So, after defeat by a president with a questionable second half of his term, in a weak economy, under circumstances that would have defeated most other presidents, Republicans are understandably pissed. How will the Republican Party seek to redefine themselves this time? Have they figured out what ruined their chances? Do they think it was their candidate, or their message? They have a lot of theories, some as insane as thinking that Romney was not conservative enough. Some as logical as looking at the demographic shift. Others blaming the fickle hand of mother nature. And a few looking at the issues themselves and the cities where Democrats won.
Let me offer a hypothesis:
A lot of people did not vote for Obama – they voted against Conservative ideology.
There were a lot of things about Romney that voters didn’t like. Flip-flopping on major issues was one of them, but not the largest factors by a long shot. Immigration reform and his previous statements regarding immigration were factors for many people. His anti-abortion stance, while moderated, was not in line with the majority of Americans, and certain members of his party made idiotic statements regarding their views on abortion rights that alienated many women. Conservatives, as a whole, lost on a lot of points in this round. Romney won among Christian evangelicals, seniors, and under-educated white men. 57 percent of the white vote went to Romney. In the new demographic of America, that simply is not enough.
Some of us saw the opposition to Obamacare and remembered the Bush years. For eight years, the Bush administration had the opportunity to engage in health care reform and did little to nothing. Before that, Hillary Clinton tried to push health care reform and was unsuccessful during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Something still needed to be done. Republicans have blocked health care reform at nearly every opportunity. So when Obama came into office, he took up all the previously proposed Republican ideas regarding health care reform, packaged them, and crammed them through congress while he still had a Democratic majority. He knew this was his only chance to do it. And it wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise between a socialist and a capitalist health care system. It is not Canada’s health care in any way. But the Republicans were very angry because he didn’t give them any choice, and even though a lot of the ideas were theirs, they did everything they could to lampoon health care legislation, doing such a good job that even people who had no idea as to what the legislation entailed were given to hate it.
The Republicans could have embraced Obamacare, and stated that rather than repealing it, their intent was to change the legislation, streamline it, make it better. Instead they stated their clear intention to rip it out, and then selected the very candidate who had already instrumented the same ideas as Obamacare in his own state. The hypocrisy of this was evident to many.
And hypocrisy was a big part of the problem.
Romney continually criticized Obama’s economic ideas while giving little ammunition for Obama. It was a wonderful tactic, that would have worked in earlier years. He did this by creating vague concepts about what his own economic reforms would entail. He talked of closing tax loopholes without identifying which loopholes would be closed. He used the “apology tour” rhetoric, which was ridiculous as no such apologies were ever made. He refused to release more than two years of his own tax returns, while insisting his own vice presidential candidates release many more years of their own tax returns. And he claimed he was better at being bipartisan than Obama, when Obama could not work in a bipartisan manner because he was negotiating with a congress under Republicans that openly stated that their first priority was to ensure he was not re-elected. They never intended to work with him, only against him. And they’re STILL in power.
Despite Romney’s shortcomings, I think he was the right candidate for the Republicans. He was their best chance to win the election from among the candidates that ran for their party’s nomination. He was the most moderate of the extremists, the most appealing, and the least radical. The problem was not Romney as much as the platform he was given to run with. A platform that largely involved negative freedoms. Taking away a woman’s right to choose is a removal of freedom. Preventing gays from marrying is the prevention of freedom. Taking away a person’s right to healthcare is a removal of freedom. Restricting a person’s ability to become a US citizen is the prevention of freedom.
Americans don’t want restrictions, they want freedom. They want the government to either help them or get out of their way. They’re willing to pay for that help if they get what they’re paying for. Americans are willing to invest in government if they get a good return. That doesn’t mean government needs to be bigger, it just needs to be better.
Will Republicans learn this lesson and move away from restrictions? Will they figure out that what they really need to do is focus on intelligent leadership, proven methods for reducing the debt, techniques for streamlining and cutting inefficient programs? I’m certain Obama will be interested in Boehner’s ideas about cutting loopholes in the tax code to raise revenue. I’m also certain Boehner will resist any attempt to raise taxes on the wealthy. Who will act bipartisan?
When it comes to enacting new legislation that actually helps people, I fully expect the Democrats to take the lead. Republicans won’t. They are the party of no. But I expect Democrats to be sloppy when they’re working alone. When it comes to cleaning up that slop, I expect Republicans to identify the pork and cut it out. They MUST work together. But right now, the Republicans hold their ground, stick to outmoded ideals, and allow religious agendas to rule them with archaic concepts and cultural relics.
Some have said it is time for a third party. Others have said it is time for the elimination of political parties altogether. Personally, I’m in favor of either, but I don’t see either happening. In the past, it was possible, (or at least more possible), to cross the aisle and make a deal. It was possible for Republicans and Democrats to meet in the middle. This is the time we need to return to. But we can’t, because both sides are sticking to hardline concepts – the Republicans only slightly more than the Democrats.
Return to the center, Republicans. The country needs you. Look to Reagan if you have to. Did Reagan raise taxes? If you don’t know the answer to that, then look at his record.