GOP Fights to Rebrand the Party of No

Republican leaders left a party confab in Los Angeles last week in agreement that they can no longer be “the party of no.” They were less clear on what to say "yes" to.

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Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., March 15, 2013.

After several days of debating how to restore their party’s brand, Republican leaders left a party confab in Los Angeles last week in agreement that they can no longer be “the party of no.” But they were less clear on what to say “yes” to.

“To win, we need to be the party of solutions,” says Nebraska GOP chairman JL Spray. Now that Republicans have pointed out problems on issues like immigration, student loans, and the budget, he adds: “Let’s start fixing some things.”

While GOP officials at the party’s spring meeting in Hollywood had plenty of ideas for changing their public rhetoric, however, positive new policy ideas were in shorter supply.

The gathering’s purpose, said RNC officials who recently released a much-publicized autopsy of the 2012 election, was largely to begin reshaping negative perceptions of the GOP. At the meeting, the Republican National Committee’s 168 members sat through upbeat sessions with titles like “How to say what we mean and show that we care,” and “Winning the Women’s vote.”

(MORE: GOP Rank And File Fight Back Against Party Elite In Hollywood)

Those sessions were all the more important, Republicans say, because party officials keep making the wrong kinds of headlines. In the past month, Republican officials repudiated Alask Rep. Don Young for using the slur “wetback,” and Michigan national committeeman Dave Agema for posting on Facebook a story that decries “filthy” homosexuals.

“The lack of relationships in these communities is getting in the way of us talking about the issues,” said one RNC official here this week.

Hoping to turn the page, in recent months top GOP lawmakers like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Marco Rubio have given major speeches on what the GOP calls its “opportunity agenda” — tackling education reform, college affordability, and endemic poverty. Last week, Senator Rand Paul visited historically black Howard University to contest the image of Republicans as insensitive towards minorities.

So far, though, those speeches haven’t turned into legislative priorities. Of late Republicans have mostly debated the impact of the budget sequester and hit President Barack Obama’s annual budget plan as out of balance. And while the party committee devoted two of twelve resolutions approved in Los Angeles to reaffirming “traditional marriage,” the opportunity planks were absent.

“Republicans have done a better job of not antagonizing voters, but we still have a ways to go in making them want to vote for us,” complained one RNC member.

(MORE: Viewpoint: Only Empathy Can Transform the GOP)

A statement from the RNC focused on the party’s image woes, which officials believe is a perquisite to putting forward their own policy proposals. “We have a perception problem and Chairman [Reince] Priebus is committed to highlighting these Republican reforms so more Americans know Republicans are making important headway in states and building a permanent grassroots organization so we can begin developing the relationships needed to make policy and election inroads as a party,” said press secretary Kirsten Kukowski.

Some Republicans worry the policy agenda remains too thin, thanks in part to a near-singular focus on debt and deficits over the past two years, and poorly communicated to regular Americans.

“We don’t talk about kitchen table issues,” said former Michigan national committeeman Saul Anuzis, describing the party’s challenge. “We spend too much time talking about the philosophy of smaller government — and that’s not what voters care about.”

“We have to make an argument that fiscal responsibility is a part of a plan to help all Americans; rather than talking about spending cuts or balanced budgets because that’s what we “stand” for,” said former Romney policy adviser Lanhee Chen, who will be helping the National Republican Senatorial Committee work with candidates to develop policy agendas in the upcoming 2014 cycle. “The biggest mistake we’ve made is to sound like the party of austerity for austerity’s sake.”

The RNC points to the accomplishments of Republican governors as models for the party at large — including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s Medicaid reform efforts and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to promote teacher accountability. They also point to former President George W. Bush’s pre-9/11 agenda of compassionate conservatism as a helpful model. Bush was elected in 2000 on a platform featuring education reform, tax cuts and expanded Medicare benefits.

