Editor's note: This article was first published in the Guardian.
Evidently, it takes four months and 100 pages for the RNC to figure out why the party lost the 2012 presidential election and how to fix it. Most of conservatives could tell you in three paragraphs. That 100-page Growth & Opportunity Project to me was billed by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as a “bold, raw, real” autopsy of the state of the GOP. Bold in what? It’s length? Raw in its stupidity? Real in its predictability?
How bold or honest can a report be when the five co-chairs of the Growth and Opportunity Project, who signed their names to the report, are establishment, country club Republicans and 2/3rds are white?
They are: Ari Fleisher, former spokesperson for President George W. Bush; Sally Bradshaw, campaign consultant to Mitt Romney and chief advisor to Governor Jeb Bush for over a decade; Henry Barbour, nephew of Governor and former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour; RNC Committeeman Glenn McCall and Committeewoman Zori Fonalledas.
“We encourage every Republican to read the report and review our findings,” wrote the co-chairs. By the time anyone gets through reading how the Republican Party can win elections again, it will be 2016 and nothing will have changed. Maybe that’s the whole point of this exercise. The RNC really doesn’t want anybody reading it so Priebus won’t be held accountable to the nonsense that it is.
The report boasts the RNC “spoke with more than 2,600 people, both outside Washington and inside the Beltway,” held 800 plus conference calls, 50 plus focus groups with voters in Iowa and Ohio, listening sessions with 3,000 people, 500 phone calls, and 250 meetings. More than 36,000 women participated in the online survey. I’m exhausted just writing this. Imagine how people will feel if they even bother reading the 98 other pages?
Interestingly, the report only conducted surveys of women, Hispanics, consultants, volunteers, field staff, and pollsters. Blacks, Asians and young voters weren’t deemed important enough for surveys by the RNC but only good enough for listening sessions with Priebus. Still overly focused on Hispanics, it appears the RNC has no real intention of building relationships other minority groups until the Hispanic vote approaches the 90% range for Democrats that the black vote currently does, which it will if Republicans continue to talk rather than do.
Most revealing how out of touch the RNC has become is Priebus seems proud of this document and thinks 100 pages represents a road map for change for Republicans. Its table of contents reads like a political primer on how to win elections. Under Messaging one of the sections is “America Looks Different.” Yeah, Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote the largest portion of any presidential candidate since 1988 and still lost the election because he lost the minority and woman vote, which President Obama won overwhelmingly. Minorities are on pace to represent 54% of the population by 2050.
The table of contents also includes: Demographic Partners (RNC should build some relationships) Campaign Mechanics (Candidate Recruitment, voter registration, polling, duh, duh, duh), Friends and Allies (get some) Fundraising (money wasn’t the problem), Campaign Finance (reviews current laws, really?), and Primary Process (support better, more diverse candidates to appeal to a changing population).
What’s laughable is the RNC needed to hear from 52,000 people to figure out what went wrong during last year’s election. Hillary Clinton and Democrats must be smiling like Cheshire Cats, thinking how easy it will be for her to move back in the White House in 2016. You don’t need 100 pages of navel gazing and recycled ideas proposed by conservatives for years and ignored by the RNC to tell you what went wrong in 2012 and how to fix it.
As a Republican strategist told me, “we had a weak candidate and a f—ked up message.” Mitt Romney stuck with the same people he worked with over the past decade to get him elected president. There’s a reason why he lost the nomination in 2008 and didn’t win the presidency in 2012. Romney’s inner circle of white men, didn’t want to hear fresh ideas from people, especially those who didn’t look like them. Mitt’s boys also thought they could win by ignoring minority and women voters. As the above-mentioned Republican strategist explained, Romney didn’t engage surrogates and didn’t respond immediately to Obama’s attacks on Bain, women, the 47% but rather had a myopic focus on the economy.
More money isn’t what the GOP needs but a willingness to open up the tent to fresh ideas. American Crossroads raised over $300 million to help elect Mitt Romney and failed miserably. I think its great Priebus is willing to put $10 million into “outreach” to minorities but I’ve been told by RNC sources the RNC plans to hire 100 people but no one has yet to see a plan as to what they’ll be doing.
It’s not brain surgery what the RNC needs to do. It’s just common sense politics. For starters, it needs to add minorities in its surrogate pool for media interviews. In 2012, RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day, who is passionate about growing the party, insisted her staff introduce me to RNC’s Media Booker Victoria Delgado, so Delgado could book me for interviews during the campaign. Bear in mind I was already appearing on TV and radio interviews supporting Mitt Romney. I sent several emails expressing my interest to help but was NEVER heard from Delgado. It’s worth mentioning surrogates don’t get paid.
Young Republicans have chapters across the country. Why doesn’t the RNC give money to these chapters in key swing and blue states to host happy hours at popular bars to attract more young people, a demographic Obama won. The RNC needs to do a better job of helping identify strong women and minority candidates running for state and federal offices and help them. I got tired of hearing the excuses so I recently formed the Conservative Melting Pot PAC to support minorities and women defending the principles of conservatism and taking the message to all Americans.
Another easy thing to do would be to finally launch the RNC black outreach website which Sharon Day hired me to build in 2011. The site featured video testimonials from young and old people sharing their stories why they are Republicans. Interviews with lawmakers like former Congressman Allen West, Senator Tim Scott and Kay Cole James were featured on the site.
In June 2012 after Romney had sewn up the nomination, the Co-Chair scheduled a meeting on launching the site with RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer. First Spicer said the RNC wasn’t going to launch the site because Romney’s people didn’t want to. In the next breath, he said the RNC wasn’t going to launch a black outreach site without activities to support it. We presented him with a plan that included activities like town halls on historically black colleges and universities. Spicer’s response was communications had no money for such “outlandish” activities. (But the RNC seems to be flush with money now.)
Finally, I asked Spicer how many blacks he had working in the communications department. With an unapologetic expression, he replied, “none.” Looks like the RNC is intent on remaining the stupid, out of touch party well positioned to lose more elections in 2014 and 2016.