Politics

11.16.12

Here’s How Republicans Can Win Again

More thoughts on why Romney lost, in Friday's Financial Times.

Republicans offer four main explanations of their defeat in the 2012 presidential election.

Theory 1: Really, it was not very much of a defeat at all. If it had not been for hurricane Sandy, who knows what might have happened?

(The problem with that theory: Despite a weak economy, Barack Obama was not only re-elected but led his party to gains in Congress. Mr Obama carried every swing state he targeted. Outside the Republican stronghold of the south, Mr Obama’s margin of victory was 55-45.)

Theory 2: Mr Obama owed his victory to his superior get-out-the-vote technology. All the GOP must do is buy better software.

(The problem: Congressional Democrats won a larger total number of votes nationwide than their Republican opponents, without benefit of that technology.)

Theory 3: Mitt Romney was a weak candidate – it was his fault.

(The problem: The other 2012 Republican candidates were even weaker. And take a longer view: in the six presidential elections since 1988, Republicans have won a majority of the vote exactly once, in 2004. In the six elections before 1988, Republican presidential candidates averaged 52.5 per cent of the vote. The party’s weakness is chronic but masked by its big wins in non-presidential years, such as 1994 and 2010, when younger, poorer and browner voters tend to stay home.)

Theory 4: There is nothing wrong with this party that a pivot on immigration policy cannot fix.

(The problem: Surveys indicate that Latino voters prefer Democrats on every issue, not just immigration. The large illegal immigrant population inside the US is an important issue of public policy. But there should be no illusions: once legalised, that population will vote with its pocketbook, just like everybody else. Compared with the national norm, Hispanic Americans are poorer, less educated, less likely to have health insurance and more dependent on means-tested social programmes. Why would they vote Republican?)

The prevailing theories of defeat are wrong. The Republican party needs a new theory – and a new road back to competitiveness.

That road can be described in just six words: culturally modern, economically inclusive, environmentally responsible.

Culturally modern. Senate candidates demanding that raped women carry their assailants’ children to term. Radio presenters denigrating a woman as a “slut” and “prostitute” for arguing that health insurance should cover contraception. A Romney foreign-policy spokesman forced to resign because other Romney supporters objected to his support for same-sex marriage. The endless attempts to represent the president and his supporters as alien, as lesser, as a threat to authentic American values. Taken together, these incidents branded the GOP as a party of yesterday’s America – and as alien to today’s America.

The GOP should choose a path that seeks to win the support of every enterprising American, of every ethnic background, male or female, straight or gay. First step: stop insulting potential voters.

Read the entire column at the Financial Times.