off the microphone. Obamaphones as an abomination before God get enough air-play that it's part of the Republican mythology today. In short, black people are welcome in the GOP if they are rich and educated. If they are not they really aren't--and they know it.
Instead: When recruiting black officials create a fund to attract and back those that are critical or even highly critical of the party but still agree with some of its platform (fiscal responsibility? social conservatism?). Allow them to speak their minds and still get help from the RNC. Be willing to lose some races or create controversy.
You might also set up a system to reduce fraud in the Lifeline (Obamaphone) program. That would be a good idea (which is why we're already doing it).
Would It Work? No. Not much, anyway. Racism is a powerful demotivator and a tiny amount of it goes a long way. It will be decades before the tiny amount goes away.
Homosexual Voters: Gay Politics
The Change: Stop talking about gays at all--just give up on it and focus on the economy. Allow for gay marriage. Integrate the military. Stop worrying about it. Make it clear that, yes, gays are discriminated against in real life (such as bullying in schools) and, in the 21st century that isn't right. Make it clear that gays want the level of acceptance heterosexuality already has and are not asking for "special status above straights."
Deception or Discretion: Deception. The GOP--or at least major parts of it--is holding the line against gay integration and recognition. This would not be honest until the GOP changes its name to the libertarian party.
The Problem: The problem is that the so-cons feel that gays are morally wrong and that society should recognize that. They also feel it's within their freedom of speech to "hate the sin" and shame gays for it (so popular straight kids should be able to speak out against un-popular gays in school because: The First Amendment!).
Instead: Get the GOP gay organizations front and center and loud. Make sure they speak during conventions (and early--and during prime-time). They can't be at CPAC but they can present a Republican gay vision that is more prominent. Have them talk about what being a Republican means to them--even though they are seen as godless heathens by some portion of the base ... Good luck.
Would It Work? No. While some gays will vote Republican, most will not while there is still wide-spread anti-gay bigotry out there. In two or three decades maybe there will be enough acceptance that the presence of a few so-con bigots in the party won't matter--but that's no time soon (granted in 2-3 decades the old guard will be dead so that problem may solve itself).
The Change: The theory is that Jews (who should, presumably, dislike Obama's policies towards Israel) and Asians (who are socially conservative) moved away from the GOP in 2012 because it was perceived as the all-Christian party and therefore excluded them. The change here would be to remove religion from the dialog (as, uh, the Democrats did).
Deception or Discretion: Deception. The GOP may not be "The Christian Only Party" but they are certainly The Christian Party. If you are an atheist or Republican Muslim they are happy to have your vote but you are not welcome. Pretending otherwise is deceptive.
The Problem: So much of the GOP platform is based on Christian morality (in fact, a lot of radical evangelical support for Israel is due to a belief that Israel will play a role in Armageddon--which can't happen if it is overrun with Arabs) that if you took God out of the platform it'd fall apart.
Instead: High-light how the GOP handles non-Christian members. Support the Ground Zero Mosque as the GOP supports America's view of religious freedom. Have non-Christians speak during conventions.
Would It Work? Maybe a little. The economic message of the GOP should appeal demographically to (again, demographically speaking) financially successful highly educated minorities who, presumably, would like to pay a little less in taxes. If you can make them feel included they might come back.
The Young / The Poor
The Change: Instead of going with (secret) 47% rhetoric instead talk up opportunity and real-world solutions for problems young people face.
Deception or Discretion: Discretion. The party is trying--is supposed--to be doing this. Gingrich said he didn't want a safety net for the poor ... he wanted a trampoline. This is textbook Republican thinking. It should be the selling point. The 47% remarks were just plain logically wrong and there is no place on the front-lines of politics for that sort of nonsense.
The Problem: The problem with this is that (a) we aren't seeing any policies that really appeal to the poor. At least the ACA tries to get them health care. Where was the Republican counter-proposal? While we are told that cutting taxes and deregulating energy will create jobs, is a girl who just graduated with a degree in comparative literature supposed to believe it'll get her a job? Also (b) The Republicans, after Bush, have a credibility gap on the economy. His 'compassionate conservatism' has been roundly mocked by the base--but for those who feel some compassion might be good? They need to look to the Democrats.
Instead: Adopt pro-gay-marriage stance (you might get some of the young) and propose cost-cutting measures that target the rich. Yes, yes, I know--but start with higher taxes on the rich--even if just a little--say, half of what Democrats want. It'll speak to credibility that you want to help the poor. The propose a massive infrastructure building jobs program looking for bi-partisan support.
Would It Work? A little. The young and poor want jobs. The theory that cutting taxes and removing the social safety net will give them one doesn't really stack up against someone who will promise to keep you from starving right now or will give you a job (building infrastructure). Asking people to vote for starvation or take your economics on faith is a bit much.
None of these would work even moderately today without wrecking the party. Trying to be more inclusive is not where the GOP is right now. Here's a suggestion that might actually work: Get More Of The White Male Vote ...
But absent from the outreach [ of the GOP Autopsy] was the one group whose future mobilization holds the greatest promise for a GOP victory -- whites especially white males. This is the pandering that dare not speak its name and its omission is especially odd since today's Democratic Party has a lock on targeted constituencies, e.g., African Americans, gays, pro-abortion women among others. Note well, we are not speaking of some white nationalism akin to re-taking "a white" country. This is about promoting measures no different than those policies targeting minority groups, e.g., improved access to higher educationPerfect! They can even run Romney again!