After a devastating loss in 2012, Republicans claimed that they didn’t need to change themselves or their platform, but only cosmetic attributes such as their rhetoric and presentation. Other right-wing activists simply pretended that Republicans actually won the last election.
But if the actions taken this year by Republican leaders are any clue, it looks like Republicans either ignored or outright rejected even the superficial recommendations made in the GOP’s plan to revive the party:
1. Ending Aid To Jobless Americans
The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party…. To people who are flat on their back, unemployed or disabled and in need of help, they do not care if the help comes from the private sector or the government — they just want help.
Republicans in Congress rejected an extension of unemployment benefits, which will not only hurt approximately 1.3 million Americans during a period when long-term joblessness is still high, but will also result in serious harm to economic growth. If Republicans do not waver from their position, up to 5 million people could be affected by the cuts. The party also passed enormous cuts to the food stamp program under the auspices of preventing the tremendously low rate of fraud in an effort to kick 5 million people off of food assistance.
But the GOP continues to give special benefits to millionaires, as earlier this year Republicans once again rebuffed the “Buffet Rule,” which would have ensured that millionaires don’t end up having a lower tax rate than average Americans.
2. Blocking Immigration Reform
[W]e must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform…. On issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community.
Even though a majority of Americans and House members support immigration reform which includes a pathway to citizenship, the House GOP leadership refused this year to call a vote on reform bills. Speaker John Boehner even said that Republicans “have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.” But the House did find time to pass Rep. Steve King’s amendment to defund a program that prevents undocumented children being deported.
GOP politicians continue to argue that immigration reform will literally destroy America, and one Republican congressman even used the slur “wetbacks” while describing immigrants. Rep. Louie Gohmert said that Republicans must reject immigration reform to win over Latino voters, while Rep. King dismissed young Latinos as drug smugglers with cantaloupe-sized calves.
3. Rolling Back Reproductive Choice
Republicans should develop a more aggressive response to Democrat rhetoric regarding a so-called “war on women.”
Republicans claim it is unfair that people believe they are behind a “war on women,” but they didn’t do themselves any favors by approving a sweeping anti-abortion bill. Rep. Trent Franks, the chief sponsor of the legislation, defended his bill by channeling Todd Akin when he argued that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” and then fundraised off his remarks.
Fellow Republican Rep. Michael Burgess rallied support for the bill by citing masturbating fetuses. But perhaps the biggest steps Republicans took in dismantling Roe v. Wade occurred on the state level, where GOP-controlled state legislatures passed a range of extreme anti–choice bills.
4. Preserving Anti-Gay Views
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 alternative 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.
Even the GOP had to couch its call to be nicer to gay people as a political maneuver to making inroads with the youth vote, which helped secure President Obama’s re-election and is strongly in favor of LGBT equality. But the ties between the GOP and the anti-gay Religious Right remain rock solid, and many GOP leaders and potential presidential candidates addressed this year’s Values Voter Summit, where the event’s anti-gay sponsors and speakers repeatedly denounced gay rights.
Republican elected officials delivered stinging attacks against the Boy Scouts of America for ending its ban on gay members and also laced into the Supreme Court for overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law defended in court by the House GOP. Republican leaders like Sen. Ted Cruz ardently criticized marriage equality at Religious Right events, and even “libertarian” Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul denounced gay marriage, linking it to non-human marriage.
5. The Shrinking Party
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.
In case you needed more evidence that Republican politicians take cues from the GOP’s ultraconservative base, look no further than the government shutdown, where the congressional GOP leadership allowed the Tea Party “suicide caucus” to lead an enormously unpopular and economically harmful government shutdown.
Republicans ended up getting nothing from the shutdown, but Rep. Marlin Stutzman did illuminate the GOP’s thinking: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
While we keep hearing talk of Republicans trying to seem more inclusive and “fighting back” against the Tea Party, it isn’t clear that the party is actually presenting any real challenge to Tea Party-aligned politicians. In fact, it seems that the GOP is actively embracing Tea Party’s extremist policies, fervent rhetoric and ideological purity tests.