(MORE: Consultants in Conservative Crosshairs As GOP Brass Calls For Reforms)

Bush, however, offered new goodies to voters at a time of budget surpluses. Today’s Republicans enjoy no such luxury, severely limiting the initiatives they can offer to voters. After his election defeat, Mitt Romney complained that Hispanic voters had rewarded Barack Obama for expensive “gifts” he’d given them in the form of government benefits like Obamacare.

Republicans could make a policy mark this year if they strike a bipartisan deal with Democrats on immigration reform. The prominent role of Rubio in the immigration debate could put a clear GOP stamp on any final product. The GOP’s recent autopsy report called a clear policy shift on immigration critical to allowing a dialogue with the nation’s fast-growing Latino population. (Meanwhile, some party operatives — particularly younger ones — have urged similar thinking on gay marriage as a means of connecting with liberal young voters, so far to no avail.)

Whatever the specific agenda, Republicans say, it has to offer something more than dour austerity. Only reforms that promise to directly help people can put the party on a path to success in 2014 and 2016. That, says, Spray, is all the more true at a time when world events don’t give the GOP an edge: “That’s the only way we’ve ever won the White House when national security wasn’t on the front burner.”

As they departed Los Angeles, many RNC members agreed that the question for the GOP isn’t just how to stop alienating voters. It’s how to start winning them back over. But exactly what they’ll be offering still looks unclear.

MORE: Republican Party Says No to Same-Sex Marriage

344 comments
AnthonyMarquez
AnthonyMarquez

Resurrect Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller. Fire the Tea Party. 

rcooley123
rcooley123

GOP Fights to Rebrand the Party of No | TIME - ti.me/11iqHQn | Rebranding is way different than actually changing policies.

egret26
egret26

Oh, there's no "perception problem".  The Republicans are perceived quite accurately as what they are.  The "problem" they have is what they think and how they want to treat people.  And they haven't even begun to agree among themselves about those things.  Smaller government?  Well, we think we should impose government into your genitals and bedroom and ability to make your own choices.  Oh, and we want a 
"Christian" fundamentalist theocracy.  And the Second Amendment trumps right to Life, never mind about Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  We are against abortion but also against birth control that would prevent abortions.  

In fact, their involvement in social issues suggests they'd be happiest in a fascist state, where there are only two kinds of things - mandatory and forbidden - thus relieving people of the need to think or make choices at all.  Of course, that only works well for the people who are deciding which is which.  Kind of a bummer for everyone else.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

THE OLD BRAND:       REPUBLICAN PARTY

OLD BELIEF:    ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

NEW BELIEF:    AMNESTY

OLD BELIEF:   RELIGIION AND MORALITY

NEW BELIEF:   ABORTION AND FREE SEX

NEW BRAND:     DEMOCRAT PARTY

These Republicans , just like the Decocrats, have been there too long ....they are all guilty of inbreesing.......hence.....the new generations of ill informed morns, imbecikes and cretins !!!!

THE REPUBLICANS NEED A LEADER WHO IS CHARISMATIC, BOLD, A GREAT ORATOR AND COMMUNICATOR, ONE WITH "COJONES".......WHO RELIES ON THE OLD BELIEFS......FO GOD......COR COUNTRY.....AND FOR THE CONSITUTION....

RAISE THE ARMY, GET THE MONEY AND LOGISTICS ......AND GET THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN.......THEN THE REPUBLICANS WILL RISE AGAIN.......IF NOT........

VALENTINE, COMEDIAN,LOL

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

It's not the brand or even the policy. The GOP problem is the GOP coalition. The laissez faire party funders have crippled the economy and the middle class and neither they nor the ditto-heads who have been inculcated with "small government" dogma are going to allow the sort of activist government action that would be needed to repair the damage that's already been done. Likewise, with the fossil-fuel lobby and climate science deniers.

