The Need to Fix Republican Branding

I’m going to give a honest assessment: things are looking bleak for the Republican Party. As of the date this was written, the Republicans currently enjoy control of both houses of Congress, a majority of governorships and even a number of state legislatures. But for eight years, they have been locked out of the presidency. And with each new self-inflicted wound coming from Donald Trump, it looks like that trend will continue for at least another four years, despite the fact I have felt Secretary Clinton was vulnerable and could have been beaten with a stronger, more mature and more experienced candidate.

Am I throwing in the towel too early? I don’t think so. Trump’s poll numbers are tanking, and barring something like a Secretary Clinton indictment, the Republican Party has lost the presidency once again. Now it becomes a question as to whether the Republican Party can rally to keep control of the House and Senate. I’m not optimistic on that front either, given what has been happening on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, and the trend that usually happens when the losing presidential candidate suffers a bad defeat in the electoral college, which usually results in serious damage being done to House and Senate races as well.  The situation with the Republican Party is made worse by the fact that the Republican elected officials in Washington do not seem to have a cohesive message for America moving forward. They appear to be a rudderless boat, left to the mercy of the ebb and flow of the tides.

The Republican Party needs to stop being in denial and acknowledge there needs to be significant reform within its own ranks. The GOP has to admit it has a catastrophic branding problem, particularly when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, women and minorities. As it stands now, a vast majority of members from these groups have no incentive to consider what the Republican Party has to offer. Most feel alienated by this party, by many of its Republican members and by how it operates. Whatever the Republican Party is doing for outreach is clearly not resonating with the American public,  leaving many with the general feeling that Republicans are insensitive and are unable to understand what these communities need, and leaves them with the conclusion that Republicans would be poor advocates for their priorities at the federal level. This desperate situation with its branding is only exasperated with the uncouth and belligerent attacks that have been coming from Donald Trump during his campaign, alienating even greater segments of society outside of just these three groups, and has proven divisive even amongst Republicans themselves.

A significant portion of the members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t feel inclined to be a part of the Republican establishment because of many public comments made by high profile Republicans show they are, in a best case scenario, ignorant or indifferent when it comes to issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community, and at the very worst, intolerant. Many voters from that community do not feel like the Republican Party is inclusive, particularly when there are a number of Republican members who pass judgment on how the gay community define themselves, and essentially condemns who they are and what their lifestyles are as being ‘sinful.’  It may be hard for many Republicans to move past this belief when it is engrained in their religious dogma, but for the health of the party moving forward, the party must try and encourage all Republicans to realize that this is the time for unconditional acceptance, a time where we need to say, ‘we will accept how each person defines themselves without judgment or reservation, and will accept everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.’  The Republican Party needs to be able to tell the American people,  ‘We need to come together as diverse Americans from all backgrounds to advance our core values; to advance what we believe are in the best interests of the nation and to deal with the serious problems facing all of us as Americans.”

We are much stronger together than when we are apart.  The Republican Party should stop driving people away with its own rhetoric and behavior. We should encourage utmost respect for everyone and reflect that in our policies, and if a gay or transgendered person chooses to run for public office under the Republican banner, we should simply leave it up to the individual Republican voter to decide if they can vote for that person based on their religious beliefs. But if that gay or transgendered person runs as a Republican, the Republican Party should fully celebrate and embrace them and welcome their contributions to the party. If we need to use biblical references to convince our fellow Republicans to be accepting of the gay community, we should refer them back to the passage in the New Testament where Christ simply commands, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Let us become accepting of each and every American, no matter how they define themselves; let’s break down those barriers that people might be encountering from feeling welcomed into the Republican Party and let’s start advancing Republican agenda.

The Republican Party would be better served by prominently highlighting their Log Cabin Republican members on the national stage. I am sure there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know who they are, but they are the largest Republican organization that supports and advocates for Republicans that are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Beyond that, the party should take serious time to review and consider the types of legislation that are being sponsored at both the state and federal levels, and take into consideration how divisive many of these Republican-led bills are being received by the greater community; specifically, I am referring to the North Carolina bathroom law and the Religious Liberty laws of places like Arizona and Indiana that many believe are efforts to make discrimination legal against certain segments of society (the LGBTQ+ community in particular). The Republican Party also needs to be conscientious of the fact that the Orlando shooting was both an act of terror AND an act of hate against the LGBTQ+ community. And to solely focus on just the terror aspect diminishes the LGTQ+ community’s outrage and pain over this hate crime, and only shows the Republican Party as indifferent to the LGBTQ+’s concerns about their safety, welfare and about hatred coming from outside their community directed toward their members, and paints Republicans as only being interested in making this tragedy political for their own purposes.

