Hey GOP, here’s some friendly advice. You know that diverse coalition that carried President Obama to victory (not to mention sending a number of progressives to the Senate, and delivering an across-the-board victory for marriage equality)? The one that conservatives like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly have complained about since the election? The truth is, they’re just not that into you.
There’s a good reason for that. You’ve gone out of your way to show that you’re just not that into them.
In other words: It’s not them. It’s you.
The thing is, Republicans, it looks like you haven’t learned anything from the 2012 election. You’re still asking yourselves the wrong question. You’re asking “Why don’t more Blacks/Latinos/gays/young people/women vote fur us?”(OK, maybe you’re not asking that so much about gays. But you should, and I’ll explain why in a bit.) Instead you should be asking “Why have we failed apply our values and principles to address their concerns?”
They’re Just Not That Into You
Let’s break this down, based on exit surveys.
- Obama won the Latino vote by a 3 to1 margin, with 73% of the Latino vote. That’s up from 67% in 2008. On the other hand, you guys lost 17% of the Latino vote, compared to 2004.
- Obama won 70% of the Asian American vote. Twenty years ago, Asian Americans voted Republican 2 to 1.
- Obama won 93% of the African American vote, doing at least as well, if not better, with African American voters than he did in 2008. Despite attempts at voter suppression and long lines at polling places, African American voters turned out in big numbers, and played a big part in Obama’s reelection.
- Forty percent of white voters backed Obama, while Romney only gained 3% of the white vote over what McCain got in 2004. Even though 88% of Romney voters were white, a lot of white voters didn’t want him in the White House.
- Obama won 67% of the women’s vote, compared to 55% in 2008. It wasn’t just single women either. Women who are”married, with children” backed Obama 56% to 43%.
- Obama won 77% of the gay vote. While they only make up about 5% of the electorate, gay voters were crucial to Obama’s victory — and a growing number of voters identify themselves as gay.
- Obama won 60 percent of the youth vote, which was crucial to his victories in a number of swing states.
Time for some hard truth. It wasn’t hurricane Sandy’s fault. It wasn’t Chris Christie’s fault. You can’t lay the blame solely on “urban voters” who “want stuff,” President Obama handing out more “gifts” than “Santa Claus,” Mitt Romney being a terrible candidate, the Romney campaign’s “bad messaging,” the wrath of God, ORCA, or Karl Rove selling your party and movement a $300 million bill of goods.
Sorry, Republicans, but you have only yourselves to blame for this.
You Were Never That Into Them
The reason that African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Women, gays, young people and a whole lot of white people didn’t vote for your party is simple. You spent much of the last four years insulting these groups with your rhetoric, and adding injury to insult with your policies. The biggest surprise after your shock at losing the election is your anger at all of these groups for not voting Republican. Your expectation that any of these groups would vote your way, and apparent belief that you’d given them any reason to do so, is beyond mystifying.
Let’s unpack this piece by piece:
- Immigration: Passing odious anti-immigration laws in Republican-controlled states like Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi did not do you any favors with Latinos or Asians, who favor comprehensive immigration reform. Nor did it do much good when prominent conservatives like one-time front-runner Herman Cain (Remember him?) advocated erecting an electrified fence at the U.S./Mexico border. It doesn’t help that the worst state and local politicians on immigration are almost all Republicans. The DREAM Act offered undocumented young people who showed a desire to work hard and get an education a path to citizenship. Republicans gleefully shut it down. As if that wasn’t enough, you hammered an anti-immigration plank right into your party platform. And one of your own Latina delegates couldn’t even address your convention, because she was drowned out by chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A!” until the party chairman restored some semblance of order.
- Contraception: When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” after the Georgetown law student was denied the chance to speak at a congressional hearing about the Obama administration’s contraception policy, women voters watched as Republicans actually came to Limbaugh’s defense. Women voters listened as GOP presidential hopefuls like Rick Santorum spoke out against contraception, and Santorum’s donor Foster Freiss recommended that women place aspirin between their legs, while Mitt Romney was deliberately vagueon the issue.
- Choice:The contraception debacle was bad enough. Then it turned out the GOP had nominated a raft of Senate candidates who couldn’t stop talking about rape and abortion, in the worst possible ways. They all lost.
- Race: As if the constant slurs against the president’s citizenship weren’t enough, many of you guys seemed to have dog-whistles permanently lodged in your throats. Newt Gingrich surged to front-runner status almost solely based on his not-so-subtle race bating. Rick Santorum mumbled about “blah people” in Iowa, but doubled down on race and “values” in the South Carolina debate. Republicans seemed to go out of their way to depict African-Americans as lazy, welfare-dependent drones who vote Democratic in order to keep the gravy train running.
- Education:Young people across the country were graduating off a cliff, into a dismal job market, while burdened by crushing debt. They called out for relief, and asked for Congress to keep the interest rates on their student loans from increasing. Republicans told them to “drop dead.” Romney made it clear there would be no forgiveness of loans under a Romney administration, and his best advice to students was to borrow money from their parents.
- Vote Suppression: Having already made it clear that you didn’t much want African American voters, Republicans went one step further by passing laws in multiple states to keep as many African Americans as possible from voting — not to mention Latinos , poor people, the elderly, and young people. As the numbers above show, that strategy backfired on you. Instead of suppressing the vote, you awakened a big, brown sleeping giant, and made the very people you tried to disenfranchise even more determined to vote — and to vote against you. No wonder the sight of large numbers of African Americans lining up to vote was cause for alarm to GOP “poll watchers.”
