If the 2012 election proved anything, it’s this – conventional wisdom was turned on its head about many things in American politics, and unless it adapts, the GOP may no longer be capable of winning national elections.
Republicans not only lost the White House, they lost seats in the US Senate when a year ago the expectation was they would control that chamber after the election, and they lost seats, as well as losing the total popular vote among all races, for the House of Representatives. And it wasn't Hurricane Sandy and the embrace of the gregarious Mr. Christie that swung the election to President Obama. So what exactly happened on November 6, 2012, and what did we learn?
First off, truth matters. Just when it looked like the American people were about to fall for a Liar in Chief in the White House, we renewed ourselves by rejecting the politics of half truths and lies. Mitt Romney told so many lies it was hard to keep track. His campaign was like a job creator for fact checkers. Perhaps the most egregious lie was his claim that Jeep was moving jobs out of Ohio and into China. Even Chrysler executives called him out on that one and the ad did more damage in Ohio than good. Romney was never going to win Ohio but the Jeep ad sealed the deal. If voters don’t trust you, chances are they won’t vote for you.
Inclusion is in and exclusion is out. Being a big tent party is more than just a cliché. No longer can you run a campaign by turning away half the American voters by dismissing them as dependents mooching off the system and unwilling to take personal responsibility over their lives. Romney’s 47% comments were offensive and not just to the so called 47%.
If you’re not inclusive, you’re exclusive – and the Republican Party has been exclusive and elitist for an entire generation, which is why that party has lost the popular vote of the American people in five of the last six presidential elections. Exit polls on November 6th confirmed voters felt Romney’s policies would favor the rich while Obama was looking out for the middle class. America doesn't much care for elitists.
How about those American youth. I recall a blog post earlier in 2012 that claimed that the romance between Obama and America’s youth was nothing but a passing fad on its way out like last season’s fashions. The youth of America had woken up and would not be voting for Obama this year. How wrong this prediction would turn out to be. As it turns out, the young people of America (18-29 year olds) not only stuck with President Obama by giving him 60% of their votes, they turned out in larger numbers than in 2008, while turnout among older Americans was actually down.
The youth of America know that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have the right policies on the economy, on making college affordable and on equality, which they overwhelmingly support, and they responded with their votes. Romney asserts that America’s young voters were bribed with gifts when in reality they simply voted for the candidate who they are most aligned with on the issues that are most important to them.
Speaking of equality, the election of 2012 saw a sea change with historic votes in favor of marriage equality in Washington State, Minnesota, Maryland and Maine. America’s long march toward fulfillment of the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence took a major leap forward on November 6th when these states fought back the forces of bigotry and hate.
America post November 6, 2012, more resembles that nation described in the Declaration of Independence: a nation where “all men are created equal,” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Like it or not, marriage equality and the fundamental rights granted to married citizens regardless of sexual orientation, must be part of that compact. The voters on November 6th agreed and in the process served notice to the intolerant religious right that their time as the dominating force in American elections is coming to an end.
For far too long, the forces of religious bigotry and intolerance have held sway over American politics. It’s about time the American people put a stop to this. Respect for religious beliefs is a bedrock foundation of American life. However, no longer should we tolerate religious-based bigotry and discrimination. If you believe that all men are created equal, if you believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, if you believe in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then surely you must agree that no citizen of this nation should be excluded from the rights guaranteed by those documents.
The Declaration of Independence did not discriminate when it said “all men are created equal.” That’s not a concept that should be all that difficult to understand, regardless of your choice of religious beliefs. Respecting religion in America is one thing, but it’s about time we stopped forcing our religious beliefs on others. That’s not the role of government.
We also learned on Election Day that the Republican’s default view of how to win a national election will never again work in the United States. Nixon’s Southern Strategy is dead…bury it along with the failed remnants of a party that for far too long has sought to divide America racially. If the Republican Party wants to win elections again, it would be wise to make a few changes. The party needs to learn to tolerate people who look differently than they do. The party needs to learn to tolerate people who believe differently than they do.
But the GOP has to do another thing as well. The party needs to learn to tolerate people who think differently than they do. The hard right Republican message of fear-based intolerance of all things different must change – and if it does not, the Grand Old Party will cease to exist.
Republicans learned a hard lesson on November 6 – the world is changing. Change with it or risk political irrelevance. You cannot ignore the needs and beliefs of minorities and expect to be taken seriously by minority voters. You cannot ignore the needs and beliefs of women and expect to be taken seriously by women voters. You cannot ignore the needs and beliefs of immigrants and expect to be taken seriously by immigrant voters. You cannot ignore the needs and beliefs of the LGBT community and expect to be taken seriously by gay voters. You can't continue to be an exclusive, exclusionary political party who's ideas and policies are stuck in the last century.
These are hard lessons for the hard right to absorb. Changing messengers and tactics likely won’t cut it. The American people have spoken. They have rejected the world view of the Tea Party and have put an end to the politics of intolerance, exclusion and elitism.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
And I feel fine.