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It’s Over; The Republican Party Hasn’t Recovered From Bush

As I write, Barack Obama has been declared the winner of the 2012 election. He will compile an impressive victory in the Electoral College. By my projections at least a 313-213 victory. And it could be larger than that when Florida and Ohio are finally counted. But Romney made a respectable showing in the popular vote, one that would have been surprising before the first debate made a Republican comeback victory seem temporarily possible.

We’ve already gone over the reasons Romney lost [3]. The Republican coalition is shriveling, the Democrats are growing. Romney was an unliked nominee who failed to compete for the very voters that powered Republicans to re-take the House in 2010.  I think he is an admirable guy in some ways, but harnessing the passions of the GOP and riding them into the White House was a task beyond the abilities of the hyper-competent, hard-working moderate.

It’s a bad night for social conservatives, in fact it is almost a complete reversal of 2004. Same sex marriage won on the ballot in Maryland and Maine. Obama did not really propose anything new on the economy or foreign policy fronts, but he did make contraception, rape, and Roe v. Wade a large part of this campaign. He constantly portrayed Romney as a man with “the social policies of the 1950s.” Apparently this worked. If there is one thought that comforts me (and perhaps some readers), it is that the chances of courts striking down the “contraceptive mandate” that impinges on religious freedom seem very good. However, Obama’s second term will mean that a future American judiciary may be more open to that sort of thing.

Because changing demographics are such a huge part of Obama’s formula, it is going to cause Republicans to discuss how they can attract a more diverse pool of voters. Inevitably this will focus on Hispanics. I expect tonight’s results will be used as an argument for automatically nominating Florida Senator Marco Rubio for 2016.

But in reality the more pressing problem is that Republicans are still a party badly damaged by the George W. Bush years. The GOP has traditionally held huge advantages on foreign policy and the economy. That advantage is gone now. And Mitt Romney was the wrong candidate to give the party a refresh on those issues, particularly when the gettable voters were downscale whites. It isn’t that Republicans aren’t reaching enough voters; voters simply don’t believe the GOP is competent to govern.

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#1 Comment By tz On November 7, 2012 @ 12:12 am

“The Republican Party Hasn’t Recovered From Bush”

Neither has the USA.

#2 Comment By Linda On November 7, 2012 @ 12:17 am

What makes you think: “it is that the chances of courts striking down the “contraceptive mandate” that impinges on religious freedom seem very good.”

#3 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 7, 2012 @ 12:20 am

It isn’t that Republicans aren’t reaching enough voters; voters simply don’t believe the GOP is competent to govern.

Man, is that ever true. I sure don’t. I am not looking forward to four more years of a Democratic president, especially for what it will mean for the courts. But I don’t blame people for having no faith in the Republicans. To use a religious term, they have not repented for the Bush years. I don’t think they understand what went wrong. I wonder if they ever will.

#4 Comment By Sean Scallon On November 7, 2012 @ 12:41 am

“But in reality the more pressing problem is that Republicans are still a party badly damaged by the George W. Bush years. The GOP has traditionally held huge advantages on foreign policy and the economy. That advantage is gone now. And Mitt Romney was the wrong candidate to give the party a refresh on those issues, particularly when the gettable voters were downscale whites. It isn’t that Republicans aren’t reaching enough voters; voters simply don’t believe the GOP is competent to govern.”

You’re right but if there was no soul searching after really getting beat up in 2008, I suspect Conservative INC. will take the closeness of the popular vote and the fact the GOP will keep control of the House, the nation’s governorships and state legislatures and say “You see, we came close!, If Romney only talked about Jeremiah Wright, birth certificates and homosexual marriage, he would have won!” Don’t hold your breath expecting any kind of soul searching.

Oh, and the only way they held on to their House and legislative seats is simple: They got to draw their own district maps.

#5 Comment By Robert On November 7, 2012 @ 12:54 am

Other than a massive re-casting of what Bush did by a media that hated him, I don’t understand what you think the Republican party should repent of? If you think the economy, then you need to do your research. The housing bubble is the primary cause of the recession, and the responsibility for that lays squarely in the lap of the democratic congress who refused to do as both Bush and McCain warned. McCain headed up legislation to reform Fannie Mae as guarantor, and the Democrats refused to cooperate because it didn’t line up with their welfare mantra that “everyone deserves a home.” That is the reason for the recession, and Obama doubled down and made it worse. $8 trillion in debt more than Bush since in office. No, the electorate needs to become more informed. They need to make their case and make it clear to the citizenry what actually happens. They have a hard task given the disgusting nature of the media and the lack of mainstream channels available to get that message out.

