Growth and Opportunity Project: Not Awesome, Not Awful

We Conservatives are really only good at complaining and mocking nowadays. So, that’s why I am so sick and tired of all the ‘Truuuueee Conservatives’ and their desire to support Far Left Liberal candidates by insisting that our own candidates just aren’t Puuure enough. (See what I just did there?)

In all seriousness, it’s a bit depressing to see the vitriolic reactions to the Growth and Opportunity Project report that the RNC put together.

Conservative voices I normally enjoy and agree with seem to be coming unglued. In many Conservative circles, it has become more important to trash the Republican Party than to oppose actual Liberalism.

Now, to be fair, I have recently written and still hold that for Conservatism to thrive, there does need to be a healthy distance between any single political party and itself. But, let’s be honest: as things stand, the Republican Party is the only hope for promoting Conservative governance. Yes, it is proper to understand that the Republican Party will never be the most perfect vehicle to move us towards truly Conservative goals.

But, for crying out loud… we Conservatives have got to stop whining about how awful the GOP is. 

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Reince Priebus (spell that one three times fast!) and the RNC commissioned a study after the unnecessary electoral defeat in 2012. The result is a 90+ page report they have titled: The Growth and Opportunity Project. Annoying acronyms aside, (at least they avoided aggravating alliteration) the report seems to me to be a decent starting place… for the Republican National Committee.

And, I suppose, this is where it becomes necessary to remind my fellow Conservatives – who are outraged, OUTRAGED!!1! over some of the suggestions in this report – that these are suggestions for steps the Republican National Committee should explore. This report was not some kind of new faux-Conservative Doctrine and as the report makes quite clear (if you actually take the time to read it), they are not making policy suggestions at all. 

They only place they come close to making a policy suggestion is by coming out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. No details. No suggestions to support any kind of amnesty or pathway to citizenship. Merely the (correct) note that it would be good for the Country (and good for the Republican Party) if we led on comprehensive immigration reform. Call me old fashioned, but I’m still stuck in the time period of 2006 or so when Comprehensive Immigration Reform was actually a good, Conservative thing. That phrase got a lot of negative connotation attached to it… but the concept is still both sound and important.

They also seem to be suggesting we implement Mitch Daniel’s ‘Truce’ on Social Issues. This is more an inference than anything else… but it sure has a lot of Social Conservatives up in arms. Please take a slow, deep breath, fellow SoCons. Again their suggestions fall solely into the categories of strategy and messaging… not policy. (Regardless, we SoCons could use a healthy debate about what our aims actually are, and how we should seek to achieve them… but that is a topic for another day).

So… since I slogged through the whole thing (in fairness, there is an almost criminal amount of repetition and re-stating within the document… so the 97 pages probably only holds about 40 pages of original material), I would like to offer my take on the Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent from the report.

The Good:

Suggested improvements to election ground game.

Suggested improvements to general voter outreach and data analysis

Cutting the number of Primary debates in half

Suggested reforms to Primary process and dates 

Full-Throated stated preference for Primaries rather than Caucuses or State Conventions

The premise that it is not the Message we need to change, but rather the mechanics of the Messaging

The Bad:

A somewhat confused approach re: Top-Down versus Bottom-Up. (Stated focus and preference in the report on Bottom-Up… but many of the actual suggestions seem more Top-Down).

There’s a difference between Pandering and Outreach. But it is sometimes a thin line. At times the report seems to veer into pandering territory.

I’m not sure that stating you are going to pay Minorities to cheerlead for the GOP is a good thing

The Indifferent:

While the report clearly states they aren’t offering policy suggestions, there are some definite inferences that can be made. The issues touched upon do require discussion within Conservative and GOP circles. My preference would have been for the report to more clearly talk about the need for these issues to be discussed, debated, etc. The report bordered on not allowing for there to be differences of opinion if we seek to make the GOP successful. They tiptoed on this point… and from a practical perspective, it would behoove the RNC to support a more unified front from the candidates it is running. But… at the same time, I think a vigorous discussion and gentlemanly disagreements would be more healthy. Since I am of two minds about all that, it ranks as the Indifferent aspect of the report to me.

So…

All in all, the Growth and Opportunity Project report was far from awful. It lays out some practical ideas for expanding the GOP base. It also wasn’t awesome, since some of those ideas reek of playing identity politics.

In a perfect world, we would have never allowed Identity Politics to become ascendant. But, we let it happen, and now we have to deal with it. I’m not certain we will be able to close Pandora’s Box in the long term (and it is unquestionably out of the question in the short term… was that question-y enough for you?). So… the question (!) remains: what do we do about it?

The G.O.P. report sought to answer that question for the RNC. We, as Conservatives, must also start the discussion towards answering that issue.

So, I leave you with this ‘ponderance’: Is it possible to maintain Conservative principles AND at the same time expand Republican electoral success?

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