The PJ Tatler

Is the RNC's Autopsy Bold or Bland?

Depending on which take you read, you can come out thinking that the RNC’s new report on the state of the GOP is either going big to wrestle with the party’s problems or that it’s copping out and offering lots of same-old same-old.

For the bold case, read PJ Media alum Jennifer Rubin.

For the meh case, DrewM at Ace of Spades.

The report is here should you want to read it for yourself.

Put me closer to the meh camp. The “bold” ideas are coming from the same wing of the party that nominated Mitt Romney, who ran anything but a bold campaign. Before that, they nominated John McCain. Had they had their druthers, they would’ve nominated George H. W. Bush over Ronald Reagan. Their track record isn’t great.

The “bold” ideas they proffer include passing comprehensive immigration reform, and Rubin deploys language like this to characterize those who oppose this boldness.

Don’t be surprised, however, to see a backlash from those appealing to anti-immigration exclusionists.

That’s quite a line to use against fellow Republicans who prefer security and the rule of law over repeating the mistakes of the past. In my own case, I’m married to a legal immigrant. But I’m an “anti-immigration exclusionist” because I believe that the current push for what amounts to an amnesty is a bad idea, which will not help secure the border, hurts Americans workers by depressing wages, and will end up hurting sound policy over the medium and long term, until we come back around to another amnesty in a couple of decades.

I humbly submit that Rubin is part of the problem, not the solution. It’s not a coincidence that one of those who put the report together is a Jeb Bush ally. Another is a long-time lobbyist. On immigration they’re pushing for the same things they’ve always pushed for, year in and year out.

We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.

We’re not a policy committee, but if you don’t accept this policy we’ve literally been pushing for years and the federal government has no record of dealing with effectively, and on which the Democrats have built a record of racist demagoguery that we have no interest in countering, then you’re an exclusionist.

And they’re worried about turning off non-Republican voters…

Question: If the Republicans give in on this, where do voters who support the rule of law go?

Another of their “bold” ideas is to soften up on same-sex marriage, citing the preferences of younger voters.

But same younger voters may also abandon our strategic relationship with Israel. That’s which way they’re leaning. Why are we told to listen to the young on one issue but not the other?

Another of its bold ideas is to speak more to the culture in apolitical venues. That’s a good idea, but hardly bold and hardly original to the RNC’s insider group. Conservatives should get into events like SXSW and should appear more in venues that we’ve been mocking Obama for appearing in. This has worked for Obama and is obviously something more Republicans should be willing to do. Marco Rubio is already leading the way on this, and more should follow.

Another of its bold ideas is to go populist on corporate America.

We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.

These people sound like liberals talking. I’m not saying that they are liberals, but they do sound like them.

Here’s some good advice in the report, which only ends up raising more questions.

It is time for Republicans on the federal level to learn from successful Republicans on the state level. It is time to smartly change course, modernize the Party, and learn once again how to appeal to more people, including those who share some but not all of our conservative principles.

Ok, but which ones? Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, or Chris Christie? Or Nikki Haley or Susana Martinez? On page 11 the report basically answers “Yes.” It even puts Walker and Christie in the same bullet point. They’re two very different animals and they’re succeeding in blue states in similar, yet different, ways. The report doesn’t mention Perry in its section on governors, despite Texas being the nation’s job-creation engine during his tenure. It’s an interesting omission that says quite a bit about intraparty politics.

There are some good ideas in the report — fewer debates during the primary, for instance — and a surrender while advocating for reorganizing the primary. It calls for fewer caucuses (good) but would continue giving the current early states too much influence over the nomination process. The idea that Iowa and New Hampshire have more say over whom the GOP nominates than Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas is insane. Texan Bill Calhoun has long has some excellent ideas on GOP efforts to attract more minority voters and he deserves national funding and support.

If the RNC follows some of the recommendations of its report, it will essentially cede many policy battles to the Democrats at a time when the Democrats’ policies are threatening to wreck the country.What message will this send to the party’s grassroots? It looks to me like the people who put this report together are embarrassed to be associated with much of the GOP’s grassroots, and they find the Democrats’ left wing less embarrassing, so they’re moving toward them and away from conservatives. I’m not saying that they’re actually doing this, but they are giving that impression in parts of the report.

One important factor it mostly ignores is the importance of candidate quality. Candidates matter, a lot. Much more so than the consultants they hire and who came under fire during CPAC. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both cost the GOP seats, as did Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle before them. Two of those were Tea Party candidates, and two were establishment candidates. Two men, two women. Tea Partiers Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul have become the party’s new faces and leaders. They don’t all agree on all of the issues, but none of them are milquetoasts.The establishment’s preferred candidate against Rubio is now a Democrat. The same thing happened in Pennsylvania. The establishment’s record isn’t great, and the Tea Party’s isn’t perfect. But good, strong candidates who can clearly articulate conservative ideals tend to win, male or female, Tea Party or establishment. Marco Rubio is onto something when he says we don’t really need a new idea. What we need are better candidates who are consistent and can connect with voters and are, frankly, not idiots.

Mitt Romney was an establishment candidate, and he was also a poor candidate. Great fundraiser, nice man, excellent private-sector experience, but a poor candidate. He failed to follow up on his first debate victory and gave Obama a pass on Benghazi when he could have and should have pinned him. CNN’s Candy Crowley gave Obama a huge assist, but Romney ultimately could have won that moment. He didn’t. He also surrounded himself with poor personnel who advised him to stick to soft messaging that muddied the differences between himself and Obama. His top advisers didn’t even understand the media. A better candidate who made better personnel decisions and avoided mistakes while going bigger on the anti-Obama messaging could have won.

We’ll have better candidates available in 2016. What remains to be seen is what the party will do with, and to, them.


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