I have always loved the story of the ad makers and dog food manufacturers arguing around the conference table. The actual makers of the dog food were convinced their product was full of all the right nutrients, pretty food coloring, right combinations of everything possible. The ad makers were really impressed with their ad campaign, the logos, colors, not to mention the exciting TV ads. The sales force was everywhere, all over the marketplace.
So, the head of the company screamed out—"why is our dog food not selling." A wise lone voice: "the dogs don't like it, sir, they won't eat it."
What the RNC has just done with their "what went wrong in 2012" report is to ignore the fact that the public isn't buying what they're selling. They could point to advertising, they could point to their ground game and metrics, they could cry over changing demographics, they could condemn their polling samples, and they could criticize their process of debates and summer financial problems. They could even critique their candidate.
All that might be true—to a point. But the bottom line is this: the public didn't like the dog food, they didn't like what they were selling, they didn't like the message. The Republican Party became captive to the extremists, and if you followed CPAC this weekend, it was all there in full force. From Donald Trump to Sarah Palin to Ann Coulter, this is not the path to a majority.
How can a party that is perceived as anti-Black, anti-Hispanic, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-middle class, ever hope to change the basic electoral dynamic by tinkering with process and techniques? The RNC has to deal with the fundamental problem: The Message. And they are ignoring that debate within the party. They have to fight it out. They have to decide who they are. They have to confront the divergent views and decide whether the Tea Party is dominant or a more reasoned, moderate view will take hold.
Can they moderate on gay marriage and issues like abortion and women's health? Can they hold views that are pro-environment and truly confront climate change? Can they embrace real reform on immigration and stop focusing on bigger fences? Can they support a tax system that is fairer to the middle class and isn't stacked toward the wealthy? Can they balance their approach to taxing and spending? Fundamentally, can they stop the incessant ranting against government and demonizing people?
As long as they are the "anti-party" they will be increasingly out of touch and represent the old, angry, white males—and there are fewer and fewer of them. It is all well and good that they try and get their tactics right but, like a turtle, they won't make progress until they stick their necks out and have that battle for the soul of their party.