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Where Do Republicans Go From Here?

If the Republicans couldn't beat 7.9 percent unemployment, rising taxes and debt, a lackluster housing market and a recent terrorist attack overseas, columnist Lisa Bigelow believes it's time for them to rethink their message to the electorate

 

You could see defeat in their faces on Fox News as the returns began rolling in.

Pennsylvania? “Fool’s gold.” Michigan? “That was a long shot, anyway.” Virginia? “It all depends on Fairfax County.” Florida? “It’s the voters in the I-4 corridor.”

And, of course, Ohio.

Indeed, only the brilliant, but reviled Republican strategist Karl Rove looked optimistic after 9 p.m.

At 10:30, my husband and I turned off the television, a persistent, sinking feeling in our collective gut. I woke at 1 a.m. and couldn’t resist grabbing my phone and loading Drudge.

Headline: “The Divided States of America.”

Sigh. So close. So close.

Naturally, sleep proved elusive as I pondered the meaning of the results. Although exit poll voters gave the edge on the economy to Romney, Obama still won. Women and minorities supported the president roundly, while white men, upper income voters, the religious right and other traditional conservative stalwarts supported Romney.

Of course, defeating an incumbent president is nearly impossible. But the fact that Republicans didn’t win in a landslide last Tuesday indicates the party of Lincoln has an elephant-sized case of head-in-the-sanditis.

Republican strategists will no doubt spend a lot more time analyzing this past election than I will. While I’m sure we’ll all hear tons about how GOP candidates need to do a better job getting their message out to Hispanics and middle-income moms, the problem isn’t the breadth of communication; it’s the communication itself.

I think Washington has a habit of underestimating the man (or woman) in the street. Voters get what the Republicans are saying. They just don’t like it.

That doesn’t mean they embrace the liberal agenda, either, as evidenced by the halfhearted endorsement of the Obama mandate. It just means that they found the reality of another Obama administration more tolerable than the idea of a Romney administration.

The long-held assumption that America is a center-right country is false. We’re center-center. We want compromise. And nobody, from the single mom waitress in Cuyahoga County to the hedge fund manager in New Canaan, wants to see the government waste taxpayer money.

Let’s not forget, the fact of the matter is George W. Bush spent money like a drunken sailor and left Obama with a big fat mess. It’s not as if the economy was plugging along nicely and Obama wrecked it. The ugly truth is the country has still not recovered from the Bush years. Voters recognized it. Republican leadership should, too.

But the common thread between all of the reasons voters chose Obama is the Republicans’ insistence on not accepting the reality of the shifting priorities of the American electorate.

When Romney shifted to the right on immigration that was a big mistake. Why? Although rounding up illegal immigrants and shipping them back home sounds great on paper, it is not a practical solution to our border problem. Developing a sensible amnesty program is and Hispanic voters noticed.

Maintaining a pro-life platform was an even bigger mistake and the right wing needs to accept America is never going to outlaw abortion. Women noticed and they're tired of it. Yes, I know no one even talked about overturning Roe v. Wade. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t get an abortion—but let others make their own choices. Voters believe that is the American way.

Romney also would have been better off taking credit for the truth of being the ideological father of Obamacare (and also for being pro-choice while leading Massachusetts). Standing up to the noisy far right, with whom northeastern and west coast voters do not identify, would have demonstrated courageous leadership. And though it would have made the GOP faithful red-faced in anger, it would have garnered the respect of voters. 

Finally, how refreshing would it have been to hear Romney say, “I think we should keep the Bush tax cuts. But healing a divided nation and making real progress will only be achieved through bipartisan legislation. That’s why I cannot release specific details now.

“I need the American people to give me a chance to sit down with our Democratic friends and work out a compromise that every party can be proud of. It may include entitlement cuts and higher revenues. But we won’t know how great our nation could be unless you elect me to prove it.”

Alas, it was not to be.

