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.

not2bdenied November 10, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Gotta echo what Chris says above regarding the writers statement about 'rounding up immigrants.' No clue..in the Fox News bubble.
Joy November 10, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Great plan! It's always a good business model to automatically reduce your prospective customers and business partners by 51%. You should get right on that. Shh....here's a secret...that line of thinking will marginalize your party even further. Is the extreme far right insistent on making their party obsolete bvy 2024?
Tama November 10, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Lisa, if you yourself are admitting that the Democrats' agenda is better than the Republicans', maybe it's time to switch your alliances instead of trying to stick to some morally and socially bankrupt relic of the past that cannot survive on its own merit. Just because our forefathers owned slaves doesn't mean we have to keep paying homage to that. Think about it.
sebastian dangerfield November 10, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Chris One question for you: how do you know if they have been here as children?
sebastian dangerfield November 10, 2012 at 04:41 PM
"There are fewer illegals here than when obama took office." True. Is that a good thing? Here is my answer-- If I am a Democrat and say "its a good thing"--then , well its a good thing.. If I am a Republican and say "its a good thing-"-then it's an intolerant thing. You may wish to deny this--but I think your post is pretty proof positive. You are insinuating that having less illegals in this country is an accomplishment. But if a Republican says we should have less illegals---its not good to have illegals--, well, they are jerks. Why was Obama never asked about if he thinks illegal immigration is a problem in this country? Answer--because there is never a good answer. The press asks the Republicans--understanding the no-win situation. You can never say illegals are good and you cant say they are bad, politically. So the press only asks this tough question to the Repulbicans.


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