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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, 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.

QWERTY November 11, 2012 at 10:09 PM
America is becoming a one party system. Why? Because Democrats are giving the people exactly what they want! Hispanics get open borders, poor people get entitlements and healthcare reform, women get abortion, gays get same-sex marriage. What's most troubling is Republicans didn't seem to make up ANY ground this past election. People need not worry about being unemployed when they are getting everything for free from the government. It's a horrifying thought. The voting trends, in my opinion, are down-right scary.
QWERTY November 12, 2012 at 02:59 AM
People don't give a damn about what others are paying in taxes. So long as THEIR bottom line is taken care of, they're happy. I'm not saying the rich shouldn't pay more in taxes but it isn't happening right now. What IS happening is record entitlement/ welfare handouts, with no end in sight. And that blank check is being written and signed by Democrats; and the people love them for it.
QWERTY November 12, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Wars are finite, welfare and entitlements aren't. It's comical to believe a poor person puts more stake into taxing the rich than finding a way to provide food for their family! But when the government is giving it to them for free, then yes, they can "afford" to focus on trivial things! So I agree with you.
Alex November 12, 2012 at 08:15 PM
How about a candidate that lacked integrity? Republicans are losing ground because they are pushing a social conservative agenda that simply isn't popular. If they Republicans don't want to go the way of the dinosaurs, then they need to drop the social conservatism, and nominate moderates. Most people see eye to eye in the middle on many issues, it's just the extreme left and right shout the loudest. Till then, expect to lose on the national level.
anon November 12, 2012 at 08:36 PM
To the author ... so basically you're saying democrats good, republicans bad. Black and white, no shades of grey.
Alex November 12, 2012 at 09:01 PM
QWERTY it's all finite: when people die they lose their welfare/entitlements (pending spouses too). Wars can potentially carry on much longer, especially wars against concepts(war on drugs, war on terror...ect) But also welfare AKA TANF (not disability) is capped at 60 months. If you've used 60 months of welfare in your lifetime (some states allow exceptions if you have children under 18), then you'll no longer be eligible to apply for TANF again. Not only that but there are a lot of work requirements on TANF, look it up sometime. Disability on the other hand needs to be reformed, but is sensitive because it's hard to accuse someone of faking back pain or a mood disorder. How many people do you think are actually on welfare & disability in this country?
Schap November 13, 2012 at 01:02 AM
I believe the republicans go after the 90 million eligible voters that did not vote. Wouldn't that be a new way to attract people who did not vote. Ask them what would have gotten them to the polls and what whould they want in a President. There are more votes to get from those that did not vote than trying to get the vote of a group that has been bought and will continue to vote for the group that gives them the most for someone else's money. i believe the Conservatives stayed home and that was the major difference. BO lost 7 million voters from 2008 and the Republicans lost 1 million. Who is headed in the right direction. The Republicans lost, buy 4 states and less than 400,000 votes would have the Dems asking the "What do the Dems Do Now"
Gerald M. Gaynor November 13, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Maybe it’s going to take eight years of bad economic and foreign policies for some folks to wake up. The group that really needs to start paying attention is the Independents who actually elect presidents. We have an ignorant and apathetic electorate that is long on opinion and short on facts. Perhaps we get a wakeup call with sequestration, frankly, that kind of slap in the face may be what it takes to make people understand that we cannot indefinitely spend more than we have, no matter how well packaged and intentioned the spending may be. We can’t afford to borrow money to fight pointless wars any more than we can afford to borrow money to pay for Big Birds with billion dollar investment portfolios…
QWERTY November 13, 2012 at 05:01 PM
I don't have the proof to back this up but I remember seeing a statistic that the number of people receiving aid has doubled or tripled in the past 5 years. Again, people don't care what "others" are paying so long as they are being taken care of! You're also polluting my term of "war". People's response to wasteful entitlement spending is to always look back on what "Bush did". Right or wrong, the damage he did with the wars has finality to them. This entitlement spending currently has no finish line, there are always going to be people begging for free stuff.
Gerald M. Gaynor November 13, 2012 at 05:05 PM
America is becoming a one party system because Republicans and Democrats, once elected, are indistinguishable from each other on fundamentals. They pass no legislation that impacts their personal standard of living and they enjoy the odd ability to actually exempt themselves from those laws that might.

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