On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told CBS that the party's lack of success in the recent presidential election could be primarily attributed to image.
"We've done a really lousy job of branding and marketing who we are," said Priebus.
He stated that the American people falsely view the Republican Party as a bunch of "stuffy, old guys" when, in fact, the party is actually quite young. He suggested that the lack of success could also be attributed to a lack of familiarity with their policies.
Priebus' statements are clearly pointed at the younger generation. However, they severely underestimate the intelligence of the America's youth.
Rather than casting blame onto marketing, imaging, and a general lack of familiarity, I would argue that the GOP's recent lack of success is primarily attributed to a lack of unity and divisions within the conservative party. The most prominent example of such disunity is the widely known Tea Party movement. To put it simply, Tea Party members unite around extreme fiscal conservatism and strong anti-government sentiments, believing the federal government has overstepped its constitutional powers. The increasing relevance of the Tea Party has effectively divided the Republican Party in two, the right and the far right.
Furthermore, it would be naïve to think that the GOP's stance on particular social issues does not play a significant role in the way that young voters cast their ballots. Initially, the Tea Party was relatively silent on divisive social issues. This silence failed to attract attention from young Americans who felt social issues were prominent. Over the last few years, Tea Party members have been forced to develop a strong stance on the social issues that bother the hearts and minds of America's youth. However, many young Americans still fail to identify with the conservative policies.
There has additionally been a surge of discussion among both Tea Party AND non-Tea Party Republican politicians such as former Pennsylvania Senator and failed 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum regarding social issues. Anyone who has visited a college campus, and perhaps taken a stroll down fraternity row, will understand why college students and other millennials do not identify with increasingly conservative social policies, such as those prohibiting funding for birth control. As a result, young Americans who do not identify with social conservatism are seeking refuge in other parties. For example, I have noticed a surge in the number of individuals who identify themselves as libertarians in attempt to find a happy middle ground between social liberalism and fiscal conservatism.
Lastly, Priebus suggests that the American people demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the GOP's policies. However, later in the interview, he outlines several reforms that he feels would improve the presidential election process. One of these reforms involves cutting the number of debates from 23 to 7 or 8. It is largely in these debates that presidential candidates can express and advocate for their policies in comparison to the opposing party. It seems to me that an individual concerned with familiarity would encourage such debate settings.
So go ahead Mr. Priebus. Brand and rebrand as much as you would like. It will not make a difference. We young people are not as naïve as you think.