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2012’s Lessons for Republicans

The 2012 election was another chapter in America’s decades-old semi-civil civil war, and Dan Balz’s Collision 2012 [1] gives the ongoing rift between Red and Blue Americas the attention it deserves. In Balz’s telling, last year’s contest was not an ennobling exercise in democracy—both candidates were definitely found wanting. Balz repeats a senior Democrat’s observation that the teleprompter was the perfect metaphor for Barack Obama’s aloof persona, while the Washington Post veteran lets Mitt Romney’s own words repeatedly demonstrate the challenger’s disconnect from the nation he sought to govern. Balz shows the reader what went right and wrong with both campaigns.

Obama’s greatest problem was his stewardship of the Great Recession. He faced a stiff challenge as the election year approached: in December 2011, unemployment stood at 8.6 percent. To top it off, Obama had “left the country even more deeply polarized than it was under George W. Bush,” according to Balz.

Obama’s 2008 rhetoric—that America was “not a collection of red states and blue states” but that “we are the United States of America”—was by then as convincing as Bush 43 declaring himself “a uniter, not a divider.” The aspirational tropes of 2008 had yielded to the scars and scrums of Obamacare’s enactment, the backlash in 2010’s congressional elections, and the ensuing debt-ceiling fight of 2011.

Romney’s problems were different. He was architect and author of Romneycare, the template for Obamacare writ small. He was also a reluctant candidate who never captured the heart or imagination of the party whose nomination he sought. The former Massachusetts governor—by way of Stanford, Harvard, and Bain Capital—was constitutionally incapable of internalizing the fact that the Republican Party had become the home of the white working- and middle-classes, as opposed to a preserve for America’s wealthy. Romney meant what he said about the 47 percent and never understood what all the resulting fuss was about. That was his downfall.

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In a post-election interview with Balz, Romney could only acknowledge that “well, clearly that was a very damaging quote and hurt my campaign effort.” But he continued to channel his inner Mitt, telling Balz that Americans remain most concerned about borrowing and spending—when in fact jobs were and are the top priority for an overwhelming majority of Americans.

As Balz points out, “Obama won reelection despite winning just 39 percent of the white vote and recording the worst margin among whites of any successful Democrat.” Thus, in a sense, Mitt met a target and still lost. Even that number is deceptive, though, as it masks Romney’s problem with white voters on the lower rungs of the social ladder.

In the Ohio and Michigan primaries, Romney narrowly defeated former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, assembling a bare coalition of wealthier voters and college graduates. In the general election, Romney managed only to eke out a five-point plurality among the Great Lakes’ white working class and did worse among that bloc in make-or-break Ohio than he did nationally.

Given an opportunity to reevaluate its candidate’s support for race-based affirmative action during the Midwest primaries, Romney’s campaign demurred. Likewise, Romney never wavered in his opposition to the automobile industry rescue favored by George W. Bush and Obama. America’s workers got Mitt’s message.

Oddly, for all of Romney’s smarts and wealth, his campaign appeared removed from the technological advances that had been driving presidential campaigns for nearly a decade. The failure of Team Romney’s ORCA data operation on Election Day was symptomatic of the technology deficit that plagued the Republicans from the start.

Balz focuses on the technical edge that Obama 2012 carried over from the 2008 campaign and how the president’s team honed that advantage into an ever more potent weapon as Election Day approached. While Romney was telling his family that he really didn’t want to run for president, and later when he was engaged in mortal combat with the Republican field, the Obama campaign was continuously testing and perfecting new ways to identify, woo, and nudge prospective supporters.

Balz rightfully gives kudos to the Bush 2004 campaign for its get-out-the-vote operation, and in a sense the sophistication shown by Bush 43 and Obama’s respective campaigns reflects the perks of incumbency. Still, Obama’s campaign manager and former deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, threw himself into melding the latest in technological innovation with the needs of the re-election effort.

