In an Increasingly Diverse Electorate, GOP Must Offer More | Commentary
By Cecile Richards, Neera Tanden, and Janet Murguía In the weeks and days leading up to the 2012 election, conservative strategists and pundits were confident their candidates, policies and outreach efforts were enough to build a sweeping victory for Republicans nationwide. That’s why, after having their White House hopes dashed, many Republicans were left scratching their heads asking, “What went wrong?” After months of introspection and recalibration, prominent Republican Party leaders concluded “inclusion efforts can no longer be lip service,” and that transforming the GOP into a more inclusive party would require substantive efforts that reach women, LGBT Americans, African-Americans and Latinos.
But with a few short months of leadership under its belt, the newly-minted Republican Congress has effectively dampened any efforts toward big-tent conservatism, bringing into question whether conservatives are genuinely interested in initiating seismic changes within the Grand Old Party. Instead of broadening its base, the GOP leadership has fallen back on the same old ideas to prioritize the few over the many.
In a few short months of controlling both congressional chambers, some right-wing politicians in the House and Senate have proven this “inclusive party” rhetoric does not match their policy reality. The Republican leadership has used seemingly every opportunity to try to curtail women’s rights, deny health care for millions of Americans and force undocumented immigrants back into the shadows.
In 2013, the Republican Party called for a “forward-leaning vision” to address the concerns of women voters. Congressional Republican translation: distort must-pass legislation with anti-women’s health measures and oppose efforts to advance women’s economic security.
With what can only be described as obsessive fervor, some extremists in Congress have tried to force through restrictive amendments that attack women’s reproductive health care at any cost. Their efforts sank popular, bipartisan legislation such as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a bill intended to protect the most vulnerable girls and women.
Noticeably absent from the GOP leadership’s opening agenda are policies that help women thrive in the workplace, including paid sick leave, paid family leave and elimination of the gender wage gap. Their rhetoric may tout support for women in the workplace, but their record says otherwise: Every 2016 Republican senator who is a likely presidential contender voted against a budget amendment in favor of paid sick leave last week.
Following their 2012 defeat, many Republicans also called on conservatives to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” Yet today, they are set on dismantling the Obama administration’s efforts to fix our broken immigration system, leaving millions of eligible individuals and their American families in limbo in the process.
Instead, Republican congressional leadership held funding for the Department of Homeland Security hostage in an attempt to force the president to roll back an executive order giving millions of upstanding, hardworking, young aspiring Americans and their families much-needed relief from deportation. After months of stalling and overheated rhetoric, the stalemate ended in what one conservative lawmaker called, “an unmitigated loss for conservatives.”
Finally, despite its own sensitivities over being branded “the Party of No,” Senate Republican leadership continues to obstruct the nomination of Loretta Lynch, an eminently qualified nominee to serve as attorney general. Lynch, who would be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general of the United States, has been twice confirmed by the Senate as a federal district attorney. Yet by the time Congress returns from recess, her nomination will have remained stalled in the Senate for more than 150 days, and the length of time that has elapsed since her nomination is longer than the last seven attorney general nominees combined.
Throughout Lynch’s 30-year career, she has established herself as a proven and effective leader, and has gained the respect of colleagues across the political aisle. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky continues to hold Lynch’s confirmation for reasons completely unrelated to her qualifications. In fact, Republicans have struggled to articulate any legitimate reason for holding up her nomination.
It’s time to move past the disingenuous rhetoric and hold leaders accountable for the substantive reality of their policies and actions.
Americans support access to reproductive health care, support work and public policies that help women and families succeed, believe that we must fix our broken immigration system and want a qualified attorney general such as Loretta Lynch to lead the Justice Department.
If Republicans don’t start heeding their own advice to do more than pay lip service to the issues that matter to an increasingly diverse electorate, they will only continue to grow more out of touch and obsolete.
Cecile Richards is president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Neera Tanden is president of the Center for America Progress. Janet Murguía is president of the National Council of La Raza.
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