Rape Insurance, Drug Mules And Other Reasons Why The GOP Rebranding Effort Isn’t Going So Well

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS

The Republican National Committee will gather for its winter meeting in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to strategize ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. The get-together comes almost a year after Chairman Reince Priebus released a so-called autopsy report that aimed to “grow the Party and improve Republican campaigns” in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election. The “Growth and Opportunity Project” spoke with “more than 2,600 people, both outside Washington and inside the Beltway” about how the party can win over the nation’s changing demographic of voters and appeal to young people, African Americans, women, and Hispanics.

And while Republicans have softened some of their sharpest rhetoric and “deployed 17 full-time operatives to New York, Florida, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia and Colorado with the primary mission of bringing more Hispanics into the GOP fold” the party’s policies have fallen far short of its goals. Here is how:

1. Women’s health. “Our candidates, spokespeople, and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.“ [Growth and Opportunity Project]

Republicans are advancing policies to limit women’s access to abortions and contraception in order to galvanize their conservative base ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. The GOP has placed anti-abortion ballot measures in states with close senate races and Congressional Republicans have made restricting federal funding for abortion services “one of their top priorities this year.” Last week, a House committee advanced the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,” a measure that would prevent low-income women from using their Medicaid coverage to access abortion and require the Internal Revenue Service to conduct audits of rape victims. Republican senators and congressmen also filed amicus briefs arguing that businesses can deny birth control to female employees and have jumped on cases challenging Obamacare’s contraception coverage requirement as a way to undermine the law.

2. Immigration reform. [A]mong the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” [Growth and Opportunity Project]

Progress has stalled since the Senate advanced a bipartisan measure to provide a path to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants, with Republicans claiming that the botched rollout of Obamacare and the government shutdown have undermined their ability to legislate on the issue. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) promises to unveil key principles for reform and adopt a piecemeal approach to reforming the immigration system, but GOP leaders have yet to offer any kind of timeline for change. Meanwhile, conservative firebrands like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) warn the party against even taking up reform and compare immigrants to violent criminals and drug mules.

3. LGBT rights. “[T]here 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.” [Growth and Opportunity Project]

In 2013, Republican lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation to allow businesses and government employees to deny recognition to same-sex couples under the guise of “religious liberty.” Should the measure become law, businesses could refuse to provide leave for an employee to take care of a sick same-sex spouse while federal workers processing tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security filings could refuse to do their job if it meant providing benefits to a same-sex couples. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also refuses to allow the House to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which the Senate passed in November, arguing that a bill to federally prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT people, is “unnecessary” because “people are already protected in the workplace.”

4. Economic mobility. “The Republican Party must be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life.” [Growth and Opportunity Project]

Last week, a potential agreement to extend benefits for those who have been out of work for six months or more fell apart after Republicans quibbled with the procedural rules under which the measure would come to a vote. The failure to extend benefits comes as Republicans are trying to portray themselves as sympathetic to lower-income Americans and reclaim the poverty issue. Party leaders like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are laying out new anti-poverty initiatives — such as consolidating all federal anti-poverty programs into one agency, replacing the Earned Income Tax Credit with “wage enhancement,” and promoting marriage — while still supporting drastic cuts to social programs that aid the poor. The GOP’s House budget, for instance, “would get at least 66 percent of its $5 trillion in non-defense budget cuts over ten years…from programs that serve people of limited means.” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) meanwhile has adopted a series of measures that provide tax relief for the rich while increasing taxes on lower-income Americans.

The public isn’t buying the rebranding. According to a recent Gallup poll, “32 percent have a favorable opinion of the GOP now, compared with 43 percent immediately after President Barack Obama’s re-election.”