The Republican Party must become keenly aware of what their message is, how they deliver their message, and to become sensitive to the stands we take on issues which might inadvertently alienate the general voting electorate.  It is similar to the situation with the Florida state senator that is running for Congress (Greg Evers), who has chosen to host an AR-15 giveaway on Independence Day even after the horrendous Orlando shooting. And apparently, he isn’t the only one giving away rifles like this. Problems with timing and the way our messages come across as insensitive and tone deaf only serves to make the general public question if the Republican Party is even capable of making sound judgments for the purpose of governing this country. The Republican Party needs to get its act together and be smarter with how it presents itself to mainstream America. When you are running for Congress or for president, you are not running to govern just your own constituency who agrees with you; your own little fiefdom, but you are running for office that governs everyone. You must be able to give the American public reasons to consider you to be worthy to be entrusted with the high office; and give them reasons to believe that their voices will still be heard and taken into consideration. So far, many Republicans are failing to do that, and are sticking by traditional ways of doing things that are ultimately proving to be self-defeating.

As a party, we must move past gay marriage. Gay marriage is a way for people to pursue their inalienable right of ‘pursuit of happiness,’ and therefore, the Republican Party should step out of the way, and let people of the same gender get married without opposition or judgment. Gay marriage does not take anything away from heterosexual marriage, and does not harm the sanctity of the institution; only things like infidelity and domestic abuse do that. One marriage certificate for a gay couple does not mean there is one less marriage certificate for a heterosexual couple. Opposing same sex marriage only harms long-term interests of the Republican Party by fostering the impression that the Republican Party is bigoted. The Republican Party has to work hard to overcome this impression to be able to appeal to greater numbers of new voters and to convince them of the value of our core beliefs, which the party desperately needs to do right now to be able to keep up with the Democrat Party in the sheer number of voters. Right now, the Republican Party has a problem it doesn’t want to talk about; it cannot win the presidency without significant help from Independents. In this regard, the Democrats are in far better shape; the can make do with far fewer Independent votes and still be able to win. Unable to win the presidency on its own is not a sign of a winning strategy for the Republican Party.  It must change or continue to be locked out of the presidency, and in the future, could become even further marginalized as demographics shift, and makes it even harder to win even House or Senate seats.

Women have also been leery of the Republican Party because again, many members within the Republican Party have expressed ridiculous views on abortion and rape and other women’s health issues that have greatly angered and frustrated them, many viewpoints of which have proven to be blatantly ignorant and sexist. And unfortunately, due to the internet, such statements can remain alive in the American public’s consciousness forever, and live to haunt the party.  Members of the Republican Party needs to make sure that when running for office, they are fully informed on women’s issues, so when they are questioned, they do not come off as either ignorant or sexist and continue to do harm the brand of the Republican Party.

In addition, the Republican Party needs to tone down its rhetoric in regards to the abortion issue. The Republican Party should emphasize its belief in protecting life at conception and finding ways of discouraging abortion by promoting adoption as the better option, and working to find solutions on issues that could lead to unwanted pregnancies and abortions, such as teen pregnancy. If laws need to be changed or there needs to be improvements made to the adoption process to make it more appealing to women, than that is where the Republican Party should focus its energy. However, the Republican Party should also recognize the Supreme Court’s decision in this matter on women’s’ rights, respect it and just focus on drawing attention to the option of adoption; on the option of allowing new life to be brought into this world. This likely won’t appeal to many pro-life Republican voters who want to do more than that, but by taking a step back and leaving the choice up to the woman and giving her the respect of honoring her choices, it could allow for a greater number of women to consider the Republican Party platform who otherwise would not give the party a second look based on the party’s heavy-handed approach to abortion. Besides, for the religious Republican (which I count myself as being a religious Republican), we should remember that God gave us free will. We should honor that fact, and allow women to be able to exercise their free will. We may not agree with the decision, but all we can do is try to convince women considering abortion that there is an alternative, and urge her to take that option instead. And what the Republican Party really needs to do is to take the abortion issue away from Democrats that have been giddy at being able to frame the debate that the Republicans are waging a “war on women.” Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot, and start instead putting ourselves on better footing with the broader electorate by trying to appeal to women voters with our stands on limited government, accountability and national security. And let us encourage articulate, strong women to start running for offices under the Republican Party banner so we can continue to erode this “war on women” mentality. For over five years, I severed under a strong Republican Congresswoman. Strong female Republicans are out there; we just need to encourage them to step forward and to run for public office, and to help us disprove the impression that the Republican Party somehow stands against women.

