MOBILE, Ala. -- Republicans hoping to reach beyond the party's white, aging core must do more than retool campaign strategy and tactics, say young GOP leaders pressing elected officials to offer concrete policies to counter Democratic initiatives.
"It's very easy to just say no, and there are times where it's appropriate to say no," said Jason Weingartner of New York, the newly elected chairman of the Young Republican National Federation. "But there are times where you need to lead and present ideas on the issues of the day."
Weingartner and other under-40 activists at a recent national young Republican gathering in Mobile said their party must follow an all-of-the-above approach. Their assessment goes beyond the more general prescriptions that many party leaders, including Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, have offered since November.
For the most part, Priebus has avoided policy recommendations for elected Republicans and says the Republican platform, a political document that's supposed to reflect the core values of the party, isn't the problem.
Weingartner and many of his colleagues agree with Priebus on the platform.
But the young Republicans' ideas are more explicit than the chairman's blueprint and stand in contrast to a hyperpartisan Congress where many Republicans tailor their actions to please primary voters who loathe cooperation with Democrats.
Weingartner said House Republicans, who won't pass the Democratic-led Senate's version of an immigration overhaul, should pass their own version that at least "streamlines and expands" legal slots for foreign students and workers.
On health care, Weingartner said that besides regularly voting to repeal Obama's law, the GOP should emphasize its own ideas such as buying insurance across state lines, while better explaining the Affordable Care Act's cost shift onto younger, healthy individuals.
On same-sex marriage and abortion, young GOP leaders say Republicans should tolerate a range of views, even while maintaining a socially conservative identity.
Some of these activists say their party must tread lightly after the Supreme Court recently threw out the most powerful part of the Voting Rights Act, the law that became a major turning point in black Americans' struggle for equal rights and political power.
"We don't have to lose our principles," said Angel Garcia, who leads the Young Republicans in Chicago, Obama's hometown. "But we have to have a conversation on all these issues so we don't leave Democrats to say we're just old white men and racist, bigoted homophobes."