#6 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On November 7, 2012 @ 1:01 am

RD, that’s the problem… it’s not about “the courts”. it’s about governing, policy; and not about DADT, same sex marriage and Roe v. Wade. these very valid ‘issues’ have become poker chips. if these things are ‘core values’ fight for them at face value; as opposed to using them as cynical, shrewd demographic hedge bets. Obama (status quo) is not the answer to the problem(s), but he will not create new problems.

#7 Comment By sglover On November 7, 2012 @ 1:24 am

“Other than a massive re-casting of what Bush did by a media that hated him, I don’t understand what you think the Republican party should repent of?”

Heh. Yeah. Surely the reason the Republicans lost is that they didn’t play up the Bush years **enough**. They should have done a whole series of ads recalling the great days of 2008, the fabulous “Mission Accomplished” vignette on the aircraft carrier, Bush looking out at New Orleans from the windows of his jet — so many good times to savor!

#8 Comment By Sean Scallon On November 7, 2012 @ 1:33 am

“No, the electorate needs to become more informed. They need to make their case and make it clear to the citizenry what actually happens. They have a hard task given the disgusting nature of the media and the lack of mainstream channels available to get that message out.”

Fox News and Rush Limbaugh not good enough anymore?

McCain headed up legislation to reform Fannie Mae as guarantor, and the Democrats refused to cooperate because it didn’t line up with their welfare mantra that “everyone deserves a home.”

You think the Democrats were the only persons who believed this? I’d like to you to meet Jack Kemp and George Bush II.

#9 Comment By Jon H On November 7, 2012 @ 1:50 am

“McCain headed up legislation to reform Fannie Mae as guarantor”

Fannie Mae wasn’t behind the simultaneous real estate bubbles in Ireland and Spain, which suggests there was more to it.

#10 Comment By Bob Jones On November 7, 2012 @ 2:08 am

MDB,

I think exhibit A for why the Republicans will continue to shrink and fail can be found in the fantasy land posting of commenters like Robert. Not only is he still in denial about how bad the Bush years were, about have statist and unconservative the Bush administration was, he is also not capable of even stating simple facts correctly.

That portion of the Republican electorate will continue presenting their alternative view of reality and then expressed anger at the liberal conspiracies that deceive people into not believing in their alternate reality.

I do not recall who said it, but the Clint Eastwood shtick at the convention was the single best representation of the current Republican base. An old angry white man arguing with an imaginary Obama. Until real conservative thinkers can jettison their fantasy land faction and step up and articulate a conservative message for the younger and less white groups currently growing in society, then conservatism is doomed to perpetual and growing insignificance.

#11 Comment By hwm On November 7, 2012 @ 2:46 am

“a task beyond the abilities of the hyper-competent, hard-working moderate.” My feelings exactly. If you go to a doctor or an engineer are you interested in his personal philosophy?

America lost a great opportunity to have a competent CEO here.

#12 Comment By Pacific moderate On November 7, 2012 @ 2:49 am

Robert, call Donald Trump. You can march on Washington DC together.

#13 Comment By oblomov On November 7, 2012 @ 3:46 am

After Reagan’s mediocre second term,four years of GWHB, eight years of Clinton, eight years of Bush, and eight years of Obama, what will be left for a conservative to conserve?

A generation has passed, but a century might well have passed if we measure in terms of civic and social decline. The conservative victories have been few, and, alas, only transient. The fall of the Iron Curtain? Welfare Reform? Bush tax cuts? To paraphrase Andrei Navrozov, the US has achieved a tyranny similar to that of the Soviet Union, but by different means (20 years ago, I scoffed at, but did not entirely dismiss Navrozov).

Jeffrey Hart might tell me that I should learn to love Big Brother and jump on his Save Medicare bandwagon, but I will never share his belief in the munificence of the federal leviathan.

Again, what is left to conserve after four more years of Obama, after he replaces Scalia, Stevens, and one or two others with jurists the likes of Sotomayor and Kagan? We might be assured that the sapphic chorus on the bench will defend our rights to get obscene tatoos and free rubbers and Soma in front of the communal canteen, but this is cold comfort.

If there is nothing left to conserve, then why call ourselves conservatives?

