By Ralph Schwartz
I’m looking around for good news for Republicans in the wake of the 2012 general election, and I’m not finding much.
What a roller coaster it’s been for the GOP, ever since 2006, when it was clear that the luster on Bush’s presidency was faded and the party lost Congress. Then the economy, the bloated federal budget and the strain of two unsuccessful wars crashed all around Bush, and Obama waltzed into the White House.
The aftermath of the 2008 elections was thought of as a time of “soul searching” for the defeated Republican Party. The evangelicals were losing influence, and some pundits wondered whether the party could re-pitch its “big tent.”
Into the breach came the tea party — not so interested in social issues, but very interested in shrinking government and, perhaps just as important, ousting President Obama.
In 2010, the tea party effectively took over the House, even if in numbers it was a small minority. Paul Ryan rose from its ranks to propose a bold and austere federal budget and become Romney’s charismatic, intelligent running mate.
That’s exactly where the Republican revolution stopped, in August 2012. After that, Romney — having established his conservative bona fides — made an awkward, unconvincing move to the middle. Unfortunate statements among GOP leaders about abortion, rape and the role of women cast a pall over whatever intelligence or charisma the party’s top ticket had mustered.
Romney carried the white vote and the male vote, but none of the minority categories and not the women, who by the way are a majority.
Famously, FOX’s Bill O’Reilly said, “It’s not a traditional America anymore.”
“The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”
With all respect due to Mr. O’Reilly, it’s not so much women, Hispanics and blacks wanting things as wanting to feel included. If the Republicans are to have a future in the new America, they are going to have to change their rhetoric.
That’s not my sentiment. It’s Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union.
“Our party needs to realize that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late. Our party needs a lot of work to do if we expect to be competitive in the near future.”
The last word is from The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, whom I read regularly (even if he is a left-winger):
The United States of 2012 hasn’t turned into Scandinavia, but it isn’t the United States of 2010 and the Tea Party either. To the extent that the election was about anything more than negative advertising and relentless micro-targeting, it was a triumph of moderation over extremism, tolerance over intolerance, and the polyglot future over the monochrome past.