The Republican Party also continues to have issues with minority groups, likely because we do not have enough Republican minorities running for public office, and the party itself has not been expressing views and policies that are in line with issues that minority groups are concerned about, such as comprehensive immigration reform and reforming local police departments so that they are more responsive to minority community needs. For far too long, the Republican Party has turned a deaf ear to these issues, and has actively blocked comprehensive immigration reform from being passed; all the while alienating all those who hold this issue as a priority. To help with the branding problems of the Republican Party, leaders within the party should also speak out publically and with one clear voice whenever one of their candidates says or does something that is utterly offensive and is disparaging to minority groups, the LGBTQ+ community or women.

This statement has never been truer with this year’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Whenever Donald Trump uses divisive language, such as when he uses the name ‘Pocahontas’ to refer to Elizabeth Warren, or when he attacks a federal judge based on his family’s Mexican heritage, or when he has used callous language to put down women, the Republican Party should have stood united and disavowed such rhetoric immediately, and told the American people that such language does not represent the party and it is unbefitting a presidential campaign.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s inconsistent message on Trump’s behavior has been extremely disheartening. Some in the Republican Party have bravely chosen to speak out, but many others have chosen to stand in silence or have chosen to make excuses for Donald Trump. Trump’s antics during the campaign has gone well beyond the excuse that he’s ‘a new breed of candidate;’ his behavior has been deplorable to women and minorities, and the Republican Party has failed to send the right message on this matter.  For me, as a Republican, it appears that the party is silently condoning this despicable behavior just for the chance of winning the presidency. Winning by violating your principles is not winning at all. For a person who should understand the basic concept of branding from his own business background, Donald Trump hasn’t seemed to care that his actions have already grievously harmed the Republican Party’s image, perhaps for generations to come. The negative impressions left with today’s voters about the Republican Party will likely be passed onto their children, and further down the line, to their grandchildren. Not only do elections have consequences, so does failing to take action when your candidates start offending the LGBTQ+ community, minority groups, and women. That is a lot of potential voters to be hemorrhaging because you will not take a stand against your own candidates when they express things that are sexist, ignorant, or bigoted.

The Republican Party needs to re-focus its message on its core values, and needs to be able to explain our true values to the American people. These core values should include limited government and why it is important. We need to explain to them why we are fighting for less intrusive government that encourages individuals to do for themselves and to strive for extraordinary things in their lives, and not simply settle for a government hand-out. We need to explain to the American people that big, bloated government is not sustainable, particularly with our out-of-control debt. Restraint must be placed on government, both financial and in terms of government expanse for the betterment of future generations. We need to explain to the voters that we want no more new entitlements, such as free college tuition for all. No matter how well intentioned, we cannot afford it. What we should be demanding instead is for responsible government to be paying off the 20 trillion dollars worth of debt that we as Americans are currently saddled with, and to start dealing with this debt by cutting government spending.

The Republican Party should be calling for an audit of the entire federal government now to see how taxpayer money is being spent, and what areas we can focus on to reallocate taxpayer money that is currently being wasted so it is actually spent wisely and can be used to the benefit of taxpayers and potentially be used to pay off this crushing debt. Audits of the federal government should happen on a regular basis to cut down on waste, fraud and abuse. We need to focus on the problems of over-taxation, and emphasize how taxes are a finite resource, and that we cannot continue raising taxes indefinitely to sustain out-of-control government. Between federal and state taxes, property and sales taxes, the government is ‘nickel and diming’ people to death, and taking away their ability to obtain the quality of life they desire. We are taking money that could be used as disposable income by families to improve the economy and are instead using it as life support for big government. We will deny many people the American dream through the continued practice of over-taxation. And if we can’t tax more, we will force the government to print more money to pay debts, which will eventually lead to our currency becoming devalued to the point of being worthless. All these issues must be brought to the forefront in our conversations with our fellow Americans; issues I feel many Americans will be able to relate to and support the party for championing instead of a Republican Party trying to ban gay marriage or make some stupid remarks about rape or abortion; and continuing to fight the completely wrong fights and once again losing the support of the American people.

The Republican Party needs to place stronger emphasis on national security. In the past, Republicans have always made national security a top priority. But lately, the Republicans on Capitol Hill have dropped the ball. They have failed to really speak out against the sequestration of our military. No other government agency or department has been hit as hard as the military. When sequestration first hit and people were noticing the cuts in funding in other areas such as TSA, people complained about long lines in airports, and Congress relented and restored that funding. But it never did for the military, the silent victims of the sequestration process.

