In an effort to get the most information possible, I subscribe to both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention email listservs. Emails from both national parties are usually a doozy, and I’m honestly not sure how members of either party take them seriously. But today’s email from the RNC with their annual “Campaign Strategy Survey” was truly a stunner. Click into the survey, and you’ll find some pretty special questions that get at exactly why the GOP needs help with their campaign strategy in the first place.
The email, sent by RNC Chief Operating Officer Sara Armstrong, makes a plea to Republican supporters who “know better than anyone else what issues we should be focusing on” to participate in the survey.
“It takes a team to create and execute a winning strategy,” she writes. “And I’m glad we can count on you.”
From the looks of the survey, it seems that Armstrong hopes that the only people who will actually open the email are far-right wingers who have succeeded only in alienating independent voters.
Despite the pithy slogan, “5 Quick Questions to Build a Better Party,” this survey isn’t looking for constructive criticism at all. The RNC is not wondering what issues they should compromise on, or what needs of their base aren’t currently being met. In reality, this survey was constructed to yield results that will reaffirm everything the party already stands for and is already campaigning on. They just wanted nice graphics displaying all of the support they have for the things they are already doing. Let’s take a look at some of the questions and their answer choices, shall we?
To be clear, those are the only four answer choices. There is no “other” option where you can fill in something else. Arguably, if the Republican Party wants to get in good with the most important future demographics, young voters and minorities, literally none of these answer choices will help them. There is no option for ending raging and nasty party politics, the only option is to “stop the liberal agenda by defeating Democrats.” I’m sorry — this is an election. Were you planning on doing something other that defeating your opponents? And what does it mean to “unite the party”? Can you be more specific about this very broad answer choice? Let’s keep going, shall we?
In perhaps the most alarmingly self-congratulatory question on the entire survey, the RNC asks you, from a list of very positive answer choices, to select what makes them “unique.” It is unclear how this will help their campaign strategy, as almost none of these things make them “unique” in the world of national politics. There are SuperPACs that are, perhaps, more effective than the RNC at almost every one of these choices.
You aren’t reading it wrong. These are the only answers you can select from. To use a phrase from Richard Salsman, president of InterMarket Forcasting, this list screams of the “whacko-religionists and ethno-nationalists” that lost the party the 2012 election. “Prevent illegal immigration” is there, but immigration reform isn’t. “Repeal ObamaCare” is there, but there is no mention of finding a better alternative. “Protect our Constitution” is there, but that likely just means doing the same stuff the Republican Party has been doing since before 2012, and not, say, fighting for Equal Protection for LGBT couples despite the screaming success of such a measure among young voters at this year’s CPAC. Frankly, I’m surprised that “Restoring America’s Judeo-Christian heritage” didn’t make it onto this list.
Look, I realize that midterm elections only attract the most ardent of party members on both sides, and that the young people and minorities for whom the party needs to change probably won’t show up to the polls in November. But if the party assumes – based on these flawed answers – that this is what the party needs to do to succeed after the midterm elections, then they are ignoring their own advice and setting themselves up for failure.
Let’s all remember, for a moment, the stunning success of the GOP in 2010 and the stunning defeat of the same party in 2012. The party elected a bunch of far right-wing candidates on a wave of anti-establishment fervor, but the ultra-conservative new representatives alienated and embarrassed much of the party, allowing Democratic candidates to gain back much of their ground in 2012 and win the presidency.
The GOP cannot miraculously become a better fit for libertarian-leaning young people and minorities overnight. It is a long process that must begin now if the Republican Party plans on avoiding making a complete fool of itself like it did in the protracted 2012 primary.
But the RNC has to know that. After all, following the 2012 election they released a massive report about the fundamental need to appeal to young people and minorities. So perhaps this survey was less about real strategy, and more about making the Republican base feel included. How cozy.