Shortly after the 2012 elections, the Republican National Committee assembled a panel charged with identifying what went wrong and what the party might try to get back on track. The endeavor was called the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” but it was better known as the RNC’s “autopsy” report.
Many of the recommendations seemed obvious, but nevertheless helped reinforce the party’s institutional troubles: Republicans, the report said, need to expand their reach beyond their older and whiter base, be more willing to take on private-sector excesses, and “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
It wasn’t long after the report’s release that much of the political world – and nearly all Republican policymakers – completely forgot about its existence. But on its one-year anniversary, many are understandably pausing to take stock of how the party has fared since the report ostensibly kicked off a “rebranding” campaign. The conservative Washington Times reports today:
Republican officials said Monday that they have improved their nuts-and-bolts campaign and are making big strides in voter outreach – but there is little evidence that it is making a difference in reaching the minorities, women and young voters who are key to winning national elections. […]“I have been very pleased watching not only [RNC Chairman Reince Priebus], but other Republican groups, take that report and take many of the ideas that we brought forward and really executing them in a serious way,” said Henry Barbour, an RNC member from Mississippi who helped write the report. “I think it has put us in a stronger position for 2014 and I think it is also putting us in a strong position for 2016.”
I’m not at all sure what Barbour is referring to. In fact, other than some structural changes to the party’s presidential nominating calendar, there’s very little to suggest Republicans have changed anything at all since the “Growth and Opportunity Project” was unveiled exactly a year ago.
Indeed, the party’s outreach efforts have fared so poorly over the last year that American Bridge put together a video to mock Republicans’ failures to expand its base of support.
American Bridge president Brad Woodhouse went further in an op-ed in The Hill today on the RNC’s progress, or lack thereof.
Who are they kidding? Back in reality, nothing has changed. The autopsy depicted a Republican Party whose policies and rhetoric were anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, and anti-middle class. One year later, the Republican Party is still anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, and anti-middle class.
The taunts may be understandable and rooted in fact, but it’s hardly a stretch to think Republicans will get the last laugh. After all, the “autopsy” was intended to help get the party back on track after national setbacks in 2012, and despite the fact that Republicans chose to ignore the RNC’s advice, the party is nevertheless poised to fare quite well in 2014, even after changing nothing about its message and/or agenda.
At a certain level, all of this is counter-intuitive. After Republicans struggled badly in 2012, the conventional wisdom was the party should change course and hope to bounce back. But Republicans tried a different tack – change nothing, stop trying to govern, shut down the government for no discernable reason, and expect to win anyway.
At least for now, that’s working out well. The “autopsy” was a flop, but so long as Democrats’ midterm-turnout problem persists, Republicans may yet be rewarded for failure.