- The problem: People are willing to come to this country illegally to work for a living, but sometimes they exploit the system.
- Democratic solution: Deport those caught engaging in criminal activity, but propose ways to give hard-working undocumented immigrants a way to stay.
- Republican solution: Emphasize the phrase "illegal," use the bad examples to characterize the problem, and make sure everyone knows the language and origin of the majority of undocumented immigrants. Pass laws targeting "illegals," giving local authorities the power to enforce the laws according to their stereotypical understanding of what an "illegal" is. Argue that the inconvenience and insult of said enforcement that are borne by citizens are insignificant compared to the need to enforce the law.
- The problem: Some of the loving couples that want to get married contain partners of the same gender.
- Democratic solution: Let them get married.
- Republican solution: Refer to a handful of passages in a bronze age book, a limited understanding of what actually happens in nature, and a willful ignorance of social science studies to argue that letting people of the same sex for committed relationships undermines the notion of committed relationships. Without any sense of irony, tolerate prominent spokespeople for this position who have cheated on their own spouses, and had multiple divorces. Accuse people who love each other of being responsible for all sorts of natural and man-made disasters.
- The problem: Many people need a helping hand when they are poor. While government programs have helped make poverty less of a disastrous fate (poor people are no longer necessarily homeless, starving, and excluded from education), they have not eliminated poverty. Also, some people exploit the system.
- Democratic solution: The poor will always be with us, and we should do what we can to alleviate their suffering and get them back on their feet. Reform the system when there are ideas for improving it and preventing people from exploiting it.
- Republican solution: Use the relatively rare examples of people exploiting the system to characterize it entirely. Paint the problem of poverty as one of "culture," rather than social and economic trends. Attempt to subtly point out that some ethnicities are more likely to be poor, and make excuses for themselves when they mention said ethnicities explicitly. Generate a narrative in which poor people are "takers" and "moochers" and the rich are job-creating heroes, and tell their constituents to be afraid of the people who would take their stuff to give to the poor. Thus, poverty is no longer a problem for the poor, but a threat from "the others" to people everywhere who do not see themselves as "those people" (even if they are using the same government programs).
- The problem: Women often face unwanted pregnancies. For thousands of years, one solution has been to abort the fetus.
- Democratic solution: Make abortion safe and legal, because a woman should get to choose how to use her body.
- Republican solution: First, attempt to re-define human life to include groups of cells that are incapable of surviving outside a particular woman's body. In doing so, threaten to limit access to common forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization. Second, promise to defund the main agency providing reproductive choices and cancer screenings to women, because that agency uses private money to provide a legal procedure that women often choose to have (abortions). Third, endorse even the most extreme voices in your party, who openly claim that women tend to lie about being raped, or that some women deserve to be raped, or that rape is God's will.
- The problem: Racism and bigotry have historically been prevalent in society, and to a lesser degree still are.
- Democratic solution: Continue to work to ensure equal access to civic and economic life, equal pay, and reproductive rights.
- Republican solution: Emphasize a narrative in which racism and bigotry were minor footnotes in our glorious history. In fact, claim that everyone has always become better off by allowing America to just be America. Offer no apologies. Lament the passing of Traditional America. Instead, contribute to the problems of racism and bigotry via the policies outlined above. When challenged on the issue, point to the races of a handful of prominent Republican lawmakers as a defense.
So my hypothesis is that the Republican problem basically comes down to racism and bigotry in their rhetoric and policies. I can understand being skeptical of this. If you are, though, ask yourself, Why did Asians vote for Obama by a margin of 71% to Romney's 27%? On paper, Asians as a demographic should be reliable Republican voters: they tend to be conservative and independent (as most immigrants are), and they are economically successful. I suspect that Asian voters, as with other groups that continue to personally experience racism and bigotry, are justifiably concerned that Republican would have no qualms about using them as scapegoats if it was politically convenient. This perception is the GOP's problem. It will take much more than token policies (e.g., immigration reform) to fix.
Unfortunately, judging from the past couple weeks of scapegoating for the lost election from people like Bill O'Reilly and Mitt Romney, the GOP is doing a terrible job of learning this lesson.