Why the GOP's Problems Are More Than Skin Deep

PHOTO: What will the GOP look like when this kid can see over the voting booth?

Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

By now, the problems that the GOP faces with young, female and minority voters have been well-documented by the media and the party itself.

Still, the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) added to that stack of literature by commissioning its own 95-page report on the GOP's problems, especially with younger voters. Here's some of what they found, as reported by Politico on Monday:

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."

The question for the Republican Party now is what to do about all of this. Really, what can they actually do?

What the party has learned in recent years is that overhauling its rhetoric and promoting new, fresh faces to the sell the party's current agenda is the main problem, according to CRNC chairman Alex Schriver. As he told Politico, "We didn't want to go so far as to say, 'You must take this position to win young voters. The purpose of the report is, we need to do a better job communicating our principles. …We wanted to put out a product that candidates, whether they agree or disagree on [various issues], can find useful."

Other political commentators question whether the Republicans' agenda, regardless of messaging, can truly address the "new" electorate, especially on questions of today's economic problems like ballooning student loan debt and stagnating wages.

Josh Barro, a center-right columnist who has grown more and more critical of the GOP, argues that it's impossible for the party to address the economic concerns of the 21st century without first abandoning or altering many of the core economic principles it has held since the 1980s:

"[It] is not simply that Republicans lack the imagination to come up with ideas to get higher wages, more jobs and affordable healthcare to the middle class," he wrote on Bloomberg View last November. "It is that there is no set of policies that is both acceptable to conservatives and likely to achieve these goals."

Already, we've seen politicians such as Marco Rubio and Rob Portman break with old GOP orthodoxy on the topics of immigration and same-sex marriage, respectively. That's important, but it's going to take a lot more than two players in a sea of old ideas to change the course of the GOP. And the reality is, they didn't need a 95-page report to tell them that.

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Viewing America’s population through the lens of diversity, we will cover the social, cultural and political impact of various racial and ethnic groups in this country.

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GOP's Issues Are More Than Skin Deep

New Faces and New Rhetoric May Not Be Enough to Fix the GOP's Problems.