Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Went Wrong for the GOP

A lot of space has been devoted to trying to explain what went wrong for the Republican's attempt to win the White House. They seemed to have almost everything going their way. They had an economy, that after almost four years, was still tanking; the Wallstreet bailouts/Maintstreet cop outs; they had a president whose foreign policy was proving disastrous; they had a massive national debt and sustained high unemployment. Then there was the, what I call "peripheral " issues, such as images of Obama "bowing" to a Saudi king amid undying allegations of being a "secret" Moslem working hand-in-glove to promote Anti-Jewish and Pro-Islamic causes. Claims that Obama was born in Kenya and, therefore, not eligible to be president. Then there was the claims of being a racist and all those years of attending a so-called "black liberation theology" church led by the disgraced Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The GOP had the much loathed "Obamacare" health program., also referred to as the Affordable Health Care Act. Of course, there were the usual scandals every administration seems to have these days. This election, the pundits kept telling us, was a slam dunk. So, what went wrong?

Actually, despite all that, the baggage train left the rails almost as soon as it pulled out of station. Obama's team was able to create a brand, which is rule number one in politics. Obama had to be seen as a big tent kind of guy. He had to be seen as a leader, even if he was in reality a poor one. He had to be seen a "relatable". Someone who could emphasis with the average working man or woman. This brings me to rule number 2: don't let your opponent brand you. Mitt Romney was tagged as a "super rich white dude"; not someone you'd invite over for pizza and beer or watch football with. There was an arrogance about him, intended or not. Comments about the "47%", regardless of how true or not the statement might be, did not endear him to the poor and new working poor. He was seen as a corporate pirate who dismantled companies and destroyed jobs.

On economic issues, Romney was probably more accurate, yet in politics image is everything. Romney called for severe cutbacks and tax cuts. Obama called for more government spending financed through higher taxes. People are not likely to give up perceived "entitlements" once they had them for any length of time. After all, these "entitlements" come from the coffers of the mysterious entity called "the government" and it is unlimited. Of course, these "entitlements" are not financed by money created out of thin air, nor does the government actually generate income in the general understanding of the phrase. The money comes from ordinary taxpayers and is redistributed (seized) as the government sees fit. Therefore, Obama was seen as more sympathetic while Romney was portrayed as uncaring. Even in their vocabulary, Obama came across as "working class", with occasional (and deliberate) "ghetto" references. In some cases, he even sounded at times like a stereotypical black preacher giving a sermon from a pulpit. Mitt, on the other hand, failed at sounding "ordinary". His attempt to turn a phrase sounded contrived; it lacked sincerity. Again, it made him appear unrelatable. Then there are the other issues, influenced by changing demographics, which would indicate the GOP is simply on the wrong side of. Let's take a look at some of them.

Hispanics, the fastest growing and potentially most important new demographic in the political map, came out in favor of Obama by a whopping 70%. Why? First, Obama has shown himself to a "friend" of Hispanics by refusing to enforce laws relating to illegal immigration. He ordered ceasing deportation of all but the most serious criminals. He attacked Arizona's attempt to enforce federal laws in protecting its border with Mexico. He tied the hands of Border and ICE agents. He has also circumvented the defeated "Dream Act" by executive fiat and allowed children brought here illegally to remain. In fact, most of what Obama has done regarding gutting illegal immigration has been by executive order, and thus bypassing Congress. Romney, on the other hand, sought to find ways to both protect our borders and to seek long term solutions to change the status of the estimated 12 million, mostly Hispanic, illegals in this country (his primary solution required them to return home and apply to return. A non-starter).

That blacks came out in support of Obama is a no brainer. Approximately 90% of blacks voted for Obama, not because of his economic policies (which have tended to hurt black communities) or his stance on social issues since most blacks lean conservative, but because of race, although Obama is half white. Race has emerged as that subtle factor that no one likes to talk about out of fear of being called a "racist" or some other pejorative term. The fact is, race is a factor and could continue to be a factor, especially if they next contender for president is Hispanic.

Women again proved to be a political force to be reckoned with. Women fought hard for suffrage, and have always made it a point to vote. However, they tend to vote on "family" issues, and one key issue is abortion. Americans overwhelming approve of choice regardless of their personal position on abortion (most, however, disapprove of late term abortions or abortions on demand), which most Democrats support. The Pro-Life movement dominates the Republican Party. This is another issue where the Grand Ole Party is out of touch with a majority of Americans. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, toes the GOP line while Obama backs the Democratic Party's position. Unless the Republicans expand their "tent" to allow diversity of opinion without fear retribution, they are going to continue to lose this demographic which went for Obama by 11%.

