Obama Won On Ideas, Not Demographics
GOP's 'president pandered' argument a loser
Since Barack Obama won re-election, many Republicans have have offered up a number of different reasons about why the GOP took a good, old-fashioned butt kicking last Tuesday. With President Obama winning 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206, right-wing and conservative pundits have blamed the loss on everything from Mitt Romney's faux-conservative stance, to the “Sandy and Chris” Show that effectively shut Romney out of national press for a week, while giving Obama the perfect platform to “look presidential.”
The loss was so catastrophic and so unanticipated that Mitt Romney didn’t even write a concession speech.
While on the “Today” show on Monday, conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich said that he was “dumbfounded” by the President’s win, and how he beat Romney more handedly than he did John McCain in 2008. The former Republican Speaker of the House went on to say "I was wrong last week, as was virtually every major Republican analyst. And so, you have to stop and say to yourself, if I was that far off, what do I need to learn to better understand America?"
Newsweek columnist David Frum had a different take on last week’s events, suggesting the right-leaning electorate has been hoodwinked by the “conservative entertainment complex” that ostensibly include the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Dick Morris, both of whom predicted a Romney win, or in Morris’ case, a “landslide” win.
New York Times blogger and numbers guru Nate Silver called it right, and if you’re a believer in math and reason, it was all right there to see. The majority of polls that saw Obama heading toward reelection reflected a very different demographic set than what Obama and John McCain were dealing with four years ago, with the number of Latinos increasing, and the influence of the white vote shrinking. Former RNC Chair Michael Steele shared on MSNBC that, every month, 50,000 Latinos turn voting age, a claim first made by another GOP pundit and which Politifact finds is "mostly true." All this suggests that this wave of 600,000 new potential voters every year had to be courted by the GOP and not ostracized and marginalized by them, as they were in the Republican primaries.
This notion of the impending “Latino Invasion” has sent many in the GOP recoiling in fear at the loss of the white majority, and with it Republican control of anything but a handful of state houses in 20 years. Many on the right looked at the 2012 electorate that won eight of nine battleground states, including Florida, Ohio and even Virginia for Obama, and suggested that the GOP might just be too old, too white, and too male.
This superficiality will continue to hurt the GOP, unless they can break through this simplified assessment of the “other” and grasp that the truth isn’t nearly as simple as black and white. Yes, Obama won with a very high black and record Latino turnout, but the large majority of those people didn’t come out of some kind of minority solidarity with the black guy, they came out because of a powerful slate of policies that attended to their needs. From his Dream Act-lite to the Affordable Care Act, Obama won because of his progressive and inclusive ideological positions. He won Florida for the same reason Allen West lost Florida, because he appealed to a wider swath of voters and peddled inclusion versus exclusion.
Following last week’s election, hyper-right leaning Rush Limbaugh argued that conservatism "did not lose last night" and that President Obama’s early painting of Romney-as-Richie Rich was the reason for the loss.
"The usual suspects are out, and they're saying, 'Rush, we gotta reach out now to the Hispanics and reach out to the minorities, blacks,'" he said. “Okay, let me remind you of something. Let me take you back to the Republican convention. We had Suzanne Martinez, female Hispanic governor, New Mexico. We had Condoleezza Rice, African American, former secretary of state.”
As far off as Limbaugh seems to be in his ideological isolation, his assessment of the issues of Tuesday had more than a grain of truth in them. Simply bringing out a cadre of non-white faces to give the impression of diversity doesn’t attend to real issues with the 2012 iteration of the Republican Party. If it continues to look at the needs of blacks, women and Latinos as simple monolithic voting blocs to be snared for electoral wins, the GOP will fast become a marginalized group of politicos. In order to remain relevant, the Republican Party must trot out not a diversity of faces, but a diversity of ideas.