Whenever a student would complain to my high school English teacher about a grade, she would ask, “What can you do differently to make sure you earn a better grade on the next test?” Whenever we complained about anything, she suggested looking in the mirror first to ask ourselves what part we played in the problem before blaming others.
Five days after the 2012 elections, I’ve heard Republicans blame the nation’s demographics, the weather, Democratic attack ads (as if the G.O.P. never aired such an ad themselves) and 50% of the voters who are lazy and just want “stuff.”
I heard very little about looking in the mirror or asking what they, themselves, could do better next time. From the party who insists we all need to take personal responsibility, one would think that would be the first thing they would do.
I know political climates change often and the Republicans may win in 2016 because everyone is tired of the Democrats, but the G.O.P. might ask, “What can we do differently to earn more votes?” because if they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they will not win. They need to recognize that the majority of Americans cannot accept the far-right ideology they spout.
They cannot win by alienating women. Most women, even if they are morally against abortion, can accept abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Most women ---even a majority of Catholic women ---want access to contraception information and want their healthcare providers to cover contraceptive services. Women who are against any type of abortion or contraception are not and never would have to avail themselves of either. Those clueless Republicans who make ridiculous statements, such as those by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, now see the result of not caring about nor understanding women and/or women’s issues. Even the suggestions that there are legitimate and illegitimate rape or that rape pregnancies are a gift from God are insults to every woman in America. By not making a huge outcry, en masse, the Republicans missed an opportunity to be seen by women in a favorable light.
Republicans cannot win when they continue to dog whistle, to use code words that are offensive to specific groups, mostly blacks and other minorities. To give just one example, Romney’s advisor John Sununu called President Obama “lazy.” Did he not realize that all blacks were considered “lazy” in the deep south before the civil rights movement? He certainly could have chosen a different word that would have conveyed his thoughts rather than a word to which blacks are so sensitive. Romney's referring to 47% of Americans as “lazy” emphasizes their dog whistling ---for anyone who is not in the top 53% of wealth in this country. Paul Ryan divided the electorate into “makers” and “takers” ---code words to whip up resentment. Other code words are “welfare queens,” “urban rioters,” and “slackers.” Many of the people who these words described were white, but in the partisan world of the G.O.P., most “slackers” are assumed to be African American. Many Republicans who are the beneficiaries of government pay outs, those who receive crop subsidies or corporations who receive tax benefits for example, don’t consider that to be welfare. It’s only welfare when someone else is the recipient.
They cannot win by taking a hard-line against the government’s giving people a helping hand. Most of us know that everyone needs to take responsibility for him/herself. But, some people aren’t smart enough to do that. Others are disabled. Some find themselves in circumstances through no fault of their own, such as those with debilitating illnesses or the victims of hurricane Sandy. That doesn’t mean that we are Socialists or Communists. It just means that we are kind-hearted and empathetic. We know that, at times, some of us need help to keep from falling through government cracks. Most of us don’t want to take anything from the government, but we are comforted to know that help is there if needed. When Romney implies that 47% of us are freeloaders, those of us who have worked hard all of our lives and have never taken anything from the government took offense.
When the G.O.P. initiated state election policies requiring I.D. ---which is much harder for minorities, senior citizens, and the poor to obtain ---there was an appearance of trying to exclude these groups from voting. In PA, when the legislature was asked to give examples of voter fraud, they could not produce one example. So what are they afraid of? Those who know their history, know that in the south, all kinds of chicanery resulted in African Americans being barred from voting. People who have been oppressed have long memories.
They will not win as long as they seem to care more about the rich than the middle class or the poor. I saw a poll on NBC’s election night coverage which asked who would be helped by each candidate’s economic policies. While 29% thought Obama’s would help the poor, 0% percent thought that Romney’s would. It’s pitiful that a potential leader of our country would be perceived as having policies that would leave out an entire segment of our population. When McCain stated 4 years ago, and Romney recently agreed, that middle class income is about $250,000/year, they were so far off to be laughable.
They cannot win by continuously refusing to raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens. Everyone complains about paying taxes, but realistically most understand that they go to build roads, educate our youth, and keep us safe. Many of us who are not in dire economic straights, are even willing to pay a bit more to ensure that others have at least the minimum of necessities. Most Americans only resent paying more than their fair share.
Republicans cannot win by blaming the current economic condition entirely on Obama. Have they forgotten how much the deficit increased because of George W. Bush’s two wars and that the economy collapsed under his watch? As a nation we refused to impose regulations on an increasingly-greedy banking system. I don’t say Obama is blameless in the slow recovery, but when the G.O.P.’s main goal was to oust Obama instead of passing needed legislation and doing what was right for American citizens and the economy, they lost credibility.