Messina tapped “Silicon Valley tech giants” for their expertise and sidled up to Google’s Eric Schmidt for across-the-board advice. With Obama back in the White House, the relationship between Schmidt and Messina has developed into Civis Analytics, a consulting firm that stands ready to crunch big data for the highest bidder.

If the working class had doubts about Romney, the tech world had no such uncertainty—it was flat-out hostile. What might be called the modernity gap is a steadily growing problem for Republicans.

Election Day numbers and campaign-donor records reinforce the point. In Santa Clara County, California—the heart of Silicon Valley—Obama bested Romney by more than 40 points, as statistics blogger Nate Silver recounts. Obama received approximately $720,000 in contributions from Google employees, while Romney collected a paltry $25,000. At Apple, the story was almost the same: its employees gave more than nine out of every ten campaign dollars they contributed to Obama. And once again, as in every election since 1992, graduate degree holders voted Democratic.

Romney’s donors appear to have harmed his campaign almost as they much as they helped it. The GOP donor base helped skew the campaign toward relying upon media buys, as opposed to seeking votes block-by-block, door-to-door. Whereas the Obama campaign successfully updated its 2008 playbook and made local field operations a focal point, the Romney campaign shuttered its local primary operations the day after a Republican contest had come and gone.

As a result, Romney was essentially dormant in Ohio from the late winter until the summer. Balz frames the facts on the ground like this, “Obama had at least 130 offices around the state, plus five hundred staging areas for volunteers working the final days.” Romney had “about forty offices and 157 paid staff.”

Balz recounts the rampant belief in Republican circles that pre-election polling was biased in favor of Obama and writes that Romney came to believe he would emerge victorious based upon perceived “voter intensity.” Balz makes no mention of a poll circulated on the Saturday night before the election by Alex Gage, which showed Obama with at least 300 electoral votes. That pre-election poll was significant, as Gage was a veteran of the Bush 2004 re-election effort and Romney 2008 primary quest. His wife, Katie Packer Gage, was Romney’s deputy campaign manager.
While interviewing Romney’s in-house pollster, Neil Newhouse, for the book, Balz failed to raise the issue of how these two contradictory polling narratives emerged. Likewise, Balz does not appear to have pressed Newhouse or Packer Gage as to what either did with the knowledge of Romney’s likely defeat.

Collision 2012 is not just another campaign chronicle. It is also Balz’s attempt to chart where American politics is and where it may be heading. What he sees is not reassuring. In his words, “campaign 2012 settled little.” Indeed, the gap between “ideologically red and blue America” was “as wide as ever.”  Web issue image [2]

Balz notes the country’s changing cultural and demographic landscape and acknowledges its role in Obama’s win. For better or worse, yesteryears’ outliers have matured into today’s political dominants. George McGovern’s coalition has finally prevailed.

History says that a Republican win in 2016 is doable because Americans generally tire of the incumbent party after two terms. Yet that trend may yield to the fact that the Democrats will be starting with a built-in advantage in the Electoral College. Republican must-win states such as Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire have gone Democratic in the last two elections.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Republicans can reach working- and middle-class voters in large numbers outside of the South. Paul Ryan’s demands for entitlement reform may sound soothing to high-end contributors, but as the GOP becomes ever grayer, that message gets tougher to sell even to the party’s core membership.

Doing better with less affluent voters while keeping wealthier Americans happy enough to vote Republican is no easy task. Understandably, Balz does not offer his own predictions.

Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and served in the Department of Justice between 1990 and 1992.

43 Comments (Open | Close)

43 Comments To "2012’s Lessons for Republicans"

#1 Comment By libertarian jerry On December 6, 2013 @ 4:45 am

In the end,I don’t think there would have been much of an historical difference to the stream of history if Mr.Romney had defeated Mr.Obama. Or for that matter if Mr.McCain had won in 2008. Maybe in the minor details. In essence America has morphed over the last several decades from a constitutional republic into a mobocracy democracy basically controlled by an elite behind the scenes. Follow the money and see who benefits from Presidential politics. Most of the candidates and both of the major political parties are basically one in the same. In the end,America is so far in debt and so far off it’s original constitutional path that it’s slide into the abyss of a bankrupt police state is inevitable.

