The Republican Party gave itself recommendations… and then did the opposite
If it’s true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, then America’s Grand Old Party has enthusiastically lived up to their namesake.
For a brief moment, let’s stop focusing on Republican Party’s chaos candidate, and instead, reflect on the party that got him there.
It was only three years ago when the Republican National Committee sought to shed the antiquated connotations of their ‘GOP’ nickname, by launching the Growth and Opportunity Project. After Mitt Romney’s presidential collapse in 2012, the Growth and Opportunity Project published a 100-page advisory report to ensure a prosperous Republican revival by 2016. The report predominantly focused on evolving the ethos of the Republican party; with most recommendations attempting to transform your redneck grandpa’s favourite party, into a cool, hip one that could appeal to youth and ethnic minorities.
And I’m not being facetious. The report went as far as recommending future Republican leaders to participate in more interviews with youthful media outlets such as The Daily Show, MTV and US Weekly[i]. The Republican Party’s response to this particular recommendation, beautifully summarizes how the party has approached change in general. At Republican primary event in Iowa last year, The Daily Show was denied access because party officials were “afraid they were going to make fun of Iowa.” Yes… the Republican Party is afraid of the class-clown that they were supposed to be best friends with by now.
Unfortunately, it only gets worse from there. In this year’s Republican primary race, I willing to bet that more candidates had read Barrack Obama’s biography than those who skimmed the Growth and Opportunity Project’s 2012 advisory report (both mention ‘change’ far too much to be popular in this crowd). Despite the report incisively stating “Groupthink is a Loser”, this year’s GOP presidential nomination race was more ideologically cliquey than ever. By just the second debate, all candidates were disparagingly asked to promise that they would not run as a third-party candidate if they lost the Republican nomination. When Donald Trump failed to oblige, he was heavily booed for even imagining the idea of politics outside the Republican party.
Republican Primary debates alone proved that the GOP’s way of alienating outsiders through “groupthink”, is more pronounced than it ever has been. The debates have slowly turned from a fiery battle of conservative ideas, to a self-righteous Obama-Clinton bashing fest. It’s as if every critique of another candidate’s platform is quickly followed by a “but it’s not as bad as the Democrats” remark. This out-group aversion culminated in a latter debate when Rand Paul was met with resounding applause for rebuking Marco Rubio as being — not ‘unpresidential’ — but not a true ‘conservative’. The GOP debates have become Old Boys Club meetings (with an occasional visit from Carly Fiorina-types) where everyone is welcome, unless you are accompanied by a new idea.
Arguably the most salient recommendation of the report dealt with the party’s messaging: “the Republican party needs to stop talking to itself” and reach out to non-traditional demographics — particularly minorities — with “sincerity”[ii]. Yes… you read that correctly. If you paid even remote attention to the GOP nomination race, you know that their ‘sincere’, minority-friendly rhetoric, was hysterical enough to write the next two seasons of The Daily Show.
Candidates took on the controversial topic of immigration reform with striking disregard for the possibility that ethnic minorities could ever influence an election. The rhetoric from top candidates was jaw dropping, with Trump almost exclusively focusing on “illegal” Latinos and Ted Cruz suggesting an immigrant-screening test that would favour ‘less risky’ Christians. Despite minor differences in policy, every candidate strayed as far from center as possible on immigration reform. The majority of candidates supported the vacuous idea of a ‘bigger wall’ as a panacea for illegal immigration, while advocating a ‘path to citizenship’ for current illegals, was basically considered treason. The collective insensitivity that the GOP has shown to Latino Americans became laughably blatant when Jeb Bush was berated for answering an audience question in Spanish — when the question was asked in Spanish
And the Republican Party’s decreased popularity with America’s largest ethnic minority is showing. Latino groups have launched multiple petitions against Trump, attempting to shut him out of everything from Saturday Night Live to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, former-front runner Ben Carson’s held a “Hispanic Outreach Event” during his campaign that was attended by a whopping 25 people — none of whom were Hispanic. If the Democrats won 80% of the minority vote in 2012, does anyone want to bet on 120% for 2016? (aside from the math, the odds are undoubtedly in their favour).
While the American electorate is becoming more diverse, the GOP is becoming more divisive — refusing to change for anyone’s demands, including its own. In its most candid excerpt, the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated that unless the party gets serious on appealing to a broader demographic: “we will lose further elections”[iii].
Don’t get me wrong, the GOP has changed since 2012; the party looks different and definitely sounds different… but in truth, is more ‘Republican’ than ever. So don’t be fooled, this dog is old and refuses to learn new tricks — even when its life is on the line.