- Gays: You lost on two fronts here. First, your treatment of gays in your own party isn’t exactly inspiring. The loyalty gay conservative groups like GOProud and Log Cabin — both of which endorsed Romney/Ryan —showed the Republican party was unreciprocated, to put it mildly. When I covered CPAC last year, it was encouraging to at least see that a group like GOProud not only had a presence at the conference, but was listed as a co-sponsor. This year, GOProud was purged from CPAC, deemed “incompatible” with conservative principles. (White nationalists were welcomed.) Likewise, while Ann Romney highlighted her “real” marriage to Mitt Romney from the stage of the GOP convention, gay conservatives were relegated to holding their own separate-and-unequal “Homocon” soiree, in support of a party that made opposition to marriage equality an important part of its platform. Second, your presidential candidate had nothing to say gay voters about why they should vote for him.
- Culture Warriors: Your faithful culture warriors went AWOL. White working-class voters were disinterested in culture war issues, and instead displayed a strong tendency towards economic populism. A majority of Black and Latino voters said they supported marriage equality in their states.
Your Talk vs. Your Walk
After Mitt Romney made it clear that he meant what he’d said about 47% of Americans, something that most of the rest of us learned in grade school dawned upon Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the Republican Party needs to go back to basics to attract the broad coalition of voters credited with putting President Barack Obama back in the White House.
“If we want people to like us, we have to like them first,” Jindal said on Fox News Sunday.
… Jindal, the incoming chair of the Republican Governors Association and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, on Sunday said slighting people simply isn’t good politics.
“You don’t start to like people by insulting them and saying their votes were bought. We are an aspirational party,” he said.
Jindal said the Republican Party needs to convince voters it is the party of the middle class and upward mobility. Its conservative principles “are good for every single voter” and it “has to campaign for every single vote,” he added.
That’s a good start, but there are still a couple of problems.
First, let’s be honest about the nature of the insult. It starts, as I said before, with you guys asking yourselves the wrong question.
It occurred to me that I’d heard the kind of stuff before, most recently in the comments resulting from a brouhaha that recently broke out about the portrayal of certain black Republicans. It’s the same basic rhetoric I’ve heard in just about every discussion I’ve been involved in over why there aren’t more Black Republicans. My point has always been that Republicans — like other predominantly white organizations — spend more time asking why more black people aren’t joining them than they do asking themselves why they aren’t attracting more black supporters.
In other words, they avoid the reality that the reason they don’t attract more black supporters is because they don’t address — and aren’t seen as addressing — the needs and concerns of many in black communities. The analysis never gets further than that because it would probably undermine their current base of power. So every discussion I’ve had ends up with the other side’s argument boiling down to this: the reason more blacks don’t support the Republican party is because they don’t know what’s good for them.
That’s the nice way of putting it. The more blunt way of putting it would be much closer to the way the conservative blogger above put it. Because they are dumb. The blacks who don’t vote Republican are dumb. The anti-Bush supporters in Latin America — or anyone else in Latin America who doesn’t support the U.S. Agenda — is dumb. The folks marching against Bush and the U.S. agenda in Latin America just don’t know what’s good for them.
Or do they?
You guys repeated that insult to just about every group mentioned above, over and over again. When Mitt Romney told NAACP members, “I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart… you would vote for me for president,” he was basically saying to African Americans, “If you knew what was good for you, you’d vote for me.” Or, more bluntly, “You’d vote for me, if you weren’t so dumb.” Ann Romney lectured Latino voters about what what good for them, and told women voters they need to “wake up” and realize what was best for them.
Not doing stuff like that would be a good first step. But if you guys think all you have to do is change your tone, then you still aren’t getting it.
Republicans said they also have work to do with single women and younger voters, many of whom tend to be more liberal on social issues than the current Republican Party. These Republicans said a change in tone is needed, though not a change in principles such as opposition to abortion.
“We need to make sure that we’re not perceived as intolerant,” said Ron Kaufman, a veteran Republican strategist who advised Romney’s campaign. “The bottom line is we were perceived to be intolerant on some issues. And tone-deaf on others.”
Democrats were successful with Latinos, African Americans, Asians, gays, young people, and a considerable chunk of white voters because they didn’t have to change their tone or their principles to reach out to these constituencies. They won support from these constituencies, because voters could see that Democrats’ walk matched their talk.
On a range of issues including health care, education, immigration, reproductive choice, equal pay, and LGBT equality the President Obama and the Democratic party made a convincing case that they shared and prioritized the concerns of the groups that ultimately comprised their winning coalition. Then they backed it up with movement on specific policies. No constituency was completely satisfied, either. Some thought the Democrats’ efforts on policy didn’t go far enough, or were too long in coming. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough.
It wasn’t the transactional politics many Republicans have described, but transformational politics in progress.
A final point: President Obama backing the DREAM Act or contraception coverage is not a nakedly political gesture, it is a matter of policy difference. Addressing the needs and desires of people is not a bribe or a government gift to be exchanged for a vote. It is part of the purpose of representative government as conservative forefather Edmund Burke himself once envisioned: “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.”
Romney’s distance from this perspective about government shows how far the conservative conversation has drifted from original principles. His impulse to rationalize defeat as victory for liberal special-interest bribery shows again that it is probably best for the country that he was not elected president this November.
The voters in the diverse coalition that rewarded president Obama with reelection, and Democrats with gains in the the Senate and the House, did not vote as they did because of “bribes” or “gifts.” They made judgements based on how government had helped them, and thus would help others, because they believed that’s what government should be about “addressing the needs and desires of people.”
If Republicans think that these groups were merely put off by your “tone,” you guys are fooling yourselves even more than you want to fool voters. Your “tone” in this election only confirmed what women, youth, and minority voters suspected all along. Without a record of even attempting to address their concerns through policies that jibe with your principles, these voters will see right through you.
Your walk won’t match your talk, and it will show. Voters will know that you’re still not that into them, and they won’t be remotely into you.