” One afternoon last month, I flew with Anderson to Columbus, Ohio, to watch her conduct two focus groups. The first consisted of 10 single, middle-class women in their 20s; the second, of 10 20-something men who were either jobless or employed but seeking better work. All of them voted for Obama but did not identify themselves as committed Democrats and were sufficiently ambivalent about the president’s performance that Anderson deemed them within reach of the Republicans. Each group sat around a large conference table with the pollster, while I viewed the proceedings from behind a panel of one-way glass.
The all-female focus group began with a sobering assessment of the Obama economy. All of the women spoke gloomily about the prospect of paying off student loans, about what they believed to be Social Security’s likely insolvency and about their children’s schooling. A few of them bitterly opined that the Democrats care little about the working class but lavish the poor with federal aid. “You get more off welfare than you would at a minimum-wage job,” observed one of them. Another added, “And if you have a kid, you’re set up for life!”
About an hour into the session, Anderson walked up to a whiteboard and took out a magic marker. “I’m going to write down a word, and you guys free-associate with whatever comes to mind,” she said. The first word she wrote was “Democrat.”
“Young people,” one woman called out.
“Liberal,” another said. Followed by: “Diverse.” “Bill Clinton.”“Change.”“Open-minded.”“Spending.”“Handouts.”“Green.”“More science-based.”
When Anderson then wrote “Republican,” the outburst was immediate and vehement: “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.” “Farmers.”
Anderson concluded the group on a somewhat beseeching note. “Let’s talk about Republicans,” she said. “What if anything could they do to earn your vote?”
A self-identified anti-abortion, “very conservative” 27-year-old Obama voter named Gretchen replied: “Don’t be so right wing! You know, on abortion, they’re so out there. That all-or-nothing type of thing, that’s the way Romney came across. And you know, come up with ways to compromise.”
“What would be the sign to you that the Republican Party is moving in the right direction?” Anderson asked them.
“Maybe actually pass something?” suggested a 28-year-old schoolteacher named Courtney, who also identified herself as conservative.
The session with the young men was equally jarring. None of them expressed great enthusiasm for Obama. But their depiction of Republicans was even more lacerating than the women’s had been. “Racist,” “out of touch” and “hateful” made the list — “and put ‘1950s’ on there too!” one called out.
Showing a reverence for understatement, Anderson said: “A lot of those words you used to describe Republicans are negative. What could they say or do to make you feel more positive about the Republican Party?”
“Be more pro-science,” said a 22-year-old moderate named Jack. “Embrace technology and change.”
“Stick to your strong suit,” advised Nick, a 23-year-old African-American. “Clearly social issues aren’t your strong suit. Stop trying to fight the battle that’s already been fought and trying to bring back a movement. Get over it — you lost.”
“… the problem for the G.O.P. extends well beyond its flawed candidate and his flawed operation. The unnerving truth, which the Red Edge team and other younger conservatives worry that their leaders have yet to appreciate, is that the Republican Party’s technological deficiencies barely begin to explain why the G.O.P. has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The party brand — which is to say, its message and its messengers — has become practically abhorrent to emerging demographic groups like Latinos and African-Americans, not to mention an entire generation of young voters. As one of the party’s most highly respected strategists told me: “It ought to concern people that the most Republican part of the electorate under Ronald Reagan were 18-to-29-year-olds. And today, people I know who are under 40 are embarrassed to say they’re Republicans. They’re embarrassed! They get harassed for it, the same way we used to give liberals a hard time.”
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Reader voted Top Comment:
I also had a conversation with a young Republican who voiced the same lines here, that young people would just line up with the GOP on economic issues if it just weren’t for the toxic social stuff. It’s wishful, delusional thinking.
I was born in 1983, and I’m 29 years old. If you’re a person my age, the GOP hasn’t done a single thing to improve the economy for your entire lifetime. They have done a great number of things to harm it, and they continue to do so. Oh, sure, they have done some good things for Halliburton and Walmart and Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs and Koch Industries. But there has not been a single GOP policy has benefitted you economically for your entire lifetime.
The GOP really just doesn’t get it. It’s not just gay marriage. You can’t actively screw over the vast majority of Americans at every opportunity for over three decades and then expect those people not to notice.”
I was a Republican through Nixon. Ford, Reagan and Bush one. The party doesn’t need to be saved, it needs to be obliterated. Wiped clean from the surface of the planet. It is nothing but a coalition of the short sighted, rapaciously greedy ultra rich and the stupid, ignorant and anti-intellectual mob. A party of liars, cheaters and intolerant religious fanatics that is the greatest threat to democracy in this country’s history.
- Pat Choate
- Washington, VA
Until the GOP dumps the Tea Party types and entertainment conservatives, such as Limbaugh, it cannot change its basic policies.
If the recent election revealed anything, it is that the majority of American voters will not support candidates who:
1. Wage political war on women;
2. Put the interests of the elites above those of working people;
3. Disdain immigrants;
4. Prefer obstructionism over compromise;
5. Advocate an austerity based economic policy;
6. Use political blackmail to secure political points.
Until the GOP changes policies on these issues, it might was well use typewriters and telegrams to convey its message.