The GOP in 2013: How'd They Do? A GIF Explainer

Republicans began 2013 in defeat. They’d just lost another presidential election, one that many considered winnable, and blew their shot at retaking the Senate for the second election cycle in a row. Realizing that they’d now lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests, GOP elders decided that a reboot was in order. One year in, has it been a success?

Bustle investigates, with the help of some GIFs:

At the end of 2012, the Republican National Committee ordered an autopsy of the last election, a review into what went wrong. After talking to over 50,000 voters about their perception of the GOP, the RNC proudly unveiled the result of their findings. They called it the “Growth And Opportunity Project.”

The document highlighted the importance of improving the party’s standing with women, minorities, young people, gay people, and basically everyone other than old white people. That was the key to winning back the hearts of the American people. But would the GOP actually modify any of its policy positions in order to accomplish this goal?

The first test came when, after the tragic Newtown massacre, President Obama announced a push for tighter gun regulations. Polls showed 9 in 10 Americans supporting universal background checks for gun owners, and when gun control legislation began making its way through the Senate, Republican Senator Pat Toomey cosponsored a background checks amendment. Three more Republicans signed on, but when it came time for a vote, the rest of the GOP caucus filibustered the bill, along with four Democrats.

Special credit goes to Jeff Flake, who told the mother of a shooting victim that he supported background checks, then voted against the amendment.

Then there was immigration reform. Considering the GOP’s anemic standing with Latino voters, this would seem to be a no-brainer: support at least some manner of immigration reform, or solidify the party’s reputation as a club of nativists. Senator Marco Rubio took the lead, joining forces with his Democratic colleagues in hopes of crafting a bill that would pass muster with both Republicans and Democrats. Miraculously, it did: The Senate approved the immigration bill in late June by a 68-32 vote.

This put the ball in the hands of the House Speaker John Boehner ... who promptly refused to put the immigration bill up for a vote. Not long thereafter, after massive backlash from conservatives, Rubio yanked his support for the bill he helped craft. So close to supporting sensible, broadly-popular policy, yet so far.

On the state level, Republicans showed their commitment to winning over women by pushing draconian anti-abortion legislation across the country, even when it required calling special legislative sessions to do so. A lot of these bills passed, and while some were subsequently knocked down by the courts, many of them — like HB2 in Texas — were upheld. For women, it was a defeat; for the Republican Party, it was another self-inflicted wound, as the upcoming November elections would soon demonstrate.

However, the GOP’s push to overturn Roe v. Wade did have one unexpected side-effect: It elevated state senator Wendy Davis, an obscure Texas Democrat, to national prominence, and gave the pro-choice movement both a fresh new face and, for the first time in twenty years, a legitimate shot at retaking the governor’s mansion in the Lonestar State.

In September, national Republicans realized that the single most malevolent piece of legislation in recorded history, one that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the country, was about to take effect.

Of course, we're talking about Obamacare.

The GOP had opposed Obamacare without success since before it was even finished being written. Now, a significant piece of that legislation, the national health exchanges, was set to take effect in October.

But Republican Senator Ted Cruz had an idea: What if the GOP could somehow cripple Obamacare before the exchanges went live? What if Republicans could find something really important — say, the continued funding of the government — and hold it hostage unless Democrats agreed to undo the Affordable Care Act?

Legislation required to fund the government — the continuing resolution — needed to be passed before October 1st, and Cruz decided to filibuster it. But Cruz lacked the support to carry out an actual filibuster, so instead, he simply pretended to filibuster, speaking for 21 hours straight on the Senate floor. It didn’t affect the passage of the legislation — but it did get his colleagues in the House, who did have the numbers to defund the government, to start a’thinking.

Sure, Democrats had pledged not to touch Obamacare. Sure, everybody said it was ridiculous to think that President Obama would agree to repeal his signature legislative achievement. But the temptation to box Democrats into a corner was too great for Republicans to resist, and on the last day of September, the House GOP pulled the trigger and defunded the government.

The problem was, Democrats didn’t blink. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — both of whom would have to sign off on an Obamacare defund effort in order for it to succeed — refused to negotiate, pointing out that Obamacare had been passed by a supermajority in Congress, signed by a democratically-elected president, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Polling showed that Americans didn’t want the law defunded, and later polls showed the Republican Party with its lowest approval ratings in history since instigating the government shutdown.

More and more, the whole gambit was looking like a bad idea.

...and yet House Republicans refused to back down. They dug in, refused to pass a clean spending bill, and committed themselves to the mess they’d gotten into.

Meanwhile, a more ominous deadline was looming: The debt ceiling. Unlike shutting down the government, failing to raise the debt ceiling would have a potentially catastrophic effect on the entire world economy. Business groups urged the GOP not to mess around with the debt ceiling, as did Democrats and Obama. Cruz urged his House colleagues to stand firm, and for a while, they obeyed.

But a day before the deadline hit, they folded. The Senate frantically passed legislation that would both refund the government and raise the debt ceiling without touching Obamacare, and House Republicans reluctantly passed it. After almost three weeks of jockeying, the Affordable Care Act remained intact, Obama’s popularity actually increased, and the Republican brand was in its worst shape in history.

The GOP had another shot a couple of weeks later, when elections were held in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York City. But the results weren’t encouraging for the GOP: In Virginia, Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost the governorship to an almost comedically flawed Democrat, while New York elected its first Democratic mayor in twenty years (and a certified leftist hippie Democrat at that).

Chris Christie was reelected in New Jersey, which was enough to make him, in the eyes of many Republicans, the new 2016 frontrunner. This was a blow to Marco Rubio, who’d lost his 2016 frontrunner status earlier in the year by taking an awkward sip of water during his State of the Union response video.

It was nearing the end of the year, and Republicans were no closer to making the GOP a more welcoming party than when 2013 had began. Time was running out, but Republicans had one more shot to remake themselves. It came in the form of ENDA, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

The bill, which was first introduced in Congress almost two decades ago, would prohibit workplace and hiring discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for the GOP to “evolve” on gay rights, and perhaps bring some LGBT folk into the Republican fold. In November, on a 64-32 vote, the Senate made history by passing ENDA for the first time.

It then headed to the House of Representatives, where John Boehner, true to form, refused to put the bill up for a vote.

And thus, Republicans ended 2013 much the way they ended 2012: by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.