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.

Paul M Potenza November 15, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I am pesonally torn by the abortion issue, and that is what I suppose makes it such a hot button issue for so many Americans. As a doctor, I cannot imagine witnessing the fetus fighting to save its own life. On the other hand, if there are people out there who, in essence, except in the instance of rape or medical necessity, choose to terminate their own young, then I suppose there is some Darwinian logic at work after all. An only exception to this is when the government comes in and agrees to pay for children born into situations where the parent or parents cannot afford to care for them, thus providing a perverse incentive to continue the practice. How much of taht actually goes on? I don't know, but it rubs me the wrong way as I am sure it does many parents who sacrifice out of pure love for their children and know they have to limit thier progeny to a certain number for financial reasons. If I may take a moment to sound exeedingly philosophical and archaic, I must say that we still need a voice in our political system to remind the people what has made this country the greatest on earth, and that is the words of our founding fathers. They believed in natural law and the liberty of the individual. To understand these notions is to have a firm grasp of morality and an understanding that self reliance brings the greatest rewards and leads to a sense of human dignity.
Paul M Potenza November 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
The American people no longer understand this because they are ignorant of history and unaware of the unbelieveable blessings that were given to us by the words of our Founding Fathers. Pitting class against class, expecting others to care for us, assuming that governmental control and support is the only way to get by are anathema to what this country was intended to stand for. If I am old, and out of touch with the realitis of today, then so be it. these realities have come to us by our failure to live up to the gifts we have been given. I am too old, and I have worked too hard and long to create what I have, and yes, I did build it myself. Ihope that as a nation we can somehow work our way back to the American ideals we were taught, but I am doubtful.
Kendall L Owott November 16, 2012 at 05:54 AM
A BETTER WAY Dr. Potenza/Stephanie Take a look at the Guttmacher Institute Study p 117 (link below) and note that “more than one-third of interview respondents said they had considered adoption and concluded that it was a morally unconscionable option because giving one's child away is wrong.” http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.pdf Whether you are for or against abortion, the study will convince you that some of these women have all kinds of difficult choices in their lives and are in a different class entirely from those who would abort for gender selection (family balancing) or so they would look and feel good for a Paris vacation – quoted above. The plight of some of these poor women is truly sad. The choice of death for a child rather than adoption is stark and chilling, especially when the women feel it is a more moral choice. The choice of abortion for trivial reasons like gender selection, personal pleasure or trendy appearance is even sadder, evil and narcissistic. We need to do more to help these women in a better way than to dump their flesh and blood sons and daughters like biological trash. 100% pro-choice makes no sense.
Paul M Potenza November 19, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Good point, Kendall. That is one angle I never knew of, abortion for moral reasons. We do live in a crazy world at that. I wonder how much we need to help these people, however, who as you say dump their flesh and blood like biological trash. After all, if women abort for moral or amoral reasons, they bring the plight onto themselves and perhaps they will have to answer for it some day.
J.James November 24, 2012 at 11:43 PM
A documentary came out not long ago called 12th and Delaware. In Fort Pierce, Florida there is an abortion clinic on the corner of 12th and Delaware. Directly across the street is a "Pro-Life" clinic. The film-makers set out to make a decidedly pro-life documentary. What they actually found may surprise you if you're willing to watch it. If nothing else, it may add another layer to your argument. It's a fascinating, enlightening documentary, for pro-choice and pro-life alike. I encourage anyone interested in the topic to give it a view.


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