One year ago, the Republican National Committee released a report identifying problems with the Republican Party and lessons learned after losing its second-straight presidential election. The report became known as the GOP “Autopsy Report” – an analysis of all of the GOP’s ailments and prescriptions for how to cure them.
In a moment of self-reflection, Republican leaders admitted that the party was alienating huge groups of voters, including young Americans and college students.
But what the GOP has offered over the past year to solve their problems is simply a change in tactics. They’ve hired “outreach” staff and assigned them to communities and constituencies they’ve never targeted before, but is it effective outreach if their agenda keeps alienating those people? Can they gain standing with these constituencies if they keep making it harder for these communities to even vote in elections?
For young Americans, the answer couldn’t be clearer.
Since Mitt Romney lost voters younger than 30 by five million votes in 2012, what has the GOP done to begin to win back millennials?
The GOP has not moved towards becoming a more inclusive party. Instead, they’ve actually gone in the opposite direction. Yes, the RNC has hired a youth outreach director to set up a so-called “grassroots infrastructure,” but all the outreach in the world won’t address their central problem – their agenda and rhetoric are turning off young voters.
In 2012, the Republican candidate, platform and message did not speak to the issues most important to young voters – supporting civil rights, inclusion and a government that gives everyone a fair shot. Whether it’s the GOP stance on voting rights, health care, LGBT Americans, Latinos or women, the GOP continues to alienate young voters.
Republican governors and legislatures across the country have enacted strict voting laws that threaten the franchise of college students. In North Carolina, a restrictive GOP voter law prevents college students from using their school ID as identification for voting, and in Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration blocked the use of the University of Florida student union as an early voting site.
Republicans have decided that limiting the number of people who vote will boost them electorally, especially if they target their voter laws towards communities like young people that tend to vote democratic. Meanwhile, Democrats are not only protecting the right to vote, but we’re on offense – fighting to expand the vote through increased registration, information and turnout.
Republicans in Congress have voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act – even going so far as to shut down the federal government over the issue – but what does the GOP’s repeal plan mean for young people? Approximately three million young Americans would no longer be able to remain on their families’ health insurance plans. No-cost copays for health services like preventive care or contraception would be axed. We would be sent back to a time when insurance companies could discriminate against young people with preexisting conditions.
Additionally, congressional Republicans continue to block legislation to protect young LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination, as well as immigration reform that would help young immigrants gain access to higher education and a path to citizenship. The GOP continues to tout – and vote for – the Ryan budget, which slashes funding for Pell Grants, making college less affordable for young people, especially those in need.
A recent Pew survey underscores just how deep a hole the GOP is in. Millennials vote heavily Democratic, and they believe in an active government that seeks to solve problems and provide more services. On fiscal issues, about six in 10 young Americans oppose benefit cuts as a way to strengthen the social safety net, and today even 61 percent of young Republicans support marriage equality. With good reason, these young voters see the GOP as the party of the past.
Until the GOP changes its core policies, no RNC report or staff additions will change its electoral outcome. 2014 will be a choice – increasing opportunity for some versus increasing opportunity for all. As young Democrats, we’ll continue to drive that contrast, but as we’ve seen over the past year, our best weapon may just be Republicans themselves.