In these times of conflict, with Russia forcefully taking control over Crimea, destabilizing the Ukraine and threatening other former Soviet bloc nations, the United States needs to be able to stand up and support NATO. America needs to be the leader in global stability and freedom. When China makes power plays to take control over the South China Sea, our navy must be there to protect the interests of the other nations in that region and to help enforce international law. Iran must constantly be monitored and challenged, as they continue to be a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

Neither Russia or China are backing down, and China in particular continues to be expanding its military capabilities. We must continue to expand our capabilities as well, to be able to keep the promise to the American people that we can always protect them and their way of life from foreign aggression. The Republican Party must explain to the American people that government must be reduced and spending must be cut, but those cuts must not be applied to the military, as there is too much as stake in our international politics today to risk us not being prepared for major conflict. And right now, with sequestration cuts in full affect, our military force strength has been drawn down to levels not seen before World War II; to levels that in my opinion, are dangerously low. This is something that has to change.

In dealing with national security, the Republican Party must place special emphasis on cybersecurity. Countries like China and Russia are trying to hack our government and private sector computers on a daily basis, with impunity. Millions of government officials have been rendered vulnerable due to the OPM data breach and the exposure of their private records. We need to take this issue much more seriously, and make this a serious platform issue for our party; an issue that many Americans can get behind as part of our national security. Steps must be taken to discourage Russia and China from continuing their relentless assaults on our firewalls.

Next, the Republican Party needs to focus on accountability. The Obama administration suffered an alarming number of scandals from government employees that didn’t feel they needed to be held accountable. If a government employee misuses taxpayer money, make sure they pay it back with interest. If the offense is too great, fire them. Hold government and the people that work in government accountable, including Congress and congressional staffs.  Work to give senior government leaders in both the White House and Congress salary cuts, and take away their automatic pay increases until such time that we have eliminated the federal deficit. Hold them accountable for the mess they have caused, and give them incentive to work toward a fix. We need a leader that will enforce a ‘no earmarks’ policy for our future budgets to get rid of pork spending. We need to look at the grants and funding that we are providing to the private sector, and look at gradually cutting these grants across the board, leaving no pet projects unprotected from these cuts. In this era of enormous debt, we must find areas to cut back, and require private sector entities to find other sources of capital to sustain themselves other than government funding. We must pay down this national debt.

We need to make it clear that there is a distinct difference between what government and individuals should be responsible and held accountable for. National security is an area that government is completely responsible for. Individual healthcare is something best left up to the individual to be responsible for and in charge of in their own personal lives. Government can try and make it as affordable as possible, but the individual should not be forced into accepting healthcare coverage out of fear they will be penalized if they don’t. Infrastructure is another function of government. Providing free college to everyone is not a function of government. Encourage students to take out loans, work through college or go through the military to get their college education, but do not make college free for everyone at the expense of the taxpayer. Our culture is already suffering from an ‘entitlement’ mentality; we should not continue contributing to that mentality and letting younger generations think that the government’s purpose is to always provide free services to them. After all, everything that the government does is not free; the taxpayer is on the hook for everything that the government promises.

Finally, Republicans should stand for balanced governing. We should acknowledge that in order to govern this great country as “one nation,” we have to take into account all people’s opinions, beliefs and values when crafting legislation. You cannot simply ignore people who cry out for gun control; who are angry at so many incidents of mass shootings and who demand their right to be free of this violence. You appear to those that desire gun control that you are tone deaf to their complaints, and are not respecting the rights of those who wish to live free of such violence. Reasonable measures should be taken to balance individual rights of gun owners with government interests of stopping gun violence, such as making sure those that are radicalized or are otherwise mentally unstable should not be able to possess or buy guns. If the mentally unstable or the radicalized already currently own guns or still have the right to buy guns because they have not committed a crime, the government should be able to take them to court to prove just cause in suspending those rights and confiscating those guns through due process. Of course, you’re not going to please everyone, especially those that are on either extreme, but at the very least, you make the effort to try and find common ground. Otherwise, we will not end up with one indivisible nation, we will end up with a red nation and a blue nation. I’m not certain that is was what the founders of this country intended, but unfortunately, that is the direction we are heading. Red and blue: the new north and south.

We need to take this balanced governance in all aspects of legislation, not just gun control. It will not be easy, and there will be a lot of disagreements, but we need to focus on legislating for both sides of the aisle to try and heal this nation of its deep partisan divisions that have formed over recent years. We just have to look at what has been happening on Capitol Hill to know all is not right with the union; with Democrats interrupting moments of silence for the Orlando shooting and even staging a sit-in on the House floor. There is real rage out there, in the American public, rage that should not be summarily dismissed as merely ” a publicity stunt.” The Republican Party must do its part to help heal our nation, listen to all constituency groups and bring all Americans back together for the common good. Then perhaps the Republican Party may regain the people’s trust, and help restore their faith in our system of government. And perhaps, one day, the Republican Party will earn the right again to have one of its members serve as the President of the United States.

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