Republicans are very aware that they have a serious messaging problem. So aware, in fact, that the Republican National Committee on Monday released a voter outreach guide designed to appeal to a wider demographic of voters – namely, minorities, women and the poor – to help “grow the Party and improve Republicans.”
The GOP -- which now wants to be known as the “Growth and Opportunity Party” -- after surveying more than 2,600 voters across the nation, acknowledged that everyday Americans often describe Republicans as “scary,” “narrow-minded,” “out of touch,” and as a party composed of “stuffy old men.”
“Public perception of the Party is at record low. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears,” states the introduction of the report, which specifically notes Mitt Romney’s use of the term “self deport” during the 2012 election as an example of rhetoric that could put off potential voters.
The Republican leadership, on the national level, clearly knows the party must appear to be a more compassionate and inclusive group to survive. But lawmakers continue to espouse support for policies that go directly against the mission outlined in the new RNC report.
1. “The Republican Party must be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life. Low-income Americans are hardworking people who want to become hard-working middle-income Americans. Middle-income Americans want to become upper-middle-income, and so on. We need to help everyone make it in America.”
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The fallout from Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comments has obviously had a lasting impact on GOP leaders. Because if the 2012 election proved anything, it’s that lower-income Americans don't want to vote for a man who believes they are self-pitying and “dependent” on government.
And yet, even after entering sequestration, GOP leaders continue to say they won't consider new revenue as part of any deficit reduction plan. And the budget proposal championed by the party, authored by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, has been consistently criticized for slashing funding for social safety net programs – which primarily aid the poor – while simultaneously lowering the marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans.
At least 66 percent of the cuts found in the Ryan plan would come from programs that serve people of limited means, according to a recent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Even though the budget has no chance of advancing past the House, Republicans continue to support it.
2. “For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternate points of view. Already, 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.”
Republicans have undoubtedly realized that ostracizing voters because of their sexuality will only accelerate their party's extinction. This year, dozens of high-profile Republicans signed an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage with the Supreme Court, while last week the U.S. Senate's first Republican spoke out in favor of marriage equality.
But the party is still far from embracing LGBT equality. Republicans continue to spend millions of dollars defending the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage solely a union between a man and woman. Party leaders (such as House Speaker John Boehner, who just last weekend said he “can’t imagine” ever supporting gay marriage) have also strongly objected to including benefits for same-sex couples in any potential immigration reform legislation.
Plus, there are the issues that directly affect young voters, like affording a college education. The 2014 Ryan budget would freeze Pell Grants at their current levels, instead of keeping up with rising tuition rates, at $5,645 per student for the next 10 years. It would also categorize those grants as discretionary spending (meaning, it would be susceptible to cuts). About $800 from each Pell Grant now comes from mandatory spending.
3. “Our candidates, spokespeople, and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.”
Republicans in Congress continue to overwhelmingly support overturning the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which allows women to receive co-pay free contraception through their healthcare provider. That opposition still persists, even though access to quality contraception has been found to boost a woman’s overall income (because she will not be forced to take time off for one or even multiple pregnancies) and is undoubtedly the best way to prevent abortions.
However, on top of making it more difficult for lower-income women to obtain contraceptives, GOP lawmakers on the state level continue to either propose or enact numerous provisions that seek to severely restrict access to abortion services.
Republicans also recently blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation aiming to promote equal pay for equal work, and held up the passage for the Violence Against Women Act for more than year. The GOP’s main complaint against VAWA was that it offered protections to Native American women and the LGBT community.
4. "The African American community has a lot in common with the Republican Party, and it is important to share this rich history. More importantly, the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship with the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.”
It stands to point out that many of the cuts to social safety net programs established by sequestration (i.e. cuts to food stamps, day care subsidies) largely affect the African American community, according to government data. Of the approximately 15 percent of the population living under the federal poverty line in 2010, the U.S. Census reports 27.4 percent of that group was comprised of African-Americans.
The RNC recommendations, however, don't center on the GOP’s economic policies that appear to negatively influence black voters. Instead, the RNC said it should focus on “establishing a presence” in African American communities and organizations and put a larger focus on promoting the professional advancement of black Republicans.
Interestingly, after multiple Republican-led states enacted laws that aimed to limit or abolish early voting – most suspected it was because minorities (who lean Democrat) were most likely to take advantage – the RNC on page 21 said it must push for early, absentee and online voting and “acknowledge the trend as future reality, utilizing new tactics to gain victory on Election Day.”
It’s also impossible to forget that, only last month, Republicans went to the U.S. Supreme Court in their quest to eradicate a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The law, possibly the most important package of civil rights legislation enacted in the U.S., outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread voter disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South.
But less than 50 years after its passage, Alabama lawmakers are attempting to strike down a provision that requires the federal government to sign off on voting law changes in states proven to have an extensive history of voter discrimination -- even though that very power was used to strike down biased voting laws as recently as the 2012 election.