Tuesday’s shellacking should’ve been a wake-up call for Republicans to go back to basics, back to the drawing board, and think whether their message – not just their candidates – alienated Republican voters.
One would hope that Republicans would finally realize that they cannot claim to be the party of limited government and freedom and then in the next breath tell people what they can or cannot do with their bodies; that they need to finally reach out to women, youngsters, and minorities (particularly Hispanics).
But one would be wrong.
While Republican strategists do understand this, many Republican/conservative columnists do not. Examples include AmSpec’s Jeffrey Lord and George Neumayr and AT’s Tara Servatius. They wrongly claim that the GOP lost because its nominee wasn’t conservative enough and that this caused millions of conservatives to stay home on Election Day. They flatly deny that a demographic shift has occurred in the US, or that the GOP needs to reach out to Hispanics, youngsters, and women.
Essentially, they’re asking Republicans: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
To understand why they’re dead wrong, just look at exit polls from this year, 2008, 2004, and 1980.
Mitt Romney has actually won a larger share of the white vote (59%) than Ronald Reagan did in 1980 (56%). So simple math tells us that if today’s electorate were as white as it was in 1980, Mitt Romney would’ve won by an even larger landslide than Reagan.
But this didn’t happen. Why? Because the electorate is far less white than in 1980.
In 1980, whites were about 80% of the electorate; blacks were about 10-11% and Latinos just 2%. Asians were even less numerous. But this year, whites were only 72% of the electorate, while Latinos constituted 10% (up from 8% in 2008) and blacks constituted 13%. Furthermore, they, along with Democrats and youngsters, had the same or greater turnout than in 2008.
Moreover, millions of old white voters have died since 2008, while millions of young voters (millenials) have turned 18 and become eligible to vote. And these voters are overwhelmingly pro-Obama. That’s a net swing of many millions of voters.
So yes, despite Lord’s, Neumayr’s, and Servatius’s denial, there has been a HUGE demographic change since 2004 (let alone since 1980). The American electorate has changed beyond recognition, but the GOP hasn’t changed with it. Republicans are still running in an electorate that no longer exists.
Today’s electorate is far less white, more Hispanic, more youthful, more black, and more Asian than in 1980 or even 2004. And yet, among all minorities, as well as youngsters and women, Republicans got crushed. 90% of blacks, 71% of Hispanics, over 60% of youngsters, over 70% of Asians, over 70% of Jews, and 53% of women in an electorate in which women are the majority.
The role of a party is to win elections, and for that, you have to cause voters to want to vote for you. But right now, these huge majorities of every demographic group except whites. Why? Because on divisive social and immigration issues, Republicans not only support extreme policies, but also voice their support for these in words that most Americans find offensive.
Take abortion, for example. Most Americans, including a solid majority of women, are pro-choice, and 75% of them say that abortion should be legal at least in cases of rape and incest. Yet, GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan opposes even these exceptions, as do failed GOP Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (both of whom made ridiculous gaffes that cost the GOP two perfectly winnable seats), and the Republican platform endorsed a CONSTITUTIONAL ban on abortion without exceptions.
That’s right. At the same time Republicans were condemning Todd Akin’s comments on pregnancy resulting from rape, his stance on abortion was being enshrined in the official Republican platform. As John Avlon points out:
“Good people can disagree about the difficult moral question of abortion. But how some self-described libertarians can pretend that forcing a woman to carry her rapist’s child to term is not among the most brutal forms of big government intrusion is beyond me.
That contradiction — driven by a common sense and common decency — is perhaps why a Gallup Poll found that 75% of Americans do not support bans on abortion when the woman is a victim of rape or incest. This is an area of broad consensus with the American people, even on this most personal and polarizing issue.
So the real scandal is not just the sincere stupidity of Akin’s statement — it is the policy that undergirds it, enshrined in the Republican National Platform. The problem is bigger than politics, and that’s why it is worth discussing in this election, even when Akin is off the front pages.”
And Republicans were warned about the consequences before the Republican Convention even began (emphasis added):
“The story dominates political coverage in the week before the Republican National Convention, forcing certain GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to repeatedly address it when he wanted to focus on convincing Americans why he would be a better president than Barack Obama.
Even more, the controversy surrounding Akin’s remarks on “legitimate” rape has forced Republicans to publicly confront the 15,000-pound elephant in their living room: the party’s internal rift between traditional fiscal conservatives such as Romney and the increasingly influential social conservatives of the religious right such as Akin.
Republican officials told CNN on condition of not being identified that the Akin controversy hurts on several fronts. It decreases the chances of capturing McCaskill’s Senate seat, which is crucial to GOP hopes of winning control of the chamber, they said.
At the same time, the brouhaha shifts the national discussion to divisive social issues that could repel swing voters rather than economic issues that could attract them in a climate of high unemployment and stumbling recovery, the GOP officials said.“
Thus, Republicans blew a golden opportunity to attack Obama’s utterly failed ultraliberal tax-and-spend policies and shifted the discussion to divisive social issues, thus alienating swing voters.
Republicans thus alienated tens of millions of women who could’ve otherwise voted for the GOP based on economic issues, as well as tens of millions of youngsters who are fiscally conservative but socially liberal (i.e. libertarian-minded). They’ve also alienated them with their stance on gay marriage, as proven by the failure of marriage amendments and the approval of SSM by voters in 4 states.
This Big Government stance on social issues likely cost Republicans a lot of swing states, including Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the poll numbers. In all of these states, the ladies voted overwhelmingly for Obama. And it’s easy to tell why: Republicans played right into Obama’s hands and the Dems’ “War on Women” theme.
Republicans also shot themselves in the foot with their hardline stance on immigration, which cost them dearly the Hispanic vote and thus the swing states of Colorado and Nevada. If Republicans don’t significantly soften their stance now, by 2016 Texas and Arizona may become swing states. Note to potential future presidential candidates: endorsing “self-deportation” and palling with Kris Kobach doesn’t help.
The question is, will these sane voices prevail, and make the GOP a party for all Americans who support limited government and a strong national defense, or will delusional people such as Jeffrey Lord, George Neumayr, John Hawkins, and Tara Servatius prevail? We will see during the next four years.