 

Christine November 11, 2012 at 01:14 PM
While I was thrilled about the election result from the President's reelection to the elections of Elizabeth Warren to Tammy Baldwin, to marriage equality and a much more progressive agenda, I do appreciate your thoughts on the election results and you make more sense than some of the pundits I've heard. Romney, while not a good candidate for so many reasons, was also hurt tremendously by the likes of Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Joe Walsh. The GOP used to be a party of reason and responsibility. It is now filled with climate change deniers, conspiracy theorists and politicians who think that God somehow has a hand in wanting babies so much he is willing to have rapes happen to get them. The GOP needs to take a good, hard look at the shellacking they took on Tuesday and figure out where to go from here. the country deserves a two party system that puts forth valid ideas about how we solve very reall problems facing our country. But when half the country lives in a bubble where scientific facts don't exist it is difficult to have a meaningful debate and discussion. I read that Romney was stunned he lost. Had he failed to read a newspaper over the past year? Except for the week after the first debate, the man was never ahead in a swing state. And as proven on an election night, this was hardly a razor thin margin. It was an electoral college landslide, which is all that counts. Thanks for your thoughtful piece.
Patience Lost November 11, 2012 at 02:06 PM
The author obviously skims off the surface of Republican politics (watching MSNBC, maybe?) and her analysis of the situation displays the barest, feeblest grasp of the facts. Although Bush did spend unwisely, Obama has spent more than all previous Presidents combined in his first 4 years on ineffective stimulus programs (the cost of which has been added to EACH subsequent year's spending allowance) and green energy investments (notwithstanding its NOT the gov't's job to choose winners or losers in the free market). In addition, the reason that the economy hasn't recovered is that Obama - we're talking Obama's policies here, not George Bush's (& please get over this stupid argument!) has had its foot on the throat of the free market. Businesses do not want to hire or expand in a hostile business environment. Since Obama's re-election, businesses have fired or laid off thousands of workers in anticipation of Obamacare. Increasing taxes on the so-called rich ($250k and higher) will result in even more layoffs and increased unemployment. In addition, the hispanic community votes Democratic because of their affinity for Democrat ideology, which provides a generous safety government safety net. Immigration largely does not figure into Hispanics' voting pattern- and if you want further documentation on this subject, google Heather McDonald and her research about the immigration issue. Final note: if you're going to write about Republicans, at least learn the facts.
Lisa Bigelow November 11, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Thanks to both of you for reading and for your thoughtful comments. Patience, I do believe that Romney would have done a better job handling the economy -- it's the main reason I voted for him and, in fact, exit polls indicate that voters gave him the edge on this issue as well. People turned away from Romney because of the far-right-wing policies that the Republicans have come to represent. In this respect, I believe Christine is absolutely correct. Secondly, the Hispanic population is a natural fit for the Republicans because they are religious conservatives at heart. That is well documented, even by my favorite conservative analyst, Charles Krauthammer. The fact that Hispanics overwhelmingly favored Obama (and in the last election as well) indicates that the objection to Romney was because of his shift to the right on self-deportation, a weak policy at best and ridiculous at worst. Finally, I am a lifelong Republican. Just because I don't believe everything Fox News tells me doesn't mean I don't most identify with that party. And for the record, I find MSNBC intolerable, although I force myself to watch it sometimes so I can offer readers a thoughtful, nuanced, "fair and balanced" opinion. But thanks for reading! Lisa B.
Christine November 12, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Lisa, thanks for responding. And I agree with your opinion about the Hispanic bloc (although no group is monolithic in their beliefs), and it would have been a great addition to your article. While an MSNBC viewer myself, I do spend quite a deal of time listening to the pundits on Fox as well, in order to really attempt to understand where others are coming from. I thought Megan Kelly did an excellent job on Election night standing up to the nonsense being put forth by Karl Rove. I look forward to reading your next piece and really do appreciate an honest, sensible, intelligent argument like you put forth (even though I disagree with most of it). All the best.
Michael Brown November 14, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Lisa. Sorry to hear that Fox News misled you into thinking that Romney had a chance. That chance is in Hell and there I hope it will remain. Fox News commentators no longer couch their hate and bigotry. O'Riely's "they want stuff" comment illustrates just the tip of the confusion that muddles the modern conservative mind. Quoting conservative columnist David Frum: "[The GOP has] been fleeced, exploited, and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex." But please keep it up. Keep saying "maker vs. taker" and "legitimate rape." Keep trying to regulate a woman's uterus. Keep denying equal rights to gay people. Keep marginalizing minority voters with phrases like "self-deportation" and "food stamp President." Keep feeding more bigotry to that every shrinking portion of the population that you are pandering to. See you in four years.
Lisa Bigelow November 14, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Thanks, Catherine. All the best to you, too! Lisa B.

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