The Republican Party just unveiled the Growth and Opportunity Project, an autopsy of the party's platform and an assessment of what it needs to change to win the White House in 2016. While there are some worthwhile recommendations in there, such as rethinking immigration reform and pointing out how extremists are endangering the party, most of the report is still focused on messaging and on the need to re-brand their product, without reaching an honest understanding of what is really wrong with the GOP today.
After losing the presidential elections, the Republicans have realized that they need to reach out to younger voters, female voters, gay voters, and minorities if they hope to recover their footing, but the crucial point that they are still missing is that the party's value system is fundamentally at odds with all those groups and until those values change, those voters are never going to vote Republican.
What the Republicans are doing, in other words, is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship is still going to crash, no matter how good it looks doing it.
To grasp the Herculean scale of the Republican challenge, one need look no further than the 2012 elections, where the party proved itself unforgiving and indifferent towards practically every group except for the rich and the religious right. On almost every issue, including economic equality, gay marriage, equal pay for women, voting rights, education, immigration, healthcare, and even rape, the GOP came down on the wrong side. Even the Republican National Convention looked more like a meeting of the Older Caucasians Club instead of reflecting the immense diversity that is the reality of our nation.
The Republicans need to accept the fact that America has changed in both the mix of its citizenry and the values of those citizens, and it is not changing back. Every generation brings a different perspective to the table and the beliefs of modern Americans are vastly different from those of Americans two generations ago, yet that is the era that the Republicans are still mired in. I am not criticizing traditional values or arguing that they have no place in modern society, but the fact remains that some of those values are deeply anachronistic in today's world, and the party needs to evolve with its people.
Ironically, the problem is not even difficult to diagnose. The essence of this value disconnect is based on one basic desire held strongly by Americans of all stripes, and that is the need for equality. Equality of opportunity, equality of pay, equality of sexual orientation, racial equality, equality of treatment by the law, equality in tax status, and equality in political representation. Put even more simply, all people want is a level playing field, where each citizen is treated with the same amount of respect and accorded the same opportunities as everyone else, and where powerful interests cannot hijack our government, our economy, or our laws to suit their personal ideologies or agendas.
To achieve this, the Republican party cannot simply say that it is for equal rights, but it needs to rethink its belief system to facilitate it. Making token gestures to Hispanics, for example, while making the lives of Hispanic immigrants harder, is empty and pointless. So is harping about economic equality while opposing an increase in the minimum wage and writing off 47 percent of the population as "freeloaders." Similarly, calling itself the party of life but then refusing to save a mother's life that is endangered by childbirth or championing compassion and charity while pushing to destroy Medicare for senior citizens are all signs of a bankrupt and hypocritical political mindset.
Species become extinct when they are unable to adapt to changing environments and that is pretty much what is happening with the GOP. If the party, and perhaps conservatives in general, continue to stubbornly refuse to adapt to changing mores, especially as it relates to upholding that most basic principle of democracy -- equality, then their days are numbered and their prospects dim.
I disagree with conservatives but I understand where they come from. It is time for the conservatives to do the same, and really make an effort to understand where progressive values come from and why so many people are adopting them all over the world. Maybe if they are brave enough to do this soul-searching, they might be able to reinvent their political platform into something that actually moves our nation forward and upward rather than keeping us stuck in a time-warp of old ideas and dinosaur beliefs.
The right place for that process to start is for the Republican party to forget about its cosmetic image and focus instead on its values, for that is what truly counts. Conservatives may not believe it but even liberals are eager to see genuine changes in the GOP, not because they want to vote for them but because a modern GOP, untethered from ancient thinking, would be much better able to work with the Democrats and govern jointly for the good of the country.
And that would be truly valuable.
SANJAY SANGHOEE has worked at leading investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein as well as at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and is the author of the financial thriller "Merger" (available below) which Chicago Tribune called "Timely, Gripping, and Original".
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