It’s been a couple days now for Mitt Romney supporters to absorb the loss on Tuesday night. Even though all the major polls were showing a slim lead for Obama, I get the impression they thought they had it in the bag. The conservative finger pointing has already started. Who’s getting most of the blame? A hurricane; followed by a Republican governor.
Republicans believed beyond a doubt that Hurricane Sandy stemmed Romney’s momentum, giving Obama a surge and handing him the election. They also believe Chris Christie sold out Romney in the process, costing Romney votes. Both charges simply do not add up. It’s true Romney got a surge after the first presidential debate on Oct. 3. But that momentum had already stopped well before Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, more than three weeks after that debate. Romney had zero momentum at that point.
The charge that New Jersey Gov. Christie’s open embrace of President Obama damaged Romney’s chances is also false. Christie did what any politician should do in that situation: lay politics aside and address the emergency. That’s what he did. That’s what Obama did. What did Romney do? He staged a “relief” event in Ohio where props were already bought ahead of the event. You can’t blame Chris Christie for doing his job.
The reality is Barack Obama won re-election because the Democrats had a much stronger ground game than the Republicans. The Democrats protected all but one swing state. The Democrats also understood the necessity of winning the women and minority votes better than the Republicans. Truth be told, I think the Obama camp plotted this outcome back in 2009, with Health Care Reform. They adopted Romney’s plan, knowing he’d be the likely candidate in 2012, thus limiting his ability to use it against Obama. He tried, but it didn’t resonate with voters.
Once Republicans come to grips with the losses on Election Day, they’ll need to stop and take a long, hard look in the mirror and make some changes. Here’s my unsolicited advice to them.
1. Ditch Fox News.
This is a bad relationship for Republicans. Oh sure, Fox News makes them feel good and tells them what they want to hear, but that’s the problem. It is an echo chamber. It’s fine if conservatives want to consider Fox News home. But for Republican politicians and strategists, it’s time to step away from the echo chamber of dunces who ignored every bit of real math so they could float the narrative of a Romney victory. Walk away, Republicans. They burned you. They burned you bad.
2. Divorce Yourselves from Social Conservative Issues.
The days are over when Republicans could use abortion and gay marriage to curry support. What Republicans sacrifice in supporting these issues far outweighs the gains. Being pro-life is not inherently bad. But being pro-life to the point of passing restrictive laws that limit women’s health care and contraception choices is draconian. It is not anti-Republican to suggest keeping government out of people’s health decisions or marriages. Besides, the electorate is already there. Republicans are the ones who are behind. What was a successful wedge issue in 2004 is an albatross in 2012. Yes, the times they have a-changed.
3. Pass the DREAM Act.
Unless the Republicans open the door to Latino voters, they will continue to shrink until they’re a tiny, provincial group of old, white men. Immigration reform is critical, and the DREAM Act was a viable, sensible first step. Yet Republicans refused to reach across the aisle even on this. How’d that work out for you?
4. Ignore Grover Norquist.
No one would argue tax increases are popular. No one would argue tax increases are always the answer. But to stake out the most extreme position on taxation as your starting point has not only damaged your party, it has damaged this country.
5. Support Marijuana Legalization.
There is no doubt in my mind if Republicans push this cause, their ranks of young voters would increase exponentially. It’s also the right thing to do. Americans are ready for legalization for numerous reasons. The GOP would be cutting edge if they led the charge.
6. Stop Being Hostile to Social Programs.
I understand people’s frustration with abuses to the system. But those abuses happen at the top as well as the bottom. And corporate welfare is much more costly, than those phantom individuals Republicans point to as “welfare queens” jobbing the system. Rather than insist on eradication of social programs outright, take a kinder, gentler approach. Talk about the rampant abuses of the system and reform them. But here’s the radical idea: start at the top. Address corporate welfare abuses first, then address abuses at the bottom. This also means dropping drug testing requirements for welfare recipients. You can’t honestly call yourself the party of smaller government when you’re adding a costly layer of government that is intrusive of one’s right to privacy as well as being a solution without a problem.
7. End Voter Suppression.
The jig is up, Republicans. Everyone’s wise to the game and now it’s time to work with Democrats to really and truly make voting more accessible and more efficient. This is one of government’s jobs and it shouldn’t be in the business of limiting voting. When you look at the current population, compared to even 10 years ago, it’s evident that voting has to change. You can’t expect a system that worked in, say, 1976 to achieve the same results in 2012 when you have 40 million more people going to the polls. Once again, arithmetic leads to that conclusion.
Look, I know it’s a lot to consider, but it’s not like I’m asking Republicans to abandon their core beliefs of smaller government, pro-business and lower taxes. But it’s time to rethink the effectiveness of leading with your most extreme positions and politicians. The voters have clearly spoken. They don’t dislike Republicans, but they sure aren’t crazy about people like Todd Akin, Michelle Bachmann, Richard Mourdock, Joe Walsh and Allen West.
The sooner you move back into reality, the better. Otherwise, with every step to the hardline, you’re just making it that much more challenging to change the electoral map.