What made the difference between a second term for President Barack Obama and a first term for Mitt Romney? Ninety-three percent of black voters, 71 percent of Hispanic voters, 73 percent of Asian voters, 55 percent of women voters, 63 percent of voters earning a family income under $30,000 and 60 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 who voted for Obama, according to The New York Times.
This is the new reality of the United States — one with which the Grand Old Party is becoming increasingly removed from. The fact that the valid rhetoric about a declining economy and failed promises — that so many voters, both Republican and Democrat, could identify with — was trumped by issues such as immigration, women’s rights, education and tax policy speaks volumes. Post-election, it has become even more evident that the GOP must adapt its social and fiscal policies to survive and have any future success in this new America.
Across the board, election results demonstrated that the GOP platform of tradition and conservatism is no longer working. Rep. Todd Akin, who said in August that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant (in defense of his view that abortion should be illegal), lost his Missouri Senate seat to a female Democrat, Claire McCaskill. Though Romney took more conservative stances on gay marriage and medical marijuana, both were legalized in multiple states: gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, and marijuana in Colorado and Massachusetts.
Romney seemingly chose to stick with the GOP of the past, relying on a demographic that is increasingly becoming the minority in the United States. The opinions and beliefs of that demographic are becoming the minority as well, and running between those values and an attempt at moderacy might have been what sealed Romney’s fate.
If the Republican Party wants to survive in a nation where non-Hispanic whites will become the minority by 2050, and possibly even earlier if the rate of immigration increases, it must change its policies on immigration. And as gay marriage becomes legal in more and more states, as more and more women are in positions of power in the government and as the middle class grows, the GOP must also recalibrate its stances on marriage equality, abortion and what level of income-earning Americans should bear the heaviest tax burden. This is not to say that the GOP has to abandon all of its principles, but it needs to at least take a more moderate, tolerant stance on issues that are most important to America’s largest — and growing — demographics.
Not to mention, a GOP more rooted in the present than the past America would help break some of the partisan gridlock that is hindering important progress on many of these issues. Los Angeles Times journalist David Horsley wrote in a recent article, titled “Obama’s victory is a harsh lesson for Republicans,” that Speaker of the House John Boehner is uniquely positioned to lead this change. “Just because [Boehner’s] party has gerrymandered its way into a fairly safe majority in the House does not mean he can continue to carry on as if this election did not happen,” Horsley writes. “Boehner should make it clear the time has come for compromise and deal-making. He needs to tell the tea party purists in his caucus that they had their shot and it did not work.”
Boehner is one of many Republicans in power who could lead the GOP out of its conservative, incompatible past and into a stronger future.
In the coming weeks and years, the spotlight will obviously be on Obama, but maybe the true test moving forward is for Republicans. They must choose between staying wedded to an increasingly out-of-touch past or reinventing themselves along with the America they claim to love so dearly.
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish and is the Daily Trojan’s Editorial Director. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.
In an interview with Parade magazine in August, President Barack Obama said, “A lot of the things I’ve done are things that Mr. Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, seemed to promote.” During the presidential race, many pundits and politicians noticed that aspects of Mitt Romney’s campaign platform were markedly different than some of his former stances as governor of Massachusetts.
They were right. Romney, generally a moderate Republican when he served as governor, shifted much of his platform to the right, trying to identify with the current petty, absolutist GOP to secure more votes rather than revive the socially progressive, fiscally conservative group of the past.
What the Republican Party needs in order to be more successful is not this attempted medium, but instead a return to its roots — when it was focused on sound, sustainable policy rather than backward social ideas.
Romney’s shift during the presidential election doesn’t make much sense in terms of earning votes. It’s not as if extreme conservatives would have voted for Obama if Romney had remained relatively moderate, so by assuming a more conservative stance he only alienated moderate Republicans and undecided voters. Unfortunately for Romney, however, he had no choice but to do so: The Republican Party has drastically changed in the last several decades, becoming stubbornly attached to overly simple solutions to national and global problems. To earn Republicans’ support, Romney had to do the same.
Some of the policies that seem to define the Republican Party today, such as lowering taxes and assuming an anti-abortion stance, were not even on the Republican agenda until the 1980s and 1990s. In 1956, the Republican platform looked drastically different — it increased social security, substantially funded public transit and proposed federally built medical facilities, among other progressive initiatives. They also supported bigger government — as long as it was fiscally sound and not too radical. Today, proposals to implement perfectly reasonable and functional policy changes, such as educational reform and birth control, are met with cries of “no new taxes.”
These kinds of absolutes have begun to ruin the party. Instead of developing well thought out policies to solve the country’s problems, Republicans resort to simple mantras and catchy phrases to appear as if they’re effecting change. Take, for example, the Tea Party’s “declaring war” on government overregulation, which doesn’t articulate anything specific and leads bills that might have a positive impact to be shot down by the House of Representatives solely based on partisanship.
In the weeks before Election Day, for example, Obama was working on a measure that would have provided $1 billion over five years to veterans and could have potentially created up to 20,000 jobs. Obama and another Democrat, Wash. Senator Patty Murray, put forward a plan to pay for the measure, using fees on Medicare providers and existing tax measures. Senate Republicans, however, shot down the measure on the grounds that it was “unpaid for.” While it’s certainly possible that Republicans only opposed the measure on fiscal grounds, it’s unlikely that they did not see the benefit of denying Obama’s legislation right before an election. Petty party divides, rather than a desire to improve the country, are driving political action.
Moderate Republicans, because of the evolution of their party, no longer have much of a voice. Supporting the Republican Party comes with the baggage of opposing gay marriage and women’s rights and knowing that members of the House are engaging in party politics that will stagnate this country’s development. Romney mentioned in his concession speech that we must try to bridge partisan divides; before that can happen, members of his own party need to remember their original roots.
Burke Gibson is a sophomore majoring in economics and is the Daily Trojan’s Chief Copy Editor.
Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.