It’s time for GOP to reinvent itself

Published 8:12 AM EDT, Tue May 31, 2016

Story highlights

Kurt Bardella: Republican Party must appeal to women, millennials, and minorities or face extinction

Such an evolution away from gridlock and fear is long overdue, he says

Editor’s Note: Kurt Bardella is the president and CEO of the communications firm Endeavor Strategies who spent 7 years on Capitol Hill as the Spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, Sen. Olympia Snowe and Rep. Brian Bilbray. You can follow him @KurtBardella. The views expressed here are his own.

CNN —  

What do women, minorities, young adults and college students have in common? Among other things, they are all constituencies alienated by the Republican Party and its ascendant candidate for the presidency, Donald Trump.

The 2016 presidential election should have been an opportunity to improve the party’s relationship with these constituencies, but now the party’s entire identity has now been hijacked by Donald Trump’s brand of misogyny.

Kurt Bardella
Kurt Bardella

There was a time, at least rhetorically, when Republicans endeavored to advance the notion of being a “Big Tent” party. The party of inclusion and “big ideas.”

Unfortunately, instead of debating big ideas, the most vocal leaders in today’s Republican Party spend more time talking about punishing women for exercising their legally protected rights and deporting everyone else.

Now, let me just say for those that assume this is being written by a Democrat, that I am, in fact, a Republican. I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life working for Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA).

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As a millennial, I have grown up in a rapidly evolving culture that has created very different social and political environments than the ones my parents’ generation encountered. As a result, I look around today and don’t see a real place in the GOP for anyone who is pro-choice, supports gay marriage and women’s rights, is fine with anyone using a bathroom, believes in climate change (aka science) but also believes in a limited government, a strong national defense and in the power of free enterprise.

I know many of my fellow Republicans want to see our party continue to evolve to be more inclusive of all Americans regardless of gender, age or race. We’ve wasted the bulk of our congressional majority being angry and where has it gotten us?

That’s why I believe the time has come for the Republican Party and its leaders to stop operating from a place of fear. To stop bending to the will of the angriest among us who are impossible to please and instead embrace a policy agenda that will create more equality, fairness and prosperity for all.

The frustration with the political establishment in Washington is visceral and real. “Average” Americans feel as though Washington has abandoned them and sold them out to protect or further their own personal political aspirations.

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They are right. That’s exactly what has happened.

So many members of Congress cast votes, day in and day out, not because they believe in the merits of a bill but because they are fearful of how “the base” will react. They are terrified of facing a primary challenge from a candidate who attacks them on their political left or right.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, appeasing that demographic comes at the expense of a relationship with women, minorities, young adults and college students, making it all but impossible to win a national general election.

The effect of that fear has been a political system that now rewards gridlock and extreme rhetoric and locks out new voices who might re-animate the party. I know we can be so much more than just the party of the loudest and angriest. And in fact, if we don’t evolve beyond being just that, there won’t much of a party left by the presidential election of 2020.

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Kurt Bardella is the president and CEO of the communications firm Endeavor Strategies who spent 7 years on Capitol Hill as the Spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, Sen. Olympia Snowe and Rep. Brian Bilbray. You can follow him @KurtBardella. The views expressed here are his own.