The RNC dilemma: how to transform service to a wealthy minority into populism and votes

Jonathan Chait discusses the RNC Growth & Opportunity Project:

The Republican National Committee released a major report today that amounts to the party’s formal response to its 2012 election defeat. The report determinedly avoids confronting the party’s most fundamental problem: Its attachment to an economic agenda that most voters correctly identify as serving the needs of a wealthy minority. Rather than confront the problem, the report is a detailed and generally shrewd plan for working around it.

[...] The closest the report comes to advocating a policy response for non-rich voters is its call for “making sure the government’s safety net is a trampoline, not a trap.” Everybody obviously wants programs for the poor to help the poor advance. But what does this mean? Paul Ryan always talks about the safety net as a trap that lulls the poor into laziness, and his budget likewise devotes enormous space to “repairing” the safety net, which he defines as slashing subsidies for health care, food, college, and other fripperies so poor people get off their lazy butts and make something of themselves. Is that how the RNC wants to stop the safety net from being a trap? Or does it propose the opposite? The report does not even hint.

[...] The vast majority of the report devotes itself to advocating a lengthy series of mechanical campaign fixes. The most interesting of them are a call to cut the number of presidential primary debates in half and to undertake a vast effort to eliminate restrictions on political donations. The aggregate effect of these changes would be to have Republicans spend less time communicating their ideas via moderated public debate, and more time communicating them via crafted propaganda. Whatever the civic merits of the idea, it appears to be a shrewd gambit to present a more appealing face to the public.

Or as Charles Johnson says,

“Bottom line: the RNC report is a set of recommendations on how to better trick voters into supporting the GOP, even as the GOP continues to work against their interests.”

Political Wire: “Tucked in near the end of the 97-page autopsy “are less than four pages that amount to a political bombshell: the five-member panel urges halving the number of presidential primary debates in 2016 from 2012, creating a regional primary cluster after the traditional early states and holding primaries rather than caucuses or conventions,” Politico reports. Each of those steps would benefit a deep-pocketed candidate in the mold of Mitt Romney. That is, someone who doesn’t need the benefit of televised debates to get attention because he or she can afford TV ads; has the cash to air commercials and do other forms of voter contact in multiple big states at one time; and has more appeal with a broader swath of voters than the sort of ideologically-driven activists who typically attend caucuses and conventions.

Benjy Sarlin highlights the RNC’s commitment to skillful rhetoric: 

Less than year after nominating a millionaire investor who proclaimed that “corporations are people,” the RNC is concerned that the party has become too closely tied with wealthy interests. “We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare,” the report says. “We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

The report doesn’t offer much beyond rhetorical suggestions here — it actually recommends loosening campaign finance laws to allow corporate money to influence politics even more — but it does acknowledge the issue is a legitimate threat. “The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed,” the report reads.

You see, it’s “perception” that must be addressed — not beliefs, deeds, or actions. The takeaway for conservative voters: the beatings will continue until moral improves.

Igor Volsky laughs at the “disconnect between the principles and rhetoric the RNC espouses and the policies the party continues to advance:”

We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.” Republicans have proposed slashing the corporate tax rate just as corporate profits are skyrocketing and wages for middle and lower income Americans remain stagnant. The GOP seeks to repeal Wall Street reform and resists any efforts to tax capital gains at a higher rate, close the carried interest loophole, or raise any taxes on higher-income earners. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, for instance, “would result in tax cuts worth an average of about $330,000 a year to households with incomes of more than $1 million a year.”

The Democratic (obvious?) response to the RNC’s Lipstick on a Pig Plan:

“I think it’s important to note that the best way to increase support with the public for your party is to embrace policies the public supports. And embracing policies the public does not support or aggressively rejects makes it more difficult to earn the public’s support.” — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday.

What else can be said?

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