Other "family issues" that hurt Romney was his insistence on cutting social programs like school lunch programs, WIC and child welfare programs, and other taxpayer provided programs that single mother depend on as part of the bigger picture to get the budget under control. Romney's logic may be sound, but not the perception. Obama, on the other hand, reiterated his support for a broad social net, which extended to the children of illegals as well.

Finally, those under 35 came out heavily in favor of Obama. No "Alex P. Keatons" here. Most of the under 35 crowd, aka "Millennials" are non-conformist, issues oriented and high tech. Political party dogma means little. Millennials are 40% non-white, with Hispanics make up their largest segment. 75% does not adhere to organized religion. and yes, the majority believes pot should be legal. Oh, and by the way, in 2020, there will be 90 million of them compared to 64 million now. This generation has no concept of life without laptops, cell phones, or IPods. Texting is a natural as speaking to them. They also tend to operate in a "group think" world with broad and diverse social connections. One of these groups are gays and the issue of same sex marriage.

In the social conservative world of today's Republican Party, gays are considered an aberration; one not quite "acceptable". They deem "gay behavior" as a choice at best and an assault against God at worse. Although one of the largest gay political organizations is the Log Cabin Republicans, they are generally ignored. Gay marriage too is opposed by the right wing social conservatives. In most states, gay marriage (defined as a union between one man and one woman) has been defeated on ballot referendums. Civil unions which gives legal standing between same sex couples, however, seems to have strong support.

Here's where the Republicans with their religious right dominated social conservatives lose in the long run. The Millennials are the key group to replace aging Baby boomers. Gender related issues such homosexuality and same sex marriage doesn't matter to them. They see no difference between two same couples being in love and heterosexual couple being in love. Obama comes down in favor of removing sexual oriented barriers just as they do, got their support by 23%. On another key Millennialist issues, is student debt. Obama has shown a willingness to find ways to reduce the debt, such as reduced or forgiven interest payments. Mitt's position was, again, ill defined and haphazard; almost as if it never occurred to him to be a problem. Another score for Team Obama.

Lastly, as if the gods had a warped sense of humor, we had Uber-storm Sandy. Whereas George Bush Jr. had a opportunity to look presidential like Hurricane Katrina and blew it, Obama had his ducks in a row on this. He came across prepared. He acted bipartisan. He showed himself as "being presidential", that was simply something Romney could not do unless he was prepared to mount his own personally financed relief efforts (the fact that Republican Governor Christie was seen cozying up to Obama didn't help Mitt's cause either). Continued denial of global warming by conservatives doesn't help either.

There were other factors to be sure, such as the open and blatant support of Obama by the media. The conservatives were simply overwhelmed. In their Obama love fest, the media ----ABC, CBS, NBS, CNN, MSNBC, countless newspapers, radio and talk "news" shows and their on air personalities, lost all sense of impartial credibility with the public. This election completely exposed the raw Left leaning bias of the media as a propaganda tool to manipulate public perception. No amount of "investigative" reporting or "election analysis" can change that. As they say, it is what it is.

So what's next for the Grand Ole Party. Well, despite a rather congenial offer to discuss new opportunities for bipartisanship by the GOP, they immediately dug their heels in deeper. Both sides seem prepared to play chicken with our lives and are more than happy to drive the economy off the fiscal cliff in the name of archaic political dogma. The fact is while Obama does not have a mandate from the voters, neither does the Republicans and the American People, as tolerate as they are, have had enough from both sides.

On social issues, the Republican Party is completely out of touch with the majority of Americans. It's only hope is getting right with the key voting blocs---minorities (especially Hispanics), women, and young voters. To do that, it will have to jettison the right wing religious zealots which now dominate the party and fight to bring back moderates. On fiscal issues, they have to find a balance between austerity and compassion. Too often, in the name of fiscal responsibility, they seem to lose their humanity. Frankly, the Grand Ole Party lacks the willpower and foresight without new leadership, and that my friends may mean that all that is left is writing the date of its demise on its political tombstone.

Failure to attract Millennials is sinking the GOP

Millennials: Portrait of Generation Next

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