This question has been asked and answered in many different ways by political analysts, historians, election experts of every race and gender, media personalities of every station and group, and religious groups of every divide. Even foreign nationals have offered opinions of what went wrong, and every one of these groups and faiths are right in their answers to this troubling question that will, for years, leave the Karl Roves, Herman Cains, the Koch brothers, news analysts from Fox News, Rush Limbaughs, and the TEA partiers of this great country scratching their heads in disbelief.
So many things that sounded right and strategically correct to the Republican Party were, in the end, what spelled its failure in the November 6 elections. Starting from the Congress, the party decided after the 2010 elections to adopt the “No to everything, except ours” stance; in doing so, they denied many Americans the opportunity to get jobs, even if temporary. The rhetoric of its leader in the senate, staking his political career on making Obama a one-term president, instead of working to create jobs and stem the adverse economic tide, did not go down well with the majority of African-Americans.
The presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, though a very religious and upstanding man was a stranger to the 99-percenters who saw him as an aloof rich man who has never experienced what it feels like to live without; so, it was hard to see him as compassionate and caring. His ever-changing views or stands on immigration, abortion, healthcare, education and foreign policy left many wondering if he can ever stand for something. Efforts by his advisers to explain him away as a dynamic realist, who is adaptable to changing beliefs of the general society, was not adequate to convince many voters.
His much-touted business credentials, which he staked his campaign success on, lacked enough substance to convince voters of his experience; especially, when that expertise involved buying up failing companies, cleaning them up – meaning loss of jobs, in many cases- and selling them off to both local and foreign companies. Most of the few of such companies his firm ran, ended up going bankrupt, to his financial benefit and detriment of the employees. Compounding his problems was the fact that the same healthcare program he initiated and passed in Massachusetts, and copied by the Obama administration, was opposed by his campaign, leaving likely voters more confused as to the sanity of his judgment in passing the same law in Massachusetts.
On constitutional rights and liberties, the party preached a return to the Bill of Rights –not that these rights were ever taken away, yet opposed the rights for Americans to choose whom to marry, where to live, what to do with their pregnancies, whether to use contraception or not, and what health programs are right for them. While Evangelicals were opposing the imposition of Sharia laws by Mullahs in Pakistan, Waziristan, Iran, and Afghanistan, they strove to impose biblical laws on every American, without acknowledging the similarity of their actions to those of the Mullahs. They opposed abortion, yet passed laws that denied wellness and preventive care to women at state levels. They preached and pursued the right of every eligible American to vote, yet went extra miles to ensure that those same eligible Americans were denied or frustrated out of the right to vote.
On the economy, the plan offered by the Republican party to reduce the deficit and balance the budget, by cutting services without raising taxes, did not add up to any economic think tank, yet they stuck to it without detailed explanations on how to achieve this feat. Ironically, the services slated for cutting were the ones mostly beneficial to the so-called 99%, thereby portraying the party as anti-poor. It did not help matters that majority of the parties supporters were in the $1 million annual income bracket, which were mostly white males. Their stand against environmental regulation, though music to the ears of oil, gas, and coal businesses, was threatening to the future health of the residents of communities where these businesses are located.
The Republican Party itself, though not anti-immigration, allowed itself to be hijacked and represented by a group of very vocal TEA party anti-immigrant elements who dictated the party’s stand on the subject. Efforts by more moderate members of the GOP to clearly define its stand resulted in some candidates losing their positions on the ballot; leaving some candidates, including Mitt Romney, hesitant and conflicted on the subject. This clearly alienated the Hispanic, African and Asian voters.
To compound its immigration problems, GOP-controlled states, localities and communities embarked on anti-immigration housing, education, and healthcare ordinances that though well-intended, hurt businesses and services in those communities and divided friends and neighbors along racial lines, and against each other. Anti- immigration rhetoric and actions by GOP elected immigrants helped further cement this divide. In the end, came November 6, 2012, the damages were too many for the party and the people chose to stay with the devil they knew than the angel they could not rely on.
So, what lies ahead for the party? Good question. No one really knows; but one thing is clear, unless the party adapts to the fast-changing demographics, social and religious beliefs of the new generation of Americans, it will be extinct in less than two decades as a major party. It needs to shed its image as a whites-only, or rich-only party, as was very evident in its campaign audiences this election season, and rid itself of extremists in its midst. Yes, it might be easy for minorities and immigrants to win elective offices in the so-termed red states, but those token successes, as witnessed by the election of Ted Cruz in Texas to the senate, will amount to naught for a party that could become unelectable in two decades.
The GOP has a lot of work to do, if it wants to diversify its base and adapt to the new America representative of a genuine political salad bowl of the Democratic Party, and the time to start is now. It needs to shed some of the old guards still bent on preserving the Jim Crow mentality, and the new crop of ultra-nationalists invading its leadership at local and state levels. It needs to recognize and accept the reality that one does not close the door after one has passed through it into success; and to have straps to pull one up by, one has to have boots first.