RNC ‘autopsy’ symptomatic of plight of American politics

Over spring break, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released ‘The Growth and Opportunity Project,’ more ghoulishly referred to as the ‘Republican autopsy,’ an analysis of the failings of Republican candidates in the 2012 election and mechanisms necessary to ensure future victory. The report has been hailed by the RNC as “the most comprehensive post-election review” completed by the losing party. Despite this moniker, a closer look at the document reveals that the report’s focus is messaging, and by-and-large fails to suggest any policy changes. It is with this information in mind, that we at The Miscellany News express our disappointment in the autopsy’s emphasis and timing.

To be clear, the Republican National Committee does not directly control individual Republican candidates, nor does it specifically establish guiding policies for the Party. Rather, the RNC helps to articulate and publicize the Republican platform. It is a private organization that fundraises for affiliated Republican campaigns and organizes the Republican National Convention. As such, they can, to some extent, influence party ideology, and it is unfortunate that they chose not to do so through the autopsy report. Because of this financial and political sway, we at The Miscellany News want to the hold the RNC to a higher standard. We take issue with the RNC’s lack of advocacy for politicians to reconsider their policies and platforms. The creation of the document itself seems to indicate that a growing majority of Americans disagree with the politics of the Republican party, yet the message of the autopsy was focused on self-representation and publicity rather than introspection.

In introducing the report, Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, explained that the research indicated the Republican Party lost numerous elections largely due to poor marketing. As Vassar students, members of an institution filled with young people, women, and racial minorities—groups the document identifies as showing disapproval of the Republican platform—this statement reflects a failure to recognize and respect the individuals’ reasons for not voting for Republican candidates.

We would also like to problematize how the RNC frames young voter motivation in the document. The report reads, “The Party is seen as old and detached from pop culture…Obama was seen as ‘cool’ in 2008, and his popularity spread like wildfire among young voters.”

The RNC then recommends candidates and RNC members better engage with popular culture to win the youth vote. One recommendation reads, “Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events as a way to attract young voters.” Another advocates that “Republican leaders should participate in and actively prepare for interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV and magazines such as People, UsWeekly, etc.”

These recommendations show a lack of respect for the young people’s ability to make informed political decisions. These positions imply that the RNC views young Americans as seduced by the image and not by substance. We at The Miscellany News disagree with this supposition about our political savvy and emphasize that our political understanding should be treated with equal respect and consideration.

The report also makes broad statements as to why certain minority groups did not support the Republican Party. The report argues, “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence….if Hispanics think we don’t want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.” This claim reduces a huge proportion of Americans into not only single-issue voters, but into individuals unwilling to fully participate in politics.

The RNC’s recommendation does not take note of its potential to significantly impact immigration reform, insteading stating “the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community. Message development is critical to Hispanic voters.” This recommendation highlights the idea that the RNC does not view its recent loss as an opportunity to reevaluate their policies, but rather to remarket them.

Despite concerns over aspects of the report, The Miscellany News does value some of its suggestions. For example, the document encouraged the establishment of a ‘Growth and Opportunity Inclusion Council’ whose diverse membership would receive leadership training, financial support, and space to voice concerns about the Republican platform. Moreover, in each section on minority groups, the RNC advocates for better representation in the party leadership and election staffing positions.

The RNC also encouraged increasing the number of speakers sent to college campuses and other more liberal areas to discuss the Republican platform. As supporters of politically involved student populations, we embrace the opportunity to hear all positions of the political spectrum and acknowledge their value in furthering our understanding of American politics.

However, the document is symptomatic of key problems within both the Republican and Democratic parties. That the autopsy is being released now with the goal of preparing for the 2016 election speaks volumes. Rather than address pressing issues such as the budget and gun control, the RNC prefers to look ahead to what they deem a more important fight—the promotion and fundraising for their candidates.

The RNC’s avoidance of major policy changes in lieu of polling strategies would seem to suggest that the American people are wooed by what they see and not by what is being said, and its timing shows that the RNC is more interested in future victory than issues that continue to plague citizens in the present moment.


—The Staff Editorial reflects the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.

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