Republicans Miss the Mark; Then They Miss the Point

Since Tuesday, I have heard conservatives rail that the reason Obama won a second term is because Americans have become dependent on the government, and these Americans simply cannot imagine their lives without a monthly welfare check. In essence, America has chosen a free hand-out instead of hard work and initiative; a welfare check over the American dream. Lots of problems with this.

First, only 4.4 million Americans—or 1.4% of the population—receive federal welfare. (Republicans like to broaden this number to include Social Security and Medicare. This is of course entirely misleading for the reason that we pay into these programs.) So any idea that the American electorate voted for Obama because they wanted their welfare checks is simply untrue and draws attention away from the real issue. It’s also worth noting that the majority of Americans who receive Social Security and Medicare (what Republicans refer to as welfare) voted for Romney.

The bigger injustice here is that Republicans are blaming their loss on factors outside of themselves. They blame the “Nanny State;” they blame Hurricane Sandy; they blame the so-called liberal media; they blame Governor Chris Christie; they blame the Tea Party; they blame two senators who made incendiary comments about rape; they blame their inferior ground game; they blame low turnout from their base; they blame Obama’s negative ads for suppressing the vote; they blame Romney for not having dark enough skin. But all of these conclusions miss the mark. The Republicans lost because they continued to peddle the same empty message.

The Republican Party again ran on the ideas that: (1) Reducing taxes for the rich will create jobs; (2) Less regulation of business will lead to economic prosperity; (3) The Republican Party is the party of fiscal responsibility; and (4) The Bible dictates social and moral issues (e.g. gay marriage, abortion, contraception).

Mitt Romney and the Republican Party assumed the American people would forget that trickle-down economics has never worked and proved to be disastrous under George W. Bush. They assumed the American people would forget that lack of business oversight is what lead to the 2008 economic collapse. They assumed the American people would forget that George W. Bush never had a balanced budget, despite inheriting a budget surplus. And they assumed the American people would forget that gay rights and women’s rights are civil rights. They assumed incorrectly.

It also didn’t help that the Republican Party selected the physical embodiment of what most Americans see as the problem with America: a rich, out-of-touch, white man who made his millions off the backs of struggling Americans. Al Cardenas, longtime GOP leader and the head of the American Conservative Union said after the election that the Republican Party is “too old, too white and too male.” Looking at the exit polls, it’s difficult to disagree with him.

The conservative ideas pushed in this election were no different than what we heard from Reagan in ’80 and ‘84, Bush in ’88 and ‘92, Bob Dole in ‘96, Bush in ’00 and ‘04, and John McCain in ‘08. We can go back even further and look at the Republican campaign promises from Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and William McKinley. It’s the same song and dance. The only difference this time is the dancer happened to be Mormon and have good hair.

It would be great if the Republican Party changed their message and adopted positions that take into account the rights of women, racial minorities, and the LGBT community. But we know the Republicans won’t change. In 2014 and 2016 they will no doubt pull out the same tired talking points about cutting taxes for our job creators and the dangers of government oversight in the business sector. The only difference is they will most likely find a woman or a racial minority to spew it.

– Nathan


4 Responses to “Republicans Miss the Mark; Then They Miss the Point”

  1. I couldn’t agree more that the Republican party has totally missed the point here. I’ve been saying this for about a year now. Both the liberal and conservative agendas get distorted, either by political pundits or other media, and these distortions circulate throughout the respective demographics. Liberals, by and large, do not have an accurate view of the conservative agenda, nor do most conservatives have an accurate view of the liberal side. A huge difference, as I noted while watching the Democratic National Convention, is that liberals are doing a much better job of addressing these distortions in public forums. The message is very clear.

    The Republican party continues to trot out the same message as it did 30 years ago, blind to the fact that the underlying ideas are no longer as clear as they perhaps were back then. (Maybe they weren’t clear then either- I was 6). As a result, the distorted analysis of this message is the only one that really gets any airplay. Even most of the conservative pundits speak as if everyone really understands what the underlying philosophy is, but it just isn’t the case anymore. As a result, most liberals (ie. the next generation of voters) really believe that the conservative agenda is designed to keep the rich richer and the poor poorer, that we hate the gays, that we don’t give a rat’s ass about women who get abortions, and the like. Neither I nor any conservative I know actually thinks these things, but I can hardly blame you for thinking that we do, because the message that comes out gives you no reason to believe otherwise.

    The approach needs to change. The far right is in such a state of panic about socialism that they’re doing more harm than good (see: Tea Party). The underlying philosophy could actually remain the same, but it’s as if the right has boiled everything down to a set of principles that don’t take into consideration the real people involved in these issues. It’s become this mindless robotic mantra instead of a real human approach to solving real human problems. It’s extremely frustrating to me as a conservative because it really doesn’t need to be that way, and it’s so self defeating.

    I don’t think it’s necessary for the right to become less conservative. But it’s absolutely imperative that conservatives in the public eye wake up and realize that the message just isn’t being clearly and effectively stated. If capitalism is going to endure, then capitalists are going to have to save it, and the way to do that is NOT through the acquisition of more wealth; if “strict constitutionalism” is going to endure, then constitutionalists are going to have to save it, and the way to do that is NOT by hammering people with blind principles.

    There are a few other obvious little things that the GOP needs to do to make a serious run in 2016, but I agree, the biggest change needs to be in the message.

    • Joel – you’re asking a party whose platform is built on absolutes (no raising taxes, ever, under any circumstance/abortion must be outlawed/regulation is always bad) to embrace nuance. Color me skeptical.
      And I don’t mean any of that as an insult to Republicans. Just an observation that conservatives seem more at home philosophically when issues are described in black-and-white terms. They don’t tend to do gray.

      • Well, a boy can always dream… 🙂

        Seriously though, I believe it could happen. Not to open a can of worms or start a debate, but I am the most vehement opponent of abortion you will ever meet. Yet I also understand that if we simply pull the plug on abortion, the fallout would be tremendous. There has to be a framework for change–adoption has to be much easier and cheaper, we have to have sufficient care for single mothers…just because abortion is murder doesn’t mean there aren’t real people with real problems involved. If I can understand that, so can the guys running for office. Same goes for health care, welfare, taxes,… All the issues and concerns that get batted around have real ramifications for real people.

        And the fact is that conservatives know this, or at least, all the conservatives I know do. But it’s not being said. The result is that they just end up preaching to the choir, cuz no one else wants to listen. Totally out of touch with how to appeal to the next generation of voters.

  2. Mark it down now…2016: Strong social/”fiscal” conservative who is left on immigration in an attempt to win the Latino vote (i.e., Rubio). That will be the only change in their platform and I predict they will get more radical in other areas to resolve their cognitive dissonance.

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