#14 Comment By Thomas On November 7, 2012 @ 5:47 am

Like Robert, I would hate to see this defeat lead to any soul-searching in the Republican Party. Let the GOP instead double down and try to put together an electoral majority from the 28 percent who think George W. Bush did a good job. (Those of us who vote Democratic thank you!)

#15 Comment By Christopher Manion On November 7, 2012 @ 9:32 am

Chakah Fattah (D-PA) had it right: folks aren’t going to vote against their own benefits. Hence the policy: force more people onto benefits.

It worked. Meanwhile, Romney was an empty suit with an empty message. You can’t beat somethin’ with nothin’.

After this debacle, a lot of Republicans are probably wishing they **had** nominated Ron Paul. At least there would have been a principled and contrasting message.

#16 Comment By Scott Easton On November 7, 2012 @ 10:20 am

“Because changing demographics are such a huge part of Obama’s, it is going to cause Republicans to discuss how they can attract a more diverse pool of voters. Inevitably this will focus on Hispanics. I expect tonight’s results will be used as an argument for automatically nominating Florida Senator Marco Rubio for 2016.”

If the author or any other conservatives believe this is the answer for the GOP, that they simply include a Brown Person on their ticket, they are doomed to failure.

Especially disturbing to this line of thinking is that, besides the obvious pandering to Hispanics, Rubio represents a very small minority of the Hispanic presence in America, ex pat Cubans, whose views and positions are far different from the much larger bloc of people that the GOP needs to attract to win over the Hispanic vote.

The GOP’s failure to reach out to Asians, Blacks and Hispanics in any meaningful way doomed their campaign this year and will continue to do so in the future.

As long as the extreme right blocks any notion of real inclusivity for the majority of Americans, they will perpetuate their irrelevance and underscore the fact that White America is in fact the new minority.

#17 Comment By Paul Emmons On November 7, 2012 @ 10:46 am

>To use a religious term, they have not repented for the Bush years.

I’m still waiting for them to repent for the three-ring circus they made over Bill Clinton’s blowjob.

An elephant may never forget, but it certainly prays that the electorate will.

#18 Comment By Clint On November 7, 2012 @ 10:55 am

Popular Vote:
Obama: 59725608 – 50 percent.
Romney:57098650 – 48 percent.

Apparently, there’s no mandate.

#19 Comment By KXB On November 7, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

The odd thing is, at the state-level, there are still Republicans who can exhibit competency at running a government. Suddenly, when running for federal office, being good at your job is considered a bad thing.

Many people disagreed with Reagan and Bush I, but few charged them with incompetency.

#20 Comment By Pete On November 7, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

>>>I’m still waiting for them to repent for the three-ring >>>circus they made over Bill Clinton’s blowjob.

This is what turned this once young Independent into a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party.

The GOP showed their true colors when they wasted $30M in Tax Payer money on a witch hunt over a blow job. Something that didn’t affect anyone outside of Clinton’s family in anyway.

#21 Comment By Ray On November 7, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

I just saw on the news that their are more than twice the number of provisional and absentee ballots uncounted in Ohio. This could get real interesting .

#22 Comment By Ray On November 7, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

I should have added” more than the margin of victory”

#23 Comment By Jon On November 7, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

Good article.

However, I object to one part. Social issues on the ballot out-performed Republican state-wide candidates by large margins, with the exceptions of abortion and Blaine amendment in Florida.

Yes, it was a bad night for social issues on the ballot, but they ran better than the GOP headliner. I think the problem lies with the establishment GOP attempting to “moderate” the GOP message to expand the umbrella, instead of connecting to more people with the GOP message unadulterated.

#24 Comment By sglover On November 7, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

“The GOP’s failure to reach out to Asians, Blacks and Hispanics in any meaningful way doomed their campaign this year and will continue to do so in the future.”

But they did, in their sudden, ginned-up “issue” of vote fraud — always and exclusively in districts where dark-skinned people live.

Of course, in a year or two Republican shills will be scratching their heads — again — and whining — again — “Why don’t minority voters give us the benefit of the doubt? It’s not fair!” But they got out their message for blacks and Latins all right, loud and clear.

