The GOP Autopsy
“We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies.” -2012 GOP Autopsy Report
On November 7, 2012, Republicans could be forgiven for waking up with a bit of a hangover. But they weren’t just mourning President Obama’s reelection — they were dealing with the grief of a monumental defeat.
President Obama won 332 electoral votes, while Mitt Romney picked up just 206. The President won the national popular vote by a margin of 5 million, and he won a majority of the votes cast by women, by young people, by African Americans, by Latinos, by Asian-Americans.
In exit polling, focus groups, and interviews after the election, one point got repeated again and again: The core Republican message was alienating Americans from many walks of life.
Any examination of the country’s long-term demographic trends revealed a future America that looked a lot like the Obama coalition — with profound shifts in the voting power of people of color, younger voters, and women.
So the Republican National Committee assembled a team of leading lights from across the party — serious thinkers, experienced political operatives, and people with established conservative credentials — to figure out what the hell was happening to their party and how they could fix it.
The RNC task force conducted more than 2,600 interviews. They looked at polling data and conducted focus groups. And on March 18, 2013, they released a 100-page report at the National Press Club to much fanfare.
“Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement… There’s no one solution. There’s a long list of them.” -Reince Priebus
Today, three years later, it’s worth looking back at the recommendations from that blockbuster report to see exactly how far the Republican Party has come, how much progress the GOP has made.
Below, you can read our full autopsy of their autopsy. But if you don’t have time to read through all the details of how Republicans have shredded the RNC’s report, this tweet from Donald Trump might just say enough.
“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself.”
If there was a single top line message from the autopsy, it was this:
“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.” -2012 GOP Autopsy Report
How has that translated so far in 2016? Well, see for yourself:
“America looks different”
Again and again, the autopsy called on Republicans to do more to develop a message of inclusion.
“If we want ethnic minorities to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity.” -2012 GOP Autopsy Report
“If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out. The Party should be proud of its conservative principles, but just because someone disagrees with us on 20 percent of the issues, that does not mean we cannot come together on the rest of the issues where we do agree.” -2012 GOP Autopsy Report
Again and again, Republicans in 2016 have ignored this advice:
“A tone that welcomes in”
In 2013, the GOP autopsy report repeatedly stressed that the Republican Party needed to embrace comprehensive immigration reform, and change the way its leaders engaged the Latino community.
“If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence… In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.” -2012 GOP Autopsy Report
“Throughout our discussions with various Hispanic groups, they told us this: Message matters. Too often Republican elected officials spoke about issues important to the Hispanic community using a tone that undermined the GOP brand within Hispanic communities. Repairing that relationship will require both a tone that ‘welcomes in’ as well as substantial time spent in the community demonstrating a commitment to addressing its unique concerns.” -2012 GOP Autopsy Report
In 2016, Donald Trump has made it clear exactly where the Republican Party stands on outreach to Latinos.
But Trump isn’t alone. Again and again, we’ve seen how all the Republican candidates for president share his core position when it comes to immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and on immigrants themselves.
“Constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand”
In 2013, the GOP autopsy report also repeatedly stressed the importance of Republicans changing their tone on women, African Americans, and members of the LGBT community. And yet, nothing since 2012 has really changed:
So it’s clear that the reforms the autopsy report demanded of the Republican Party are not only dead, but have been buried by the Party’s candidates. The more that the Republicans keep up with what they have been doing the past few years, the more they will keep losing: