Forget the image of balding, white men in suits who shudder at the word “change”—the Republican Party is looking for a makeover. According to the Republican National Committee, the GOP wants their acronym to take on a new meaning: the Growth and Opportunity Party. After their defeat in the 2012 presidential election, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus decided that his party was in need of improvement. The Growth and Opportunity Project attempted to pinpoint where and how the Republican Party could grow and gain more standing in national elections. The hundred-page report essentially called for the Party to become more inclusive, more sensitive to issues that may not directly affect them, and more accepting of other perspectives. It admitted that it was time to “smartly change course, modernize the Party, and learn once again how to appeal to a greater variety of people, including those who share some, but not all, of our conservative principles.”
Either the media really has it in for the Republicans, or rebranding the Party has been a flop thus far.
While the overall direction of this country is slowly inching toward progress, it seems that the GOP has continued to stay behind. For instance, on April 2, The Associated Press (AP) announced that it will no longer use the term ‘illegal immigrant’. As the largest news source in the world, AP is working to get rid of labels, stating that the use of the word ‘illegal’ to describe a human being should not be sanctioned and promotes a negative connotation to those it usually affects—the Latino community. The RNC autopsy concurred: “On issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community.” But, while it seems like the nation is headed towards a more sympathetic and progressive view on immigration, veteran congressman Don Young (R-AK) casually referred to migrant workers as ‘wetbacks’—a term far more offensive and outdated than ‘illegal immigrant’—when describing technology’s impact on the national job market.
In addition, the RNC’s overarching recommendation was to be more accepting, even towards those that may not fully agree on every conservative viewpoint. Yet, on April 4, two Republican representatives from North Carolina have submitted a resolution that would allow the state to establish an official religion. This, of course, would lead to the political exclusion of those who choose not to abide by the specific religious belief, and directly violates the First Amendment. One would think that contesting the Bill of Rights and its application to states was a thing of the past—apparently not, as far as the representatives of Rowan County, N.C. are concerned.
We then see that the RNC autopsy urges Republicans to “develop a more aggressive response to Democrat rhetoric regarding a so-called ‘war on women’” in order to garner more female support. Perhaps some states didn’t get the memo. North Dakota’s legislature passed the country’s harshest anti-abortion bill yet on March 22. If passed by voters the bill would amend the state constitution to ban abortion in the state—period. There would be no exception for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. And while a federal judge recently ruled that Plan B will be sold over-the-counter and without age restrictions, the North Dakota bill could make some forms of birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization illegal. The Kansas legislature passed a similar measure on April 5, which would declare life at fertilization and block any tax breaks provided for abortion providers. Thus, the very real ‘war on women’ persists.
The RNC report commended the party in fostering “respect” and stated, “We need to ensure that the tone of our message is always reflective of these core principles.” Yet I’m not really sure if ‘respect’ would accurately describe the relaxation of gun laws that several red states have adopted, given the plethora of devastating and horrific recent spate of gun violence. For example, Mississippi is expanding the rights and privacy of those who carry concealed weapons, and South Dakota has permitted school employees and security personnel to carry firearms on school property. These measures are being passed while the White House and several other states have pursued stricter forms of gun control.
With all this said, these are select instances and many of them are not the norm: Rep. Young has been ridiculed thoroughly by members of his own party; the likelihood of North Carolina establishing a state religion is slim to none; the harsh abortion bills have provoked a great deal of intrastate resistance; the fight to protect gun rights is a bit more well-founded, given this country’s infatuation with the Second Amendment.
Maybe the instances described above are outliers and much of the Republican Party is working in good faith to abide by the recommendations of the Growth and Opportunity Project. Even if this were the case, though, it only takes a few rotten apples to spoil the barrel. As Republicans have seen in the past, it only took one person to coin the term “legitimate rape” to reignite an entire war on women. What the Republican Party needs is consistency in its beliefs, behaviors, and goals. Then perhaps this stagnant group can work towards true progress.
—Angela Della Croce ‘15 is an Economics major.