Meanwhile, the racists, misogynists and God-botherers aren't going to allow any policy-changes that will help them with black and brown people, gays or women. They're still trying to use state government to control the wombs of that latter to this very day.

The problem is that a third of the country has been mentally and emotionally crippled by 30 years of right-wing disinformation. The only good news is that the bulk of them are old and dying off by the day, at least the traditionalists who like big government screwing women, gays and people of color, and young people aren't buying the right-wing-authoritarian BS anymore.

I wish our Beltway-wise political commentators would get into some of the sociological factors that underpin the GOP's woes. Otherwise, you're just wasting time and pixels.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Rinse Probus, your followers are speaking.  They're saying, "B-b-but, Bill Ayers!"

drudown
drudown

From my vantage point, the GOP is more and more indistinguishable from the corporate fiction that it worships unmercilessly, even at the expense of the People, and the only semblance of morality displayed is a hollow tribute to the Religious Right for all the campaign contributions paid. The GOP is a mere shell by which corporate agendas are foisted upon the People; “greed is good,” says the Super PAC, “let’s make a new steeple.”

And yet, even when History proves that these agendas were "sold" to the People under a fabricated climate of urgency (see, e.g., invade Iraq), incredibly, the GOP seems incapable of even feigning to learn from past mistakes (see, e.g., invade Iran) when pushing forward, lest their puppeteer lose the reins as its firm footed charioteer. Conspicuously absent from GOP discourse (er, talking points) is ANY reference to cost/benefit, year after year.

Which seems quite paradoxical insofar the GOP leaders don't want to raise a thin dime of revenue to pay for anything- not now; not ever. Instead, they pretend we live in a world of absolutes: what, the fact Saddam was an evil dictator means it is "worth the $4 trillion cost" to remove him and install a puppet government with the equivalent of duct tape and popsicle sticks?

(sigh.)

Whatever.

Of course, the GOP "online PR" unit has no thoughts of its own. They dispense the same shopworn talking points like a Pez machine, which- like their Reagan idol- are worth less than stale candy they contain. You'd think they would be open to higher taxes on the very, very wealthiest that enjoy the lion's share of Legislation and protections afforded by the State...but, alas, it only reads "no new taxes" on their unused brains. 

"Believe those seeking the truth; doubt those who found it." - Andre Gide

paulejb
paulejb

Republicans have a serious problem reaching low information voters. They need to come up with a variation of the celebutards who worship Obama and who hold the attention of the low info crowd that get's it's news on Twitter.

kannbrown
kannbrown

@rcooley123 All 're-branding' involves is changing packaging and marketing. It's still the same product.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Hollywooddeed I almost have to wonder if guys like Kevin and Paule are on the Democrat payroll to make the GOP look as idiotic and abrasive as possible.

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@paulejb The sad thing is that Obama couldn't even come close to beating Rush in 2000, yet, through a series of flukes, he is now president.

j.cadman.smith
j.cadman.smith

You seem to have an overly inflated view of yourself and the Republican party.  Odd since only old white men voted for Republicans in the last election.  The Republicans are so backward that they are just figuring how to use the internet.  Don't you remember Karl Rove almost having a heart attack when he learned that Obama had won?  You people need to come into the 21st century and be less conservative.  It's the narrow minded view of life you people have that is your downfall.  What's it like to live in Myopia? 

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@drudown That's merely a rewriting of something you've seen on ThinkProgress, Media Matters, or some other left-wing hate  site. You're just engaging in the type of behavior you accuse conservatives of being guilty of.

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@paulejb The unfortunate think is that the low-information voters, which includes a majority of the liberals here, do not realize that they are low-information voters. How many of them know anything about Obama's past as a community organizer, state senator, or when he headed Project Vote in Chicago. When Palin said that Obama palled around with Bill Ayers, it didn't mean anything to these dolts because they have no idea what the Weather Underground was, let alone what they did.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb They already do. Does Ted Nuget and the idiot that used to do the theme song to Monday Night Football ring a bell?

drudown
drudown

@KevinGroenhagen

That's funny. I wrote it off the top of my head in 10 minutes. Sorry to disappoint you, but most liberal minds don't resort to the selfsame regurgitation of ideas that your ilk cannot outrun. 

