Washington, D.C. — With control of the U.S. Senate within reach in 2014, Republican candidates and their big-money allies have relied on structural advantages, including a better electoral map, in doubling down on extreme positions, fear mongering, and exclusion. This year provided Republicans an opportunity to reboot their message ahead of a 2016 presidential election year when the map and turn-out model is not nearly as favorable for the Republican Party. However, as detailed in a new issue brief from Neera Tanden, Counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund and President of the Center for American Progress, and Gov. Ted Strickland, President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, conservative ads and rhetoric on four issues—immigration, voting rights, climate change, and women’s issues—in 2014 will be an albatross in 2016.
“Conservatives have run campaigns with messages that have alienated the rising coalition that will play a more and more dominant role in future elections,” Tanden said. “For short-term gain, they have demonized undocumented immigrants, limited voting rights in a manner that alienates African American voters, and ridiculed efforts to address climate change, increasingly a gateway issue for Millennials. These messages are counterproductive to any effort to rebrand the GOP and will hurt their ability to attract voters beyond their base.”
The brief describes how Republicans in 2014 have been hostile on issues that impact each of the demographic groups that could be major deciders in the 2016 election—Latinos, young voters, African Americans, and single women:
- On immigration, the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, ran a campaign ad claiming terrorists would be coming across the southern border, into “Arizona’s back yard.” While Republicans have blocked huge investments in border security, this message also alienates a Latino voting base that, as the brief describes, is expected to grow to close to 28 million in 2016, 75 percent higher than it was the last time Republicans won a national election in 2004.
- On climate change—a key issue among many voters, but notably Millennials—the brief describes how Republicans have shifted from denying its existence to saying they are not scientists. But they have not changed their opposition to taking any action, likely costing them significant support among the 36 percent of the 2016 electorate expected to be from this generation.
- Perhaps the most obvious example of Republicans actually recognizing the demographic shift is the concerted effort to control who can and cannot vote across the country. New efforts to suppress the vote have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, specifically African American voters. At least 83 restrictive bills were introduced in 29 states whose legislatures have had floor activity in 2014, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Efforts by Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to make inroads into the black community, which represented more than 13 percent of the 2012 electorate, are sure to hit barriers because of voter suppression laws.
- In attempting to appeal to women, Republicans have offered a shift in style instead of a shift in substance. Notably, some conservative candidates are supporting over-the-counter birth control even while calling for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Many Republican candidates oppose equal pay for equal work and support personhood amendments. These extreme positions are probably why NPR said single women, who represent around one-quarter of the electorate in presidential years, “are not a constituency that is in play. They’re extremely reliably Democratic supporters.”
“Republicans promised to change after their 2012 election report showed how the extreme positions of their candidates were costly in their attempts to win back the White House,” Tanden said. “Republican stances on key issues are out of step with the electorate that will make up the majority in future elections.”
Read the brief.
For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Benton Strong at 202.481.8142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund is the sister advocacy organization of the Center for American Progress. The Action Fund transforms progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders throughout the country and the world. The Action Fund is also the home of The Progress Report.