Today, on his 41st birthday, Reince Priebus announced a long list of initiatives to change the GOP's image from being "scary," "out of touch," "stuffy old men." A big part of this is what he calls a "bottom-up approach," for which the GOP will be spending $10 million to build "a network of hundreds of paid people across America from the community level up to the national level dedicated to minority, youth, and women inclusion."
The GOP's "Growth & Opportunity Project" report (dubbed the "GOP Autopsy," which ironically had been giving a "500 Internal Server Error" on the growthopp.gop.com website this morning) declares, "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too."
Further, Priebus and the GOP focus on the tools of bottom-up movements, wanting to ensure that they stay ahead of the curve. In their fantasy, today's popular platforms aren't even enough. "Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram is important, but we also need to be actively looking for and utilizing the newest and most cutting-edge social media platforms to engage this generation." Priebus calls for hackathons in tech centers such as San Francisco, Austin, New York and Denver to engage with tech communities, and is setting up a Silicon Valley office for the GOP.
Reince seems to have forgotten what every 6 year-old knows all too well. You can't buy friends. The chair of national party with millions of members announcing a $10 million spend for a "bottom-up approach" shows a complete lack of understanding of the meaning of a bottom-up movement. Real grass-roots movements (as opposed to astroturf efforts) involve citizens banding together to organize on issues about which they are passionate. And thinking that the newest and most cutting-edge social media platforms are a cure shows the false belief that technology alone can rejuvenate the party.
The GOP's real issue is that its policies are out of line with many of the groups it now wants to attract. The "Growth & Opportunity Project" report talks of the importance of women voters. However, its recommendations are superficial, "Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women's minds." Neither abortion nor women's equality are mentioned in the report.
To its credit, the report, which largely avoids taking policy stands, does state that "we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform." However, the words and actions of many GOP legislators in calling for ever higher border fences and self deportation contradict this stand.
Also to his credit, Priebus stated that the GOP must make it easy to vote (though he couched this by raising the false issue of voter fraud and his support for voter ID). But these words ring hollow when far too many in the GOP have been actively working to disenfranchise Americans, especially through efforts that disproportionately impact minority voters.
Finally, the GOP's opposition of health care reform and advocacy for tax breaks for the rich at the expense of social programs that help working-class Americans sends a clear message that the party is looking out for its own -- rich, white men -- and not for the majority of Americans.
Only when the GOP changes its policies and shows that there is room for moderates in all areas from minority rights to women's rights to environmental protection to economic opportunity for all (and not just helping the rich get richer) will true bottom-up movements grow both in cities across America and online with the most cutting-edge digital tools.