The shellacking the Romney/Ryan ticket took on Election Day wasn't solely about issues or personalities. The Democrats built a better brand that supported the Obama/Biden re-election campaign and drove it to victory over a weaker and less-appealing Republican Party machine.
It's hardly a stretch to proclaim that the Republicans' biggest PR challenge for the next four years will be rebranding the party.
If the GOP wants to survive as a national party, it must realize that its brand has become characterized by policies of exclusion and social extremism, appealing primarily to older, economically well-to-do white men in the suburbs. If the party hopes to regain legitimacy, it will need an image overhaul to attract new supporters that reflect the changing demographics of an ethnically diverse nation.
As the Los Angeles Times noted: “The 2012 election marked the point at which a new American electoral coalition solidified its hold on politics, one built on the country's growing non-white population and on cultural changes that have given younger voters of all races a far different outlook on political issues from that of their elders.”
Essentially, if the Republican Party doesn't change, it will indeed die. To avoid that fate, here are some suggestions on how to rebrand the Grand Old Party and make it new again:
Develop diversity. The Republican Party has to stop looking like it's the Grand Old White Party. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would have been a far better choice than Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for Romney's running mate. He would have demonstrated that the GOP was opening its doors to new Americans. Demographics are changing with Asians and Latinos being the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the US. It's time for Republicans to reach out and appeal to a broader audience.
Set a respectful, positive, and inclusive tone. Republicans did themselves no favors this cycle with a string of well-publicized, not to mention strange comments about women, abortion, and rape. Remarks from Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R-IN) legitimizing unwanted pregnancy from rape were offensive and eerily out of touch with reality, setting the stage for Romney's bizarre “binders full of women” comment during the second presidential debate, which went viral instantly.
All three candidates lost and it's not hard to see why. The strategy, if one can even call it that, made it seem as if a Republican victory meant a setback for women's rights. Obama carried 55% of the demographic, while women expanded their ranks in the Senate from 17 to 20, a new record. As New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot said, “If there was a war on women this year, it looks like women are winning.”
Republicans need to reframe their rhetoric where it involves more than half the electorate. They would be well served conducting research, be it through focus groups and/or social media channels, to understand what fiscally conservative women want to hear from their leadership.
Champion fiscal conservatism without the political gamesmanship. The Republicans have an opportunity to get back to the restrained fiscal policies that galvanized supporters in the past. This time, however, they might want to consider doing so with the message that the nation's economic interest trumps unilateral party victory.
The Republicans who voted against every proposal Obama and the Democrats put forth in the last four years would be wise to take a tip from Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, branded himself as a crusader for the people rather than just another GOP operative. During Obama's next term, Republicans might consider stepping back from the hard-line partisanship that seemed to work better under President George W. Bush and create a perception of collaboration and bipartisanship. The Republicans who are willing to reach across party lines and actually accomplish something will be the leaders with staying power.
The rebranding of the GOP is not only for its own good, but it will also benefit our nation's successful two-party system. Besides, who wants to watch the Democratic Party fight itself?