And to a certain extent, those skeptics of rebranding are right. You can't legislate against things without ever talking about them. The GOP will need to do more than rebrand -- they'll have to change some policies and give up some lost and losing battles. These people, who make up a big chunk of the party, will have to take the furthest back burners and simmer there forgotten -- probably forever. They don't like that idea, so they resist rebranding. Which also explains why the rebranders call it rebranding. They don't want to lose the nutjobs, because they still need them to turn out. They want their votes, they just want them to shut up about their ideas.
But when you look at the party's problems with different demographics, you see that it's not just the hate-filled social conservatives that are the problem. The problem is everything.
Politico: A new postmortem on the November elections from the nation’s leading voice for college Republicans offers a searing indictment of the GOP “brand” and the major challenges the party faces in wooing young voters, according to a copy given exclusively to POLITICO.
The College Republican National Committee on Monday will make public a detailed report — the result of extensive polling and focus groups — dissecting what went wrong for Republicans with young voters in the 2012 elections and how the party can improve its showing with that key demographic in the future.
It’s not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s a “dismal present situation,” the report says.
The problem that Republicans face in winning over young voters is that those voters aren't buying GOP spin. They see Republican policies as they plainly are, not as they're presented by the party. So the problem isn't rebranding -- a lot of these issues have already been "rebranded" by spin and propaganda. The problem is that these voters aren't chumps. ThinkProgress' Igor Volsky took a look at the College Republican's report and came away with some key takeaways, including "Climate change is real," "Expand universal health care coverage," and "End the attacks on women’s reproductive health."
But it's in economic issues that the party really takes a beating. Younger voters are not buying their BS. They blame Republicans for the crash and recession, believe that lowering taxes doesn't create jobs, want the wealthy to pay their fair share, want to cut defense spending, say that Bush's wars blew up the deficit, and trust Democrats more on dealing with student loans. And again, almost all of these issues have already been rebranded (i.e., spun), so rebranding isn't the problem here. The core Republican policies are the problem. These voters aren't buying the excuses, they're clear-eyed about the reality.
And it's not that young voters like high taxes and overly strict regulations, they're just not falling for the way the GOP uses these issues as scapegoats to push other agendas. "Policies that lower taxes and regulations on small businesses are quite popular," the report says. "Yet our focus on taxation and business issues has left many young voters thinking they will only reap the benefits of Republican policies if they become wealthy or rise to the top of a big business. We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there."
In other words, they aren't hearing what Republicans say, they're watching what Republicans do. When all Republican economic policies boil down to a massive giveaway to the wealthy, when the preferred tax structure is a transfer of wealth from the bottom up, when Sen. Joe Barton apologizes to BP for getting our Gulf of Mexico in their oil, it's pretty clear you're dealing with people who serve only the top income earners.
And so I think this report may mark the beginning of the end for the big GOP rebranding effort. When the "serious" fiscal and economic conservatives could blame the social conservative nutbags for their problems, that was one thing. When the economic nutbags are also responsible, that's quite another thing entirely. If the GOP were to fix both problems, what would be left? They'd have to go back to Eisenhower -- who I'm pretty sure most modern Republicans would call a communist. There is no scapegoat to drive out of the village carrying the parties sins -- the whole village is awash in those sins. The only way to win over new voters is to stop standing for what has come define modern conservatives -- Reaganaut "trickle-down" BS and social politics of hatred and exclusion.
When the answer to the question, "How do Republicans attract new voters?" becomes, "Stop being Republicans," both the question and answer will be ignored. At its core the question really is, "How do we survive?"
And the unwelcome answer is, "You don't."
[photo via Wikimedia Commons]