Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The 'GOP Autopsy'

That's what they're calling this: The GOP Growth and Opportunity Project. It's an in-depth look at what went wrong in 2012 and what the GOP is doing right now that needs to be done more of, done better, or not done. 

Here's the short form:
  1. Republicans have a damaged brand--people think "they don't care" or "are the party of the rich." America's demographics are changing and the GOP messages are not reaching minorities. This has to change.
  2. The GOP needs lots of work with minorities of all stripes, women, and the young. This involves supporting these groups in politics such as encouraging women to run as "The Republican Party committees need to understand that women need to be asked to run. Women are less likely to run for office on their own*, and we should be encouraging and championing their desire to seek elective office."
  3. Improve our technology, especially around data. The tech-gap is staggering.
  4. Improve intelligence of finances, media buys, and sharing information. Get rid of group-think in discussion.
  5. Improve candidate selection. Go with primaries over caucuses! Fewer debates!
Just Having a Field Office In San Francisco May Not Be Enough
At close to 100 pages, there's a whole lot of deeper material. Here's a link to the 10 Funniest Things in it. For example:
8. In the last two Republican presidential primary races, “there have been too many debates”
As the report mentioned, the Republican presidential candidates participated in 21 debates during the 2008 campaign, and 20 in the 2012 campaign. But the report does not mention that the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries featured 26 debates. So it’s not the number of the debates. It’s what gets said at the debates.
Reaction to the report has been mixed. Jennifer Rubin finds it bold:
Interestingly, the report has its most extensive discussion of gay rights in the section on appealing to youth, noting that “there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.” It does not explicitly endorse gay marriage but it acknowledges a variety of viewpoints is essential. (“If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”)
Yeah, bold (no, I'm not kidding--she found that bold).

Ace of Spades finds it "Meh."
This is a pretty vanilla report. That would be fine because that's what these things are. The problem is the RNC hyped it as some important moment in the history of the GOP's renewal. Once again, they are over promising and under delivering. Stopping that bit of terrible marketing would be a major step in the right direction.
The Tea Party (and friends, like Rand Paul) find it infuriating because the proposed changes to the primary system will disenfranchise grass-roots voters:
"Elimination of caucuses and conventions would mean nuclear war with the grassroots, social conservatives, the Ron Paul movement and Tea Party Republicans," said John Tate, a senior Paul advisor who now runs the Campaign For Liberty, a libertarian grassroots lobbying group.
I'm with Drew from Ace of Spades: None of this is new or really surprising. The problem with these recommendations is not that they are bad--for the most part they are modest, reasonably well stated, and generally positive. The problem is that the GOP Autopsy doesn't uncover the actual "cause of death."

The Problem: Victim Politics
The problem with the GOP base is that it is driven by "victim politics."
Yesterday I linked to a fairly heart-stopping video of a guy at CPAC asking a black speaker (on the subject of reacting to charges of racism) if Frederick Douglas had "forgiven" his former slave master for "giving him food and shelter." The guy said he felt white males, like him, were being disenfranchised.

While this is pretty mind-blowing it shows the basic problem that is driving the GOP right now: after the 2008 defeat by Obama--a candidate many people still can't believe won--the victim machine went into full power. The conservative media has taken up the cause and the echo chamber has become louder and louder: it's a positive feedback cycle**.

Nothing in this memo addresses it and, to be fair, nothing probably could: telling the GOP base that they are acting like victims and that it's turning people off would not drive any restorative behavior. Given their choices cutting out caucuses is probably the best bet.

* the poor dears

** This also creates damaging "epistemic closure" wherein arguments that make perfect sense to "the base" may make no sense at all to anyone else. Consider the case where one of the fathers of a child killed at the Sandy Hook massacre asked 'why anyone needs an assault weapon or high capacity magazines'. When he was answered with shouts of "The Second Amendment" we see a good example of epistemic closure.

The Second Amendment is why he gets to have an assault weapon and high-cap magazine. It is not why he 'needs' one. The 2nd is why he can't rightfully be questioned about it--it's on the menu so to speak. If I order the lobster in a restaurant I don't have to explain myself to the waiter and, similarly, nor do I have to explain owning a (legal) weapon to anyone.

However, the Second Amendment is not a reason I need one. A reason I might need one would be to fight a war of attrition against a tyrannical government (that, after all, is why the 2nd Amendment exists--and such a war could not be fought with handguns). I could argue I "need" one because they are excellent guns and fun to shoot--or for home defense--but neither of these may convince a well meaning fellow voter who finds himself struck by the question (they may well think that handguns make more sense for self-defense and the joy brought by shooting an AR-15 does not qualify at the level of a 'need.')

If I do go into detail about how my possession of an AR-15 will keep the US Government from tyrannical actions I will probably scare the listener ... and not in a good way.

The "closure" happens when the defenders of the right to bear arms use the right itself as an answer to a question about the reason to need a particular arm. It makes sense to them--but may not make sense to anyone else: it's not a convincing argument even if, constitutionally speaking, it may be a correct one.

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