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by William H. Benson

November 22, 2012

     Although President Obama won 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206, the popular vote was closer: 62.6 million to 59.1 million. Obama won the northeast: all the states between Minnesota and Iowa in the west to Maine in the east were blue. He won just two states in the South, Virginia and Florida, and he won the three states on the west coast, plus Hawaii. Then, in the country’s interior he won exactly three states: Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. All others were red, for Mitt Romney.

     By now the election-shocked Republicans are facing the ugly reality that they lost an election that they were so confident they would win.

     Why did Romney lose? One pundit suggested that the Republicans and their “super PAC’s” “bet on the wrong tactic.” Those, such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, spent nearly $500 million on television advertisements, but “voters said they were overwhelmed by the din of ads and tuned it all out.” Voters felt that listening to Big Brother’s steady drone on television was most unsatisfactory.

     Instead, the Obama campaign focused on the swing states’ voters and urged them to get to the polls and vote, a more personal approach that proved more effective.

     Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, observed that “Romney was an unpalatable candidate,” mainly because he and his party “made little effort not to alienate women.” Karen Hughes, George W. Bush’s former aide, said, “If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue.” Single women voted for Obama.

     Then, last summer Romney alienated the poor when he said that “47% of the American people will vote for President Obama because they are dependent upon government, believe they are victims, and expect government to care for them.” As a life-long Republican, I was most disheartened when I heard that comment. Saying that is not how one wins an election. The young and the poor voted for Obama.

     In addition, some voters saw in Romney a return to the George W. Bush days of tax cuts for the rich, un-winnable foreign wars, excessive spending, a galloping federal deficit, and an arrogant display of unilateral power that alienated the world. They said, “Never again a GWB,” and they voted for Obama.

     Romney also failed to find an economic message that would appeal across the demographic lines. Ross Douthat, another columnist, said that “Latino voters don’t relate to the current G.O.P. fixation on upper-bracket tax cuts.” So, the Latino’s voted for Obama.

     Observing this outcome, William Falk, a columnist at The Week, said that “America’s demographics are changing, and at the same time we remain a fundamentally centrist nation.” He pointed out that the young, the single, the poor, the women, and the Hispanics are no longer the outliers, stuck on the fringe, but that, “They are the authentic face of America.” Our nation is no longer just WASP men.

     Also, the American voters are skeptical of all extreme political positions, and so they tend to vote towards the center. Falk points out that late in the election, “Romney nearly caught Obama when he ran away form the ‘severely conservative’ positions he adopted during the primaries. But it was too late.”

     What can the dazed Republicans do now to revitalize their party and look forward to 2016, when   they will not be racing against an incumbent? The Republicans have four years an appealing candidate, someone without the arrogant, white-male dominating attitude, so redolent of W and Romney.

     They might find a candidate who will extricate us from the Middle East’s wars. Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine are, so said Thomas Friedman, “countries too hard to fix but too dangerous to ignore.” Such a candidate would insist that the foes and the entire region lead the way in finding solutions, and not just the United States.

     The ideal Republican candidate should urge the legislators to reform our immigration policies, discover alternatives to Obamacare, diminish the ill effects of crony capitalism, build more schools than prisons, and work towards not only balancing the budget but paying down the federal debt. This means higher taxes, less government, and entitlement reform, but those are issues we must face now or later. Now is preferable.  

     Short-term the legislators face a fiscal cliff, but long-term I think that they should climb that mountain of debt with shovels in their hands and begin digging a hole deep into it, instead of adding more to it. If any Republican would just start leveling with the American people in those kind of words, I say they would listen. They may not like it, but they would listen.

     The Republicans have four years to plan, to look deep within themselves, to re-evaluate their  conservative views, and to insist upon policies that would thwart the wild-spending legislators, that would promote family values, and that would encourage affordable education for the poor and the middle classes. It will then fall to the G.O.P. “to reform and streamline this government.”