The Republican Party has too rich and honorable a history to allow its future to be defined by fools like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
But it will have a future only if responsible Republicans distance themselves—rapidly—not just from the debacle that was the Romney-Ryan run but from the crude “47 percent” politics that have underpinned the party’s recent appeals.
Romney made the need of distancing more urgent Wednesday, at a point when defeated presidential contenders are supposed to be gracious or quiet—but certainly not bitter and bizarre.
Romney used a telephone conference call with big donors to claim President Obama was re-elected by 3.5 million votes and a 332-206 Electoral College margin because Obama delivered “gifts” to young voters, Latinos and people of color:
The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people. In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups.
With regards to African American voters, ’ Obamacare ’ was a huge plus—and was highly motivational to African American voters. You can imagine for somebody making $25—, or $30—, or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free healthcare—particularly if you don’t have it, getting free healthcare worth, what, $10,000 a family, in perpetuity, I mean this is huge. Likewise with Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus.
The defeated Republican candidate for president’s remarks display a shocking disregard for the seriousness with which tens of millions of Americans approached the 2012 election. And it parallels the very public whining from defeated Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who complained: “The surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.” (Emphasis added.)
With Romney and Ryan renewing the divisive messaging that so damaged their 2012 campaign—after Romney was recorded announcing he was unconcerned with almost half the American population and Ryan divided the country into “makers” and “takers”—the demand on responsible Republicans grows dramatically greater
We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote. And second, we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education.… So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that’s absolutely wrong.
I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party. That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election: If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions.
Jindal’s words are on target. But the shift must go deeper.
In Britain, there has long been a distinction between reactionary politicians such as Romney and Ryan and so-called “One Nation” conservatives who develop policies that recognize that need for their Conservative Party to care for all citizens.
During the 2012 Republican primaries, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman sought to offer up an American version of “One Nation” conservatism. He got some traction in New Hampshire—finishing a credible third—but he didn’t go much further.
Huntsman has been outspoken in his criticism of his party’s swing toward “47-percent” politics.
“If we used all that energy spent on the president’s birth certificate on tax reform or on Afghanistan, we’d be in a much difference place today,” says Huntsman, who decried right-wing media that keep pushing the GOP toward extremes:
We do have, you know, some (pontificators) in our party, we have a media elite in a sense on the right, they’re making millions and millions of dollars talking about all the incendiary aspects of public policy. We need solutions as opposed to people in search of a larger audience.
Huntsman’s message: “We maybe need to listen a little more than we speak sometimes, particularly as it relates to the younger generation.”
That’s right. But let’s go a step further: Republicans do need to listen a lot more (and respond a lot more) to young people, people of color and women—to begin a check list. But they also need to listen a lot less to the candidates that the American people overwhelmingly rejected on November 6.
Ben Adler writes, not all conservatives fall for the race-baiting rhetoric.