But keep telling yourself what is obvious to most people is some "left-wing" conspiracy. 

Here's something else off the top of my head:

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep." - Saul Bellow


j.cadman.smith
j.cadman.smith

Here is another Republican who has an over inflated view of his brain power.  He's the person who voted for George W Bush.  Now there's a brain for you - George's brain will be measured much like Einstein's brain but not for how large it is but for how small it is.   

paulejb
paulejb

@KevinGroenhagen @paulejb

"Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so."

Ronald Reagan

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@KevinGroenhagen @paulejb

How many of them know anything about Obama's past as a community organizer, state senator, or when he headed Project Vote in Chicago. When Palin said that Obama palled around with Bill Ayers, it didn't mean anything to these dolts because they have no idea what the Weather Underground was, let alone what they did.

2008 still stings I guess.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@KevinGroenhagen @paulejb The even sadder part is guys like Kevin, think they are clever by repeating the same idiotic talking points that have been debunked time and time again.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@KevinGroenhagen @DonQuixotic @paulejb 

Ah, I see.  By "flukes" you mean things that happened long before he was even running for the Presidency.  Likely we would have Hillary as our President now, were that the case.

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@DonQuixotic @KevinGroenhagen @paulejb No, moron. One of the flukes occurred in 2004, when Bush won reelection and the GOP regained control of the Senate. That was when the GOP nominee for the Senate in Illinois withdrew from the race.

drudown
drudown

@paulejb

By your flawed logic, Romney "should've taken Ohio" based on the polls. 

Polls are inherently unreliable. Period. 

If a group doesn't like the poll results, they just do it again and- lo and behold- there's the truth!

j.cadman.smith
j.cadman.smith

@KevinGroenhagen @j.cadman.smith Actually educated in the UK.  So Kevin you base the level of intelligence of a President on the schools he attended.  Bush attended Yale and Harvard Business School.  Obama Attended Columbia and Harvard Law School.  He was a Professor of constitutional law.  It is well known that GW Bush was not an intellectual and that he and Cheney ran this country into the ground.  I don't know how you can support the Republican party.  Each member blindly follow the party line and none have original ideas.  If they do they are squashed.  What holds you to the Republican party?  Are you a man of no original ideas either?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@KevinGroenhagen @j.cadman.smith Amusing how you accuse Obama of being a product of affirmative action while overlooking the fact that the only reason a mediocre student like GWB was even accepted was because of the Bush name and fortune.

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@j.cadman.smith Well, moron, the Democrats didn't exactly field credible candidates against Bush, did they? Bush earned degrees from Yale and Harvard. Which community college did you attend?

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@paulejb @KevinGroenhagen  Ah the saintly Ronnie Raygun.   Your hero.  A total scumbag.  Great at reading lines, but did he actually think anything?  Not woken up when we attacked people, fell asleep visiting the Pope.  Got a bunch of Marines killed in Beirut.  Attacked Grenada.  In the 40's "reported" to the FBI on actors that might be communists.  Flip flopped on abortion issue (signed into law as Gov, later decided he was "against" it).   Believed in Laffer (should have been laughing) Curve, something Bush called rightly "voodoo economics".   Ran up deficit as great friend to the MIC.  Yeah, he KNEW SO MUCH!

TroyOwen
TroyOwen

@paulejb@TroyOwen@DonQuixotic@KevinGroenhagen 

From the article ..... Obama’s objections to the bill suggest that he wasn’t so much bent on denying rights to newborns as wanting to block any legislation that could erode the premise of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Look we all know you hate Obama, we get it! But this has nothing to do with the article above, so quit your trolling.