New year, same old party

Following the shellacking Republicans took in 2012, the party conducted a much-hyped autopsy in the hopes of identifying the cause of the GOP’s recent demise. One year later, Republicans are congratulating themselves on the “progress” they’ve made. Who are they kidding? Back in reality, nothing has changed. The autopsy depicted a Republican Party whose policies and rhetoric were anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, and anti-middle class. One year later, the Republican Party is still anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, and anti-middle class.

The lessons of the GOP autopsy remain unlearned, as the italicized quotes from the GOP "Growth & Opportunity Project" report from March 18, 2013 emphasize. 

“Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents.” 

While the American people, and especially younger voters, have made great strides in accepting and promoting equality for LGBT Americans, Republican leaders have desperately clung to their record of intolerance and homophobic bigotry. In his first gubernatorial debate last summer, then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called homosexuality a “personal challenge.” Instead of applauding the courts that have defended the constitutional rights of LGBT Americans to equal protection under the laws, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said that these judges “need some basic plumbing lessons.” Perhaps Republicans could use a history lesson on our nation’s progress on civil rights. 

“Our candidates, spokespeople, and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds.” 

Todd Akin’s infamous comments on “legitimate rape” and a woman’s magical ability “to shut that whole thing down” were still fresh in everyone’s minds when Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) doubled down by saying, “you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” But even if the Republican Party managed to stop its members from talking about rape, the real problem is the underlying policies for which GOP candidates and elected officials advocate. Rep. Steve Pearce’s (R-N.M.) belief that “the wife is to voluntarily submit” to her husband is reflected in every Republican bill that attempts to restrict a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and in Republican votes against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and against equal pay measures. If Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) truly believes that “if there was a war on women, I think they won,” then it shows he has no clue what the fight is even about. 

“Many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.” 

Republicans are quick to claim that Iowa Rep. Steve King’s (R) divisive comments don’t speak for them when he belittles DREAMers. But when it comes time to vote on immigration issues, King’s colleagues are often with him in lockstep – as when 221 House Republicans voted with King last summer to block President Obama’s order to defer deportation and allow work permits for DREAMers. Whether Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is reminiscing about “wetbacks” or Gohmert is claiming that “radical Islamists” are “trained to come in and act like Hispanics,” the nativist attitudes of prominent Republicans reflect some of the darker moments in our nation’s past rather than a modern political party. 

“The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the party.” 

Mitt Romney’s criticism of the “47 percent” was the final nail in the coffin for a candidate and party that were unable to connect with middle and working class families. In the last year, Republicans seemed to have stopped trying. They have voted against extending unemployment benefits for workers still struggling to get back on their feet. They’ve opposed an increase in the minimum wage. They’ve fought nutrition assistance and Medicaid expansion, programs offering help to the most vulnerable members of our society. The American Dream is predicated on equality of opportunity; struggling Americans see a Republican Party denying that opportunity by refusing them support when they need it most. 

What is their extreme agenda doing to the Grand Old Party? It’s certainly less grand – an older, regional party that lacks diversity of members or ideas and whose short-term political prospects are heavily reliant on gerrymandered Congressional districts. As for the vaunted GOP governors who were supposed to be the future of the party? Well, let’s just say they’ve fallen on hard times. 

After a year, it's clear that the Republican Party that did its own autopsy after its disastrous losses in 2012 is the same old Party it has been.

Woodhouse is president of American Bridge 21st Century, a left-leaning super PAC that does opposition research to aid Democratic candidates.