GOP Actions Speak Louder Than Report's Words

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Two years ago, as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus reminded us yesterday, the Republican National Committee published its report on what went wrong for their party in 2012. He talked a lot about targeting communities, ground game, and shiny, new applications for reaching voters. And to be clear, I understand those are important to the success of a political party and we’re proud of the pioneering programs we Democrats have in place as well, but he really missed the point. The item my counterpart failed to address in his analysis is that the Republican Party hasn’t changed its policies that alienate the communities they now claim to target. 

The RNC said in its report that Republicans need to do a better job of showing that they care about women, the middle class, our seniors, young people, the LGBT community and people of color. What the RNC has proven over the past two years, though, is that its policies are harmful for these groups and for the entire middle class and anyone trying to get into the middle class. I didn’t have to think very long to identify a few examples where Republicans showed us how little they’ve changed over the past two years. 

First, one of the major recommendations of the 2013 RNC report was that the party “welcome in” Latino voters. At this point, we’ve seen the lengths the Republican Party will go to avoid passing any sort of comprehensive immigration reform. And beyond that, the lengths it will go to stop any assistance for the 11 million Americans living in limbo in this country. Threatening to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, a strategy led by GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz but endorsed by many others in the potential Republican presidential field, over President Obama’s executive action to ease the burden on some of these individuals was a new low. Democrats have made it clear that we are more than eager to pass reform, and Republicans in Congress along with the 2016 GOP presidential field will do everything they can to stand in the way. 

When it comes to women, the Republican Party wants to take us back to the 1950s. Ahead of jobs, the economy, helping the middle class, strengthening our infrastructure or even improving our education system, Republicans introduced five anti-women’s health bills in the first three days of the new Congress. In fact, on the very first day of the 114th Congress, Republicans introduced a bill that would limit a woman’s right to control her body. Actions speak so much louder than words. 

The report also said that the party needs to show “gay Americans . . . we care about them, too.” I can think of a few ways to show that better than Republicans opposing marriage equality, refusing to take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House, and supporting bills permitting LGBT-discrimination at the state level. GOP presidential contender Rand Paul called same-sex marriage “offensive” and others in the GOP field have joined him in his opposition to marriage equality. 

And those communities are just the start of it. Across the board, Republicans brush off the weakening of the Voting Rights Act and Republican-led state legislatures have pushed to make voting harder and more restrictive, while courting the vote of African-Americans. And Republicans in Congress blocked measures to help students pay off their student loans, while utilizing Snapchat as their answer to satisfying young people. Any way you look at it, they are missing the mark. But the real root of their problem is that they are just completely out of touch with the middle class and people trying to move into the middle class. 

Last year, Republicans in Congress refused to extend unemployment insurance, while supporting the Ryan budget, which cut taxes for the wealthy. And when it comes to raising the federal minimum wage, Republicans are standing in the way.  Jeb Bush called this effort just a “sound bite” and other Republicans in their potential presidential field have opposed raising the federal minimum wage. So much for helping hard-working middle-class Americans looking to get back on their feet. 

A few weeks ago, Republicans held yet another vote -- we’re now at more than 50 -- to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act. While this week, Democrats proudly applauded the 16.4 million individuals who gained coverage under President Obama’s landmark health care law, Republicans, including the entire 2016 presidential field, continue to talk of full repeal. 

Just this week, we also saw the kicker on their list of priorities. How can you claim to understand the needs of everyday Americans when you want to eliminate the Medicaid expansion that has helped millions access affordable health insurance and slash Medicaid as a whole, plan to voucherize Medicare, freeze Pell grants, and undermine Wall Street reform? This stands strongly in contrast to the values of the Democratic Party and the work President Obama has done during his time in office.  

The fact is, two years later, Republicans’ superficial renovations won’t work if their backwards policies remain exactly the same -- or have even gotten worse. Reince Priebus acknowledged in discussing the GOP report that Republicans were doomed to lose presidential elections unless they made changes. Until the party goes beyond changing its rhetoric and starts changing its policies, they’ll remain the Republican Party of the past.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

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