College Republicans Report: Can the GOP Ever Appeal to Young People Again?


Finally, its younger members are calling out the Republican Party.

Conservatives are plagued by an image issue — justified or not, people don’t like the perception of the GOP. The left wing is not solely to blame for this image problem. The reality is, Republicans get caught saying a lot of dumb things.

The College Republican National Committee (CRNC) spent 95 pages, in a report called “Grand Old Party for a New Generation,” discussing the various failures of today’s Republican Party.  

This is the fundamental question: Is the GOP’s message unpopular or is their means of communication and public image unpopular? The CRNC report suggests the latter.

Politico summarizes the five major issues identified in the report:

1. Gay marriage: “On the ‘open-minded’ issue … [w]e will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table.”

2. Hispanics: “Latino voters … tend to think the GOP couldn’t care less about them.”

3. Perception of the party’s economic stance: “We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there.”

4. Big reason for the image problem: The “outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices.”

5. Words that up-for-grabs voters associate with the GOP: “The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”

The report further explains: “Democrats give an interview to MTV, Republicans are nowhere to be seen. Pictures appear on Facebook of Obama at a college dive bar with a young student and go viral. Obama campaign ads appear during the MTV movie awards, and supporters rush to win a dinner party invitation from Sarah Jessica Parker." This point

seems obvious to me: If you control the media and entertainment, you control your image. The left understands this.

A predictable and strong critique of the report comes from Salon’s Alex Pareene. Pareene believes that Republicans "will have to become an entirely different party with entirely different positions” in order to accomplish the goals they seek. He also states that there is no way for the GOP to message their way out of the predicament they are in. 

The report contains numerous suggestions to Republicans, including: “Don’t concede 'caring' and 'open-minded' to the left. This may sound like a daunting challenge. But 'caring' does not have to equal 'giving out free stuff,' and 'open-minded' does not have to equal 'being liberal.'"

The report ends with five suggestions, which they admitted is not a magical fix, but is a good start:

1. Focus on economic issues that affect young people: education, health care, and unemployment.

2. Capture the brand elements of intelligence, hard work, and responsibility.

3. Don’t concede “caring” and “open-minded” to the left.

4. Fix the debt and cut spending without using messages about “big government.”

5. Go where the young voters are and give them something to share.

I’m trying to imagine a way in which the Republicans could not gain a foothold amongst all of the drama and scandals plaguing the Democrats at the moment. Approval ratings for Obama dropped and that will inevitably affect his party as a whole. Now is a good time for the GOP to go on the offensive and reveal why the party is better than the failing administration running the nation now. 

The full report can be found here, and a “Voter’s Summary” can be found here