Mitt Romney lost the election for a number of reasons. Some are specific to him – the flipflopping, the obvious contempt for the common people, and so on. But other issues still matter for the GOP’s prospects in the next election. Here are two.
The first thing is that the GOP’s thuglike political tactics didn’t work.
They lied over and over, and Obama and the media let them get away with it for months. Romney’s Medicare lie almost cost Obama Florida. But they went for the lie a couple of times too many, on Benghazi and on Jeep, and they were publicly busted for it.
They tried 400 million dollars worth of attack ads, and the quest to retake the White House and the Senate fell flat. In fact one of the biggest targets of these ads, Sherrod Brown, still won.
And the vote suppression efforts backfired too. Minorities in Ohio and Florida realized the Republicans were trying to push them away from the polls, and they showed up in staggering numbers to ensure their votes were counted. And now the Obama-run Department of Justice is going to investigate, although the Supreme Court may make that harder by invalidating the Voting Rights Act.
But the second thing, the big one? The Republicans have been trapped in what Rachel Maddow would call a “bubble” of extremist lunacy.
Extremist delusion is what impelled them to anger women with their attacks on Sandra Fluke and Planned Parenthood, and their idiotic comments on rape; likewise their obvious self-destructive contempt for blacks, Latinos, and gays. They truly do share Romney’s belief that half the country is a bunch of lazy traitorous socialist moochers who have just voted themselves bread and circuses; they really hate half of the entire country, and they don’t mind saying so out loud.
It was extremist delusion that forced Romney to campaign as a fascist in the primaries, giving Obama plenty of Romney quotes to bring up later, and impelled Romney to choose the would-be destroyer of Medicare as his running mate. And actually Romney is the latest in a line of Republicans who were actually moderates and nice enough personally, but were forced by the party to run as nasty sneering extremists and then lose. George H. W. Bush, Dole, McCain. Pro-choice? Who, me?
It was extremist delusion that led Republicans into the quicksand of “all government is bad including FEMA”, from which they could not extricate themselves when Chris Christie was embracing Obama on the Jersey shore.
It was extremist delusion that led to the proliferation of conspiracy theories, about the evil media, about lying pollsters, faked unemployment figures, voter fraud, free phone giveaways, the unions, Nate Silver, and even Democratic vote suppression.
It is because of these foolish-sounding extremist delusions that the GOP has failed to develop a stable of credible upcoming leaders. Because the party forces its leaders to spew extremist nonsense or be expelled, they have driven away big-name moderates like Colin Powell and Mike Bloomberg, and indeed anyone who believes in facts, math, science and economics. They are forced to consider people like Trump and Cain and Bachmann and Palin to be “leaders”, and call Newt Gingrich and John McCain “statesmen”, and consider George Will an intellectual heavyweight, and Dick Morris and Karl Rove political heavyweights, and Ayn Rand a philosopher. Meanwhile the Democrats have an impressive list of potential Presidents and Senators in the wings, and can reach out to a deep bench of leaders like Bill Clinton to speak creditably at their conventions, and a dazzling array of policy experts like Elizabeth Warren who are everything Paul Ryan wants to be and never can be.
And it is this range of delusions that impels Republicans to argue that Romney would have squeaked through as president if it hadn’t been for Sandy: America really wants to ban abortion and gay marriage, and keep the tax breaks for the rich and corporations, gut the unions, mess with Medicare and Social Security, repeal Obamacare. When confronted with the fact that most of America doesn’t want those things, they insist that the “real” America does, as though they get to decide who the real Americans are. Hint: they’re white.
George Will is out there saying conservatives in America outnumber liberals two to one: America still likes us! Mark McKinnon still insists that America is a center-right nation, even though GOP presidential candidates have won the popular vote just once in twenty four years: Bush, as a wartime incumbent with a listless opponent, got a whopping 50.7 percent when he ran for reelection. Republican Senator Ron Johnson said Romney lost because the voters were just uninformed – we just need to do a better job selling our “pure” ideas to those stupid rubes! To envision the typical Republican, picture a dumb white guy who is standing in front of a restaurant, having just been hugged by the girl he thought was his girlfriend, not quite grasping that he has just been friend-zoned.
After they failed in 2008 to persuade America that an Obama presidency would mean Obama taking all your guns, raising your taxes, putting an abortion clinic on every corner and killing your grandma….They are already at it, crying wolf again. Now that Obama has been reelected, America is dead, let’s start a revolution, stock up on guns!
So they’re not going to learn the right lesson from this race. They will need to be hit in the head at least one more time, probably two. They still insist on spending all their time in that bubble, talking only to each other because everyone outside the bubble is contaminated, and tuning out everyone except Fox and Rush. And already party officials are coalescing around the notion that the problem in the Romney race was not their philosophy, but their tactical performance and their candidates.