The election is over and FOX News has been left scratching its collective head trying to figure out how something they were so sure of could fail as strongly as it did. The Five debated the possibilities, none of which focused on any real shortcomings of their party. Karl Rove was pretty clear on election night that he would not admit to what his own station had already projected, even though the math was against him. You might ask, “what reasons would FOX News blame the election result on?”
The first reason they highlighted was the difference in the way that both candidates targeted the swing states. In some ways, they were right that Obama did a better job at campaigning, winning all but one of the swing states (NC). Still, Romney poured a ton of money into each of them and even made last ditch efforts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Though the margins for some of them were not huge, Obama did not even need to win all of them to win the re-election. Romney’s campaign was not hurting for money and did not slouch in most of the swing states, so this is a bit of a wash of an argument.
The second reason was in the clarity of their policies. The truth is that Republicans and Democrats have distinctly different views on the economy. While it was interesting for Romney to take such a similar stance to Obama on foreign policy, the fight remained in the arena of how to recover from the recession and prevent another one. Obama may not have articulated a full plan with full details, but his plan is articulated through the actions he has taken in his 1st four years and the slow but steady growth of the economy back from the brink. Romney never clearly articulated anything. It was not all his fault, but I will get into that later.
The third reason was the battle with the changing demographics. Romney never made a good play with the Hispanic population, as he was tough on immigration and changed his position on the Dream Act. Women voted strongly for Obama as well, partially because of the strong push for equal status and the GOP’s failure to keep their candidates from sounding like sexist monsters. The young vote was also another area the Republicans failed. Though FOX News would claim that young people are voting against their future, the GOP has also failed to find a way to get beyond their overly conservative social views that do not match with the evolving social perspective of the youth vote.
Related to the changing demographics, there is a strong sentiment from the conservative viewpoint that the diverse people in the US are not true Americans. There is this strange fear that the “growing desire for entitlements” will kill the economy. While people do like things for free, the Obama policies are not about giving away free stuff, but rather to provide opportunity to those who are commonly disenfranchised and neglected. Romney did not try to exploit that perspective too much but the 47% comment that swept the media certainly struck a divide among the electorate.
The items above are the ones that FOX News has been trying to tell themselves were the causes of the Republican defeat, but there are more significant reasons that I have identified (some of which are explained in my descriptions above).
The biggest reason why the Republicans lost was that the election was more about a referendum on Obama than it was about Obama versus Romney. Obama’s record was on the line and the American public was divided with a slight edge to giving him another four years. Romney did not stand as much of a chance when he failed to promote a competing agenda, since people would rather stick with something they better understand than no plan at all. I have equated the difference in their plans to the concept of the tortoise versus the hare. Romney was asking for swift change and repealing everything from Obama’s first term (much like the hare). Obama’s record has shown improvement in the economy (just not to the degree that he promised in 2008). Still, there has been progress and it has been slow and steady (like the tortoise). The financial cliff is upon us with the end of the Bush tax cuts, but with neither candidate talking about how they would resolve the issue, experience at the larger scale in the political realm won out.
Romney’s second major issue was his image. This was not as simple as talking about a conservative mindset or his Mormon faith. Neither of those identity characteristics were automatic deterrents. Romney took his role as the governor of Massachusetts from a more moderate perspective, while working with a liberal government. When he entered the primaries, he was still somewhat moderate leaning, and periodically strongly moderate in comparison to some of his ultra-conservative opponents. There was little excitement about his eventual win the primaries because he seemed like the safe choice to at least represent the ideals of the party but not ignite a spark in the independents. He also came out of the primaries having been beaten up by the other Republican candidates, particularly when he started to take a lead in the polls. When he was finally the chosen representative, he moved further to the right, alienating many of the non-white parts of the populations and taking on the negative identity of his party’s attitudes toward women (whether purposeful or not). Ultimately, he never maintained consistency in his presence and failed to draw excitement away from a candidate that had previously ran on hope and change and was now tempered by the realities of holding the position.
The next big issue was Paul Ryan and the congressional candidates. In simply terms, they all cost Romney votes. Paul Ryan was a strange choice because he was not talked about until the last minute and then disappeared throughout the remainder of the campaign, except for a couple of campaign stops and the VP debate. His conservative views may have fired up the stronger conservative base, but there was little likability and trust he projected toward the independent and questioning democratic voters. He was slightly better than Sarah Palin but only because he was less of a caricature. The congressional candidates seemed to fizzle out near the end of the campaign process because of their inability to avoid offending women.
The fallout from this election is that Republican party is in trouble of becoming obsolete. The agenda seems to be lacking in an understanding of the true makeup of the American people and the importance of the country’s role in the greater global arena. Meghan McCain is one of the few bright spots in the party at the moment because she can look beyond the social issues that hold the party back from gaining an open ear from independent and liberal Americans. She recognizes that there are inconsistencies in the way that her party supports equality. She almost takes a more Libertarian stance but has not had enough airtime to truly articulate how she would change the image of the party. Regardless of her limited media attention, the rest of the party needs to consider that they will continue to fall short of the popular vote and the continually changing demographics if they fail to meet the needs of their constituents.
Without getting into it since it is implied in much of the dialogue above, the Republican party also needs to separate themselves from the Tea party. Extremist views and a lack of context quickly alienate the entire philosophy from getting recognized beyond their small circle. If we wanted to go back to an age of slavery, subservient women and hatred toward anyone who is not white, then the Tea party would be more popular. Racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and heterosexism are real issues in today’s society, even if they do not take place in the form of rape, murder and violence (though even this still exists). Shouting obscenities on Facebook and Twitter is an example of the new age of oppression. Screaming that reverse racism is hurting this country ignores the fact that the white race still holds the power, regardless of the race of the man in charge. There is a privilege that goes with dominant identities and the GOP is a screaming example of all of them. If you do not believe me, the voter breakdown of who cast the majority of the votes for each candidates gave Romney only the white vote. The vast majority of his votes were from white Americans, while Obama was able to pick up enough of a base of white Americans while also winning the Black, Latino and Asian American constituents.
The Republican party needs to evolve in more ways than they can even accept at the moment and FOX News will do little to help promote a fair and balanced way to do it. Denial will continue to be the name of the game, at least until the politicians or the American people can stand up and demand that our representatives come together. A 13% approval rating for Congress (with a Republican majrity in the House) seems a lot worse than a 49% approval rating for the president.
Here is one more treat…