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.

xxxoxox November 13, 2012 at 12:01 AM
What's was really amazing in this election was the degree to which the Republicans willfully accepted being lied to by political pundits and a candidate who could barely remember what he said yesterday. Carl Rove was pitiful in his attempt to deny reality when they called the election for Obama. The fact that the commentators had to walk down to interrogate their experts who declared they were 99.5% sure of their numbers bespeaks a culture where knowledge and numbers must fit the narrative or won't be believed. Too many Republicans live in a narrow world where they are fed a daily diet of baseless assertions and dubious conclusions. The fact that you went straight to Drudge is typical of this mentality and telling. Yes, liberal media bias and all but at least liberals have retained a healthy belief in math and science which helps when attempting to do things like win elections in the real world. Here's a fact, in the last two elections, Republicans have been soundly beaten by a community organizer. The Sarah Palin's of the world notwithstanding, take a lesson.
Richard Burke November 13, 2012 at 01:17 PM
As does FOX, CBS, and all the other networks ... Oxford also has it share of political pundits ... as demonstrated here on the Patch.
Will Wilkin November 13, 2012 at 01:19 PM
The perspective in this article hints at so much of what is wrong with American politics. To start, it is a partisan perspective that says "my political party is wrong on so many things but rather than abandon a party I disagree with I will still vote and campaign for it, and give advice on how to change the message so electoral victory can be achieved." But why care about electoral victories for politicians and "messages" you disagree with? I say the same thing to Dem voters --why do you care if they win and why support their candidacies if you actually don't like what they do? The answer is always the same: "the other party is even scarier!" That is a very bad political system, voting for what you don't like or don't agree with because, supposedly, the only alternative is something even worse. The truth is, the lesser evil is no longer much lesser at all.
Will Wilkin November 13, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Obama’s two "electoral victories" will be remembered as how the 1% managed to avoid rescuing the economy – and especially the tens of millions impoverished and unemployed – from the continued funneling of wealth to the top. The neoliberals Obama appointed as a majority on the Simpson-Bowles Commission already have inflated their trial balloon claiming that the government must balance the budget by slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not by restoring progressive taxation. Only a Democrat can make it politically safe for Republicans who hate the safety net to unravel it. Because as Ms. Bigelow correctly notes, "Voters get what the Republicans are saying. They just don’t like it." Part of the reason people are still legitimizing a political system that does not serve us is this partisan loyalty driving continued voting "for" one of the twin Republicrat parties despite the support being so hollow. Imagine if we only voted for what we truly support --the electoral legitimacy of both parties really would disappear and expose the American people are not being served by either.
Will Wilkin November 13, 2012 at 01:20 PM
But there is no "American people" in the political discourse today. There are "white men," "women," "hispanics," "minorities," etc --constituencies seeking some marginal perceived self-interests as opposed to us all being Americans concerned with the largest long-term issues for our nation as a whole. And those largest issues are being completely ignored and even made worse by the Republican and Democratic Parties that are both the purchased tools of the 1% essentially happy with everything as it is...except for those pesky Social Security and Medicare programs they have always opposed ideologically and, yes, as a question of self-interest for the wealthiest Americans who resent taxation.
Will Wilkin November 13, 2012 at 01:20 PM
If we thought of ourselves as Americans with a common future, we'd recognize the need to end our unsustainable trade deficits and offshoring our industries instead of continuing the "free trade" enriching the 1% at the long-term expense of national prosperity. If we thought of ourselves as Americans instead of a self-interested constituency or partisan contenders, we'd reject the politicians of both Republicrat parties who have written "terror war" laws contradicting the Bill of Rights --signed and fought for in court by Mr Lesser Evil, not any lesser at all it turns out. The future of our country is being sabotaged but the main concern of political commentators is how one of the guilty parties can "fix the message" and how both of them sould reach a "Grand Compromise" that will be exactly what the 1% want, sharply reduced SS benefit for retirees, whose wages have already been stagnant for decades and whose kids will be poorer than them.
Tanya Carver November 13, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Wow Stephen, you seem to always bring down those individuals who disagree with your point of view. Out of curiosity, I decided to check your profile and this is what states: "I work as a licensed clincial (the misspelled is on your profile btw) social worker at a mental health center in Bridgeport and have been in the mental health field for almost 20 years. I'm a registered Democrat and consider myself to be a progressive realist" Maybe that explains your negativity towards your fellow republican neighbors. I am also wondering if the place where you work is funded by the government? I have not read the full Obamacare package and wonder how this will affect you.
carol November 13, 2012 at 04:13 PM
@ Lisa Bigelow, Thank you for a facts-full article and your opinions. You seem to be rooted in the truth and I appreciate that very much. Hopefully the GOP will become a more realistic GOP in the future. All of us need a balanced approach from our government to ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place to progress our country further.


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