#25 Pingback By TAC Digest: November 6-7 | The American Conservative On November 7, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

[…] on theamericanconservative.com, Michael Dougherty and Daniel Larison discussed Obama’s win, and proposed that the GOP’s failure to select a […]

#26 Comment By KA On November 8, 2012 @ 9:33 am

There is no difference in either party,both are a bunch of fools. Obama actually just doubled down on Bush and doubled the debt,didnt close gitmo,still at war but with the added killing of untryed American citizens with drones(which bush would have been crucified for), 8 mill plus and growing on disability, 4 years with 8% unemployment or higher,more on food stamps in history, etc……. on and on and on.
They are both the same,put your faith in these politicians (Dem or Repub) and we will cease to be functioning country in 50 years,maybe sooner. The pump is running dry, we can’t keep printing funny money and the loans are coming due. They are like two drunks arguing over whos driving home, either way its not good.

#27 Pingback By A More Diverse GOP | The American Conservative On November 8, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

[…] I said in my post election wrap-up, I don’t think the primary problem for the Republican Party is that it isn’t […]

#28 Comment By dekadaye On November 8, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

you imply that voters dont really care about contraception, rape and abortion. that’s just not true. it speaks to autonomy and personal liberty that republicans supposedly champion. conservatives should stop concerning themselves with others’ personal decisions and work on being the party with the best ideas and real issues. also, most of the country is fine with gay marriage so move on…

#29 Comment By Anna On November 9, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

“Yes, it was a bad night for social issues on the ballot, but they ran better than the GOP headliner. I think the problem lies with the establishment GOP attempting to “moderate” the GOP message to expand the umbrella, instead of connecting to more people with the GOP message unadulterated.”

Jon, you’re saying that the GOP should convey a *more* socially conservative message than they already do? Be louder about their hard-line abortion stances, such as no abortion exemptions for rape victims? Suggest that Arizona’s ID laws should be adopted nationally? Deny climate change and its human causes (now essentially without dispute in the scientific community)?

The one thing I believe the GOP can do to alleviate their horrible brand without changing their economic policies fundamentally is to be more in touch with reality. Their electorate is not as socially conservative as it once was. England’s Tory party reformed along these lines and won back the people’s attention. The GOP must evolve or it will never win another election. I agree with the author that embracing amnesty policies will not fix anything for the party. It will only make their platform a confused mess. It has to be a deeper change than that — it has to show the electorate that the GOP understands them better than the Democrats do.

We can’t have a one-party system and that is where we’re headed if the GOP doesn’t wake up!!

#30 Comment By Hk On November 10, 2012 @ 9:45 am

There are many Chrisian voters who adhere to prolife, sanctity of traditional marriage issues, but who also believe our environment needs to be conserved, who believe personal responsibility includes making sure others are cared for, and who believe “to whom much is given, much is required”. Many Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestants are looking for candidates in any party who truly reflect biblical principles. Biblical principles-not political principles. Younger people of faith weigh their choices on values like compassion to the poor and keeping corporations accountable for how they utilize our nation’s natural resources. They are not immoral hedonists, they are thoughtful and just use a different metric in measuring policies than their parents.

Finally, let me just say that I have marched in pro- life marches and been involved in the pro- life movement since the 1980’s. I have heard many Republicans promise movement on this issue, but I have seen no movement of any real meaning. I have come to the conclusion that the Republican party says one thing and does another behind the scenes. I suspect the same thing is happening in regards to marriage equality. So, why would I vote Republican when nothing changes there and I see callousness towards those who Commanded us to care for? When I see climate and environmental issues being denied or worse mocked? When I see bigotry and xenophobia dressed up in slogans like ” makers and takers?” Maybe when the GOP truly becomes the party of values again, I and others of faith will return.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 17, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

It’s 2014 and I am curious why the Republican party hasn’t recovered from itself. President may have been the man in the Oval Office. But it took thousands to engage the policy choices made.

And I have no doubt that the executive got a lot of very bad counsel.

I just don’t think anyone should scape goating the admin. for policies advanced and embraced by most of the country – still operating on the sled of fear racing downhill.

#32 Comment By Stephen Reynolds On May 19, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

HK has a point, but it is not much better for the Dems. About 10% of the country is obsessed with the “hot button” issues on the right, and about 10% on the left. The Republicans have committed themselves to support the position of the 10% on the right, the Dems likewise on the left. The voter who thinks our problems are such things as too much government, too much social spending, too much taxation, too many regulations, &c, but who also supports “choice” and gay rights, is unhappy in the Republican party; the voter who thinks our problems are climate change, income inequality, undue corporate influence, the financialization of the economy, &c, but who also thinks that unborn are human and that marriage should be only between partners of the opposite sex, is unhappy in the Democratic party. Maybe it’s time to reshuffle.