6 Words Not in RNC Autopsy: Christian, Religion, Abortion, Marriage, Jesus, God

The Republican National Committee is out with what is being billed as an introspective look at what went wrong for the party in 2012. Maggie Haberman reports at POLITICO:

The Republican National Committee concedes in a sprawling report Monday that the GOP is seen as the party of “stuffy old men” and needs to change its ways.

Among the RNC’s proposed fixes: enacting comprehensive immigration reform, addressing middle-class economic anxieties head-on, and condensing a presidential primary process that saw Mitt Romney get battered for months ahead of the general election.

The committee also proposes major improvements to the party’s voter database and digital technology, which paled next to that of the Democrats and contributed to the party’s losses last year.

The suggestions are among dozens the committee makes in what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has dubbed an “autopsy” of the party’s 2012 failures and a roadmap forward. Priebus is scheduled to unveil the 98-page report at a news conference Monday morning at The National Press Club.

“There’s no one reason we lost,” Priebus plans to say, according to prepared remarks. “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement. … So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

I took a quick look at the report this morning, with an eye towards what it might say about the party’s intertwined relationship with the religious right. And six words, so central to the religious right’s messaging and mobilization, and thus imperative to a Republican presidential hopeful’s lexicon, do not appear at all in the report. Those words are Christian, religion, abortion, marriage, Jesus, and God. No Christian nation, no crucial role of faith in American public life, no shining city on the hill, no scourge of abortion, no need for prayer to save an unrepentant America from sin, no downfall of Western civilization caused by the erosion of “traditional” marriage. No mention of infringements of religious freedom.

In fact, on matters of religion, the report sounds remarkably like an effort at Democratic faith outreach. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, Black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.” And “the RNC should consider hiring a faith-based outreach director to focus on engaging faith-based organizations and communities with the Republican Party.” Wait, doesn’t Ralph Reed already do that? 

It becomes clear which faith communities those might be, just a page later:

President George W. Bush used to say, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande… and a hungry mother is going to try to feed her child.” This tone, coupled with the longstanding relationship with Hispanics he built as governor, demonstrated to the Hispanic community that Republicans cared equally about all Americans …

In addition, the RNC must improve how it markets its core principles and message in Hispanic communities (especially in Hispanic faith-based communities).

Several times the report recommends engaging Hispanic faith-based organizations and communities—but it doesn’t mention such faith outreach in connection with other demographic groups, such as Asian and Pacific Islanders and African Americans. Or women! The section on women is particularly—what’s the right word?—amazing? “Too often, female voters feel like no one listens to them.” (Really?) “They feel like they are smart, engaged and strong decisionmakers but that their opinions are often ignored.” (Do you wonder why?)

The report, of course, is just spin, a carefully crafted campaign outside a campaign to try to tell voters the sky is green and the grass is blue, or that the Republican Party is different from the one on display during the 2012 campaign. The pitch for religious Latino voters, though, hints at what’s really at work on the religion front: that the party is trying to figure out a way to keep conservative, religious, white voters energized without alienating a pluralistic electorate. Saying that they’re going to reach out to religious Latinos is the party’s way of saying that it hasn’t given up on the religious right’s issues, it just needs to emphasize them in a different way. This might ring true for religious conservatives who have long heard from leaders like the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez that Latinos’ views on social issues line up with theirs (although in reality they’re hardly a monolith). But with or without a new “faith-based outreach director” at the RNC, I suspect that the old lexicon will be back in fairly short order.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email