Sitting on the sofa as the TV cameras panned around the Republican Convention hall in Tampa, I remember thinking – even saying aloud, “My God, I’ve never seen so many old, white people in one place. This is awful.”
I knew then Mitt Romney would lose, though I voted for him anyway.
With one of the most contentious elections in modern American politics almost a month behind us, the best thing that can be said is that someone scored a decisive win. That we are not doing our Christmas shopping while votes are being recounted (as we were in 2000).
My vote was not so much for Romney or the GOP platform (much of which I disagreed with), as it was a protest against what I consider President Obama’s general lack of leadership regarding the economy. However, a majority of Americans spoke. In the Electoral College they practically screamed. So be it.
As a student of politics, I have read dozens of stories analyzing why Romney/the GOP lost an election that should have been a gimme. That micro-analysis would include:
- Senate and House candidates who babbled about rape, abortion and the origins of the universe, taking the focus off of the economy;
- bad, self-deluding conservative polling;
- a Democrat get-out-the-vote ground game that was far superior to Romney’s;
- a geriatric GOP convention that had about as much energy as wet socks;
- superstorm Sandy and the Chris Christie embrace of Obama;
- the 47 percent video (Yikes!);
- a series of endorsements down the stretch (most notably from General Powell) that stemmed the slide of independent voters to Romney;
- a very good foreign policy debate showing by Obama that left Romney nodding his head and GOP followers scratching theirs;
- and ugly, vicious and often racially tinged rhetoric oozing like the pus from the Right Wing Media Machine (see FOX, Limbaugh, Beck, Savage) that made it almost impossible for reasonable people to defend the GOP.
Those are what I would call the “technical reasons” for the loss. And there are others. However, I believe there is a much greater lesson to be learned from this election: Driven by an intransigent Far Right, the GOP has allowed itself to become the party of the past with little in common with 21st century America.
Too many people in the GOP spent far too much time in this election harking back to the supposedly halcyon days of the 1950s (halcyon if you were white, male, heterosexual and middle class or better); the Goldwater ‘60s; and the Ronald Reagan ‘80s.
GOP friends, please take note: If you are an 18-year-old voter today, you were born in 1994 – six years after Reagan left office. You would have to be 24 years old to have been born when Reagan was in the White House (1988). You’d have to be 30-32 to have even a child’s memory of Reagan as president, and you’d probably have to be at least 50-55 to have any serious “political memory” of Reagan.
Then there’s the millions of new citizens America has gained via immigration over the quarter century since Reagan left office.
Whether many in the GOP like it or not, this is not your granddaddy’s America and it never is going to be again. No more than the America in which your granddaddy lived was the America in which his grandfather grew up. America evolves. It changes. And so must the GOP if it is to remain relevant in terms of presidential elections.
In 2012, the GOP might as well have been asking voters to embrace the ideas of Roosevelt – Teddy, that is. In fact, Republicans likely would have been better off doing so. TR’s vision of the GOP as a progressive, trust-busting, populist party committed to environmentalism would have a lot more cache with today’s 30-year-olds than the rich-get-richer, trickle-down ideas of the Reaganomics.
In a Nov. 11 essay for “The Daily Beast” taken from his post-election e-book “Why Romney Lost (And What the GOP Can Do About it”), former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum did a much more thorough and eloquent job voicing the same idea.
I am attaching it here: “How the GOP Got Stuck in the Past.” Subtitled, “The finger-pointing misses a bigger truth: Republicans have become estranged from modern America. Why fixating on the old glory days is bogging down the party’s future.”
For my money, it is the best “overview” piece I have read since the election.
As Frum writes, “I can remember a Republican Party that was not backward-looking. I can remember a Republican Party excited by science and its possibilities. I can remember a Republican Party that regarded those Americans who thought differently not as aliens and enemies, but as fellow citizens who had not yet been convinced of the merit of our ideas. … (For the GOP) the road to renewal begins with this formula: 21st-century conservatism must become economically inclusive, environmentally responsible, culturally modern, and intellectually credible.”
Though a presidential swing voter, I am a lifelong (Rockefeller) Republican and believe there is value to having a viable right-of-center party at national level. If we are not very careful, however – and wiser and more open than we have been in the recent past – the words “nationally viable” and “Republican Party” will no longer fit reasonably into the same sentence.