They cannot win by being against something rather than for something. In 2004, many people voted against Bush rather than for Kerry. Bush won. I don't have statistics to prove it, but I am convinced that a candidate can't win when most are voting against the opponent instead of for that candidate. By being against Obama instead of giving the public strong and specific alternative proposals on key issues ---policies the country could embrace ---they defeated themselves.
Unless they begin to accept people for who they are, the G.O.P. will not win in a society in which more than 50% now accept the idea of gay marriage. In four more years, the percentage is sure to grow. Gays have been alienated by ridiculous statements from people like Mississippi state Representative Andy Gipson who have not only rejected marriage rights but have said that all gays should be executed. Statements like that from a member of a political party that embraces Christianity is despicable. Those who think homosexuals can be cured or who can pray themselves straight appear to be clueless, if not harmful.
They will not win if they continue to be hard-liners about immigration policies and treat foreigners as second-class citizens. With an ever-increasing Latino population, they will lose more and more votes to the Democrats if they don’t compromise on a humane immigration policy.
They will not win by staying to the far right of center. By pandering to ultraconservatives, they lost support from middle-of-the-road Conservatives and Liberals ---the kind of people who enthusiastically supported Reagan. In a recent poll of undecided voters, the majority supported Republican economic policies, but they feared that a Romney/Ryan White House would try to push through a social agenda born out of the Religious Right and Tea Party movements.
They will not win if they take their social stances from religious conservatives. By pandering to the Religious Right, Republicans alienated many members of mainstream Christian groups as well as non-Christians. Santorum, at times, sounded more like he was running for pope than for president. At last count 20% of the population is not affiliated with a religion. When asked why, many said that religion’s increasing interference with political issues drove them from organized religion. They don’t want to be told who to vote for from the pulpit and they don’t want religious leaders to influence political issues any more than policemen, dentists, miners, teachers, or fast-food workers.
Republicans cannot win by cozying up to people like Rush Limbaugh or Bryan Fischer, a radio talk show host and spokesman for the American Family Association. Fischer verbally attacks gays, lesbians, American Muslims, Native Americans, progressives and other groups he detests. He wants to redefine the Constitution to protect only Christians, persecute and deport all American Muslims, and prohibit gays and non-Christians from holding public office. What’s more, he wants to impose a system of biblical law ---you know, those laws that would require you to kill a disobedient child, stone an adulterer, permit you to sell your daughter into slavery or require a rapist to marry his victim. During the primaries, Republican candidates were attempting to win Fischer’s approval instead of denouncing his attitudes as un-American and un-Constitutional.
The G.O.P. will not win if they alienate young people by refusing to see that the world is changing and that attitudes have changed. When Romney stated that students should borrow money from their parents to start a business, he alienated many students, especially the children of the unemployed or working poor who cannot afford to loan money to their children for college or to start a business. As long as young voters see Republicans as out-of-touch, stodgy old men who are stuck in something akin to the Victorian era, the G.O.P. cannot win.
They cannot win by hating Big Bird. Many parents rely on PBS’s programs to help their children learn, while entertaining them. Why do Republicans fear educational television?
After 11 years of war, they can’t win by saber rattling about Iran or any other country unless there is a direct threat to the United States.
They cannot win by threatening to scrap the entire healthcare program, especially when it was based on their own candidate’s Massachusetts plan. Although the current national plan is not perfect, even the healthiest of Americans realize that, at any time, anyone might contract a devastating disease that would not be covered by an employer’s old-style plan. Without coverage, such an illness could easily bankrupt the patient or his/her family. The coverage of preexisting conditions is one of the program’s best provisions. Instead of threatening to scrap the plan, Republicans and Democrats need to work together to improve it.
They cannot win as long as their overwhelming support is from rich, old, white men, and especially those who throw millions of dollars into the Republican coffers. Despite those millions, many Democrats who pitched in $25, $50, or $100 were able to defeat Romney.
Both parties will continue to be perceived as obstructionists as long as they take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to legislation. Almost everyone hates to compromise, but in matters of state, it is a necessity. However, recent polls showed the public blames the Republicans in Congress who blocked important legislation far more than Democrats.
Currently, anyone who is a member of any (and sometimes more than one) of the groups the Republicans managed to alienate, one had the choice to vote for Obama or a minor-party candidate who had no hope of winning. In the popular vote, Obama won by only 2 percentage points. In this prolonged down economy and high unemployment, if a mere 3% of the various groups who felt alienated could have been convinced that the G.O.P. cared about and understood their problems or beliefs with a party platform that was more inclusive, many Americans would have thought they had a real choice. Romney could easily have won the popular vote and perhaps the electoral vote, too.
That being said, I don’t mean to say that Republicans have to scrap basic human values. However, they would do well to tweak them. Many of them claim to have "Christian" values, but the one value they seem to have forgotten is to love their neighbors, be they male, female, young, old, gay, straight, rich, poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, non-religious, conservative, liberal, independent, black, white, yellow, red, or brown.