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College Republicans’ Plan for GOP Rebranding: Seem Tolerant!

The branch of the conservative movement that bred the party's scummiest strategists urges a softer sell.

Speaker of the House John Boehner waits to speak to reporters after a meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Boehner said Wednesday he wants someone to go to jail over the IRS's targeting of political groups, as hi



Today, the College Republican National Committee is releasing a report, based on a poll and focus groups, examining how and why the Republican Party lost the under-30 vote and what they could do to win it back. Spoiler: They will have to become an entirely different party with entirely different positions. Though that is sort of my interpretation of their findings. The College Republicans are still pretty sure it’s primarily a problem of “messaging.”

The report,  according to Politico’s summary, covers much of the same ground as the Reince Priebus-ordered RNC report on the troubles of the Republican Party released earlier this year. Politico sums up the findings with the following bullet points:

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.”

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

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.”

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

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

Now, you and I know this, but apparently Republicans still haven’t figured out that another name for “errant Republican voices” is “people honestly and clearly stating the dominant policy and philosophical positions of the modern conservative movement.” This is where they may run into some trouble. In fact, most of these unfortunate impressions people have of the party are accurate reflections of the party’s positions.

The report sidesteps most of this, calling for the party to sound more tolerant and open-minded. On same-sex marriage, the authors write, “the party ought to promote the diversity of thought within its ranks and make clear that we welcome healthy debate on the policy topic at hand.” We’ve been having “healthy debate” on the issue for some time now, and most Americans — including overwhelming majorities of young people — have come to the conclusion that the debate is basically over.

Another always-fun topic in these reports is how they deal with the party’s recent nationwide reproductive rights tantrum. The College Republicans recommend just shutting up about it:

Concerning reproductive issues that have tripped up GOP candidates, “the Republican Party has been painted — both by Democrats and by unhelpful voices in our own ranks — in holding the most extreme anti-abortion positions,” the report said. Republicans need to avoid allowing the abortion debate to be “conflated” with debates over contraception, rape and Planned Parenthood, the report recommended, though the party needn’t alter its stance on the issue of abortion itself.

Don’t change a thing, just … don’t talk about the implications of your position.

A major problem for the party, of course, is that young voters are drifting leftward oneconomic issues, which is really the conservative movement’s nightmare scenario. The College Republicans sort of acknowledge this, but they also insist that young people simply have got the wrong idea about the GOP’s economic message. For some crazy reason everyone has decided that all right-wing tax and economic policy is geared toward making already rich people richer!

“Policies that lower taxes and regulations on small businesses are quite popular. Yet our focus on taxation and business issues has left many young voters thinking they will only reap the benefits of Republican policies if they become wealthy or rise to the top of a big business,” the report says. “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.”

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