Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus speaks to delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, on Monday, August 27, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next. Some Republicans—and many Democrats—now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo. Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the United States heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party. Others say: not so fast.
In the month since 51 percent of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators and voters. While the party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.
Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian-Americans, unmarried women, secular whites and others? In a word: no.
Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change. Think of it as the Botox Solution. It wants to tweak its talking points slightly and put more minority and female Republicans on stage as spokespeople. Many in the GOP seem to believe that this will do the trick in 2014 and beyond. Are they deluded?
You’ve heard the expression “putting lipstick on a pig,” haven’t you?
The Blame Game and the Short-Term Outlook
Although most Republicans see hints of future demographic challenges in the exit polls, many prefer to focus on other factors to explain Romney’s loss out of a desire not to “blow up the party if there are less radical solutions.” (Hence, the delusional quality of so many of their post-mortems and the lack of interest in meaningful change.)
First, they cite the Romney factor: a weak candidate, too moderate—or too conservative—who failed to fight the Obama campaign’s early efforts to paint him as an out-of-touch plutocrat. In other words, his history (Bain Capital and Romneycare) depth-charged him before demographics could even kick in. He was, unfortunately, the perfect quarter-billionaire candidate for a Democratic narrative that the GOP is only out for the rich and doesn’t “care about people like me.” (He predictably lost that exit poll question by a margin of 81 percent to 18 percent). Running a “vulture capitalist” (and a Mormon) drove a number of Republican voters to stay home or even—gasp!—vote for Obama. It’s a mistake that won’t be repeated in 2016.