Following the 2012 presidential elections Republicans knew they had a problem. We also weren’t exactly shy about trying to figure out what it was.
“There’s no one reason we lost,” RNC Director Reince Preibus said following a months-long assessment of the party and its shortcomings. “Our message was weak; our grand game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement.”
The report, often referred to as an autopsy, didn’t spare any punches. It unequivocally called for comprehensive immigration reform, it stressed the need for being welcoming and inclusive in its messaging, it encouraged the party to “stop talking to itself” at the expense of being persuasive and welcoming, and it argued for the need to change the economic message to attack corporate malfeasance and corporate welfare. Those are but a handful of the 219 recommendations made in the 100 page report.
The College Republican National Committee engaged in a similar exercise: How do we turn the tide of liberalism among young voters.
“[T]he Republican Party has won the youth vote before and absolutely can win it again,” the report says. “But this will not occur without significant work to repair the damage done to the Republican brand among this age group over the last decade.”
The report showed the need for things like: framing economic issues in terms of helping small businesses and entrepreneurs; focusing on government reform rather than just reducing its size; tying policy changes, like tax cuts, with job, wage or economic growth; and messaging what we are for not just what we are against.
All of that is to say that Republicans worked hard to honestly identify our faults, both real and perceived, and to come up with solutions that would allow the party to appeal to a broader base of voters. Democrats, following their midterm drubbing, promised to do much the same thing. McClatchy reported in November:
Embattled Democrats will conduct an intense, thorough review of the party’s failures in Tuesday’s election, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Saturday.
She said the “top-to- bottom review” would involve “the smartest people in our party.” They will include Democratic Party organizers, activists and strategists to review what happened in 2014 and how the party can improve in midterm elections.
In short, a party statement said, “The Democratic Party has failed to translate success in presidential years to midterms and off years.”
So how did that intense, top-to-bottom review of the party’s failures turn out? As the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza writes: It’s reminiscent of a similar autopsy conducted by the Republican National Committee after the 2012 election. But, the two documents differ in one key respect: The RNC’s was actually useful.”
Russell Berman goes into more detail of the report’s shortcomings for The Atlantic:
It’s a document that reveals a party largely unshaken by its stinging defeat in the midterm elections. Just nine pages long, if you include the front and back covers, the report from the Democratic National Committee is not a particularly detailed dissection of the November drubbing. Its conclusions boil down to a familiar refrain from losing parties: The problem is the packaging, not what’s inside the box.
“It is clear that Americans overwhelmingly support the people and issues that the Democratic Party fights for every day,” the report asserts. In other words, Democratic ideas are better, but somehow more people voted for Republicans.
The report offers nothing in the way of hard truths, opting instead to peddle enough political pablum to make the hardest-left pundit gag. “We are and will always be the party of the people,” one line reads. “And we believe that economic and political wellbeing goes hand-in-hand.”
If the search for Democrats’ political identity ended with gazing into their collective navels then Republicans should have a field day in 2016.