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.

Michael Brown November 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Stop inventing 'facts.' You have no idea what you are talking about.
Rob Gianazza November 13, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Susan is onto something and nobody sees it. The Republican Party does need to re-invent itself. No Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan was the best choice the GOP had to offer. It was always a lesser of two evils. I supported McCain and Romney, but neither of them was even close to the top in my choices before the primaries. The Republican party puts too much emphasis on who appeals to the broadest spectrum of voters. Too bad too, because half of them vote for the other guy. We don't need candidates that follow trends, we need candidates that set the trends. To prove you are a "good republican" you have to be against abortion. And then everyone assumes you want to overturn Roe vs. Wade. That's the wrong message. First of all, you personally can be against abortion without wanting to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Secondly, it's just your personal opinion. Trap set, and every republican candidate falls into it. Second trap, wealthy vs. poor. News flash, all candidates are wealthy. All candidates claim to be for the poor. What we need is a candidate that says it like it is. No sugar coating. The Republican party has lost its' focus. It needs to regroup, decide where it stands and then walk the walk. Immigration isn't the black whole every politician thinks it is. Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona has the right idea.
Rob Gianazza November 13, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Gov. Jan Brewer Continued. Seal the borders. No anchor babies. No child may remain in the United States without a legal guardian. Allow existing illegal immigrants to file for legal immigration. During that period, they must not be convicted of a crime. They will be issued a visa and granted assistance for a limited period of time while they find employment. Should employment not be found, their application will be denied. Any criminal immigrant that does not have legal status in the US will have their DNA and fingerprints taken, and then deported. They will not be eligible for re admittance to the US.
John Mainhart November 13, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Rob, if you are going to tell it as it is, then you have to tell the truth and defend it in a believable way. Abortion and all the laws that weaken the fabric of family life in this country has serious consequences which undermine our ability to have the youth of our country believe we are telling the truth. If the Republicans are really interested in helping the country then they must study the constitution and support the values they find there with genuine legitimate arguments. They could easily begin with defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness that would bring into question what Democrats are doing to this country by dismissing those values. We will never win over the people in America if we do not address the social issues that the Democrats make into laws if we don't show them where this all leads. I cite a good example. Maryland recently voted to make marriage between two men or two women the same as a man and women. Since it is now law the next thing will be to teach the youth in Maryland this legal, albeit false, fact. Surely when these children become teenagers they will seen the truth of the matter and they will question those adults who try to deceive them by teaching them otherwise. Students become bitter and more hatful when adults do not tell them the truth.
Rob Gianazza November 13, 2012 at 03:07 AM
John, at some point we have to stop expecting government to make our decisions and learn to make them ourselves. I believe that God judges us. If a woman wants to get an abortion, that is a choice she makes, not government. Same goes for marriage, it should be the church or religious establishment making the decision, not government. Perhaps a stronger faith in God is what we need and not a stronger government?


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