As I watched Chairman Priebus present the Growth and Opportunity Project one year ago, I could not help but be impressed by his courage in releasing its sobering findings and strong recommendations in the most glaring of spotlights: the National Press Club. Right in the lion’s den, the RNC had just laid bare our Party’s weaknesses and goals for the future for the entire world to see. We needed this public moment of vulnerability, however, and one year later, it is even more apparent to me why.
It was not simply because the Project was released following an election we should have won, or even that my generation single-handedly played the most significant role in delivering reelection for the President; it was because the Project gave us the opportunity to showcase the breadth and capabilities of our Party on a national stage.
In many ways, this arc of failure followed by self-awareness, perseverance and success represents a uniquely American story: the Party falls down, learns from its mistakes and gets back up again, stronger and with a renewed sense of hope. What lessons did we learn?
For one, we found that we have to be better communicators of our cause, reaching communities directly with our message. Voters do not inherently reject our set of principles as a whole, but they are distrustful of us when we do not articulate these ideas to them. To this end, the RNC has hired dozens of staff across the country to reach out to African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Pacific Islander Americans, the youth, women, people of faith, and conservative allies. In fact, 91% of the RNC political staff is currently not based in Washington, D.C. We also learned that our Party has to engage voters on a year-round basis and not just a few months before Election Day. For this reason, the RNC has already recruited 10,000 precinct captains to act as permanent community leaders for the Party.
Additionally, the 2012 elections showed us that our presidential primary process is broken and left our nominee at a strategic and monetary disadvantage. Recognizing these flaws, Chairman Priebus led the Committee in making changes to our primary calendar and debate structure. Finally, we discovered that in a digital age, voter outreach needs to made through relevant media and that the quality of those contacts ought to be valued in equal proportion to the quantity. In light of this, the RNC made key hires from Silicon Valley, launched Para Bellum Labs and made its data accessible in real-time to committees, candidates and vendors.
One year later, the RNC looks like a completely different version of its former self, but what lessons did our DNC counterparts learn from 2012? Surely, even after a winning election, a Party needs to find ways to improve. In fact, many of our problems as a Party stemmed from our sense of content following a successful 2004 cycle. After that time, the Obama machine built upon the central community-based idea behind our 72-hour program and adapted it to a digital age. While we rested, they worked.
That is where the Democrats are now. Perhaps this is why Organizing for America, the DNC’s Obama-branded, 501(c)(4) doppelganger, took the coveted Obama data systems when it left the DNC and why the Committee has been left bankrupt. Still the DNC has persisted in its recycled playbook of using wedge issues to divide and conquer, which has proven to be a failure in important elections in San Diego and Florida.
We voluntarily revealed our weaknesses one year ago and work every day to earn the American people’s trust that we are a Party for everyone. In doing nothing and relying on strategies of the past, Democrats have involuntarily shown their long-term challenge: that they are a Party with old ideas and without room for dissention or debate. Through the Growth and Opportunity Project, our Party has embraced not only much-needed innovation, but also our differences as Republicans, vibrancy that voters will undoubtedly embrace over the other side’s myopic vision. While our recent challenges have been sobering, we bet big on honesty and bold leadership, which will pay off in short-term success and long-term growth. Poised for a Republican victory, we are hungry for the chance to lead and voters are actively seeking an alternative to the status quo. But in the end, there is nothing America loves more than a good comeback.