#2 Comment By balconesfault On December 6, 2013 @ 4:58 am

But he continued to channel his inner Mitt, telling Balz that Americans remain most concerned about borrowing and spending—when in fact jobs were and are the top priority for an overwhelming majority of Americans.

That wasn’t just Mitt … that has been the fuel behind the Tea Party as a whole, and given the degree to which the Tea Party now drives the GOP Romney’s rhetoric was simply an accurate reflection of current Republican priorities.

The stimulus bill, coming at a time when America was losing half a million jobs a month due to massive Corporate layoffs, was fought tooth and nail by the GOP despite containing a significantly higher percentage of the spending as tax cuts than any Democratic core constituency favored. When Obama tried to come back with additional government stimulus measures, first a coalition of Blue Dog Dems and GOP congressmen blocked it citing deficit concerns, and then a GOP House majority ensured that no more stimulus would be passed. Even job creation measures with broad bipartisan support, like production tax credits for wind farms, were kept from the House floor by Boehner at the same time GOP governors were publicly complaining that failure to renew the credits were costing their states jobs.

My own belief is that this focus on deficit over job creation was a political tactic by the GOP to try to maintain the high unemployment numbers to erode Obama’s popularity … and that with a Republican in the White House the Cheney mantra that deficits don’t matter would quickly be the rule again as the preferred GOP methods of piling onto our Federal Debt were once again given primacy.

But the Romney candidacy has to be seen as the natural byproduct of the current GOP/Tea Party mindset. Government’s only role in job creation is to eliminate regulations and taxes and get out of the way. To nominate a Presidential candidate who spoke in different terms would simply be a veneer of populism since the end result would be more top-bracket favoring tax cuts, fewer worker and environmental protections, less of a social safety net, and more Scalias and Thomases and Roberts on the Federal Bench to permanently skew the legal system to support the economic interests of those who already have significant financial security.

#3 Comment By HeartRight On December 6, 2013 @ 6:24 am

‘Romney meant what he said about the 47 percent and never understood what all the resulting fuss was about. ‘

What hope does a Party have when it seems to those 47% that that Party does NOT like them?

Either the GOP restructures itself into a Party for all. Or it has only a marginal future.

#4 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 6, 2013 @ 6:38 am

The GOP wrote off Black voters years ago, and are now in the process of writing off Hispanics [the fastest growing group], along with single women [another fast growing group]. The GOP has become a strange coalition of the very wealthy, along with semi-literate, bible thumping rural whites.

Instead of trying to run the moderates out of the party, such as Richard Lugar and others, the GOP should be expanding the base, not hunting heretics and expelling them from the party.

The GOP should appeal to people beyond the filthy rich and crazed Evangelicals. Why can’t we appeal to an agnostic who likes smaller, more efficient government? Why can’t we appeal to a Hindu software engineer who wants his taxes spent wisely?

The GOP cannot win unless we become a party which is comprised of more than Thurston Howell III and the Dukes of Hazzard.

#5 Comment By Noah172 On December 6, 2013 @ 7:56 am

Finally, a commentary on the 2012 election that doesn’t claim that Romney would have won if only he had Hispandered (which brought John McCain to the White House, amirite?), or swallows the Democrats’ “war on women” slogan that so exercises the well-credentialed feminists who work as journalists.

Given an opportunity to reevaluate its candidate’s support for race-based affirmative action during the Midwest primaries, Romney’s campaign demurred. Likewise, Romney never wavered in his opposition to the automobile industry rescue favored by George W. Bush and Obama. America’s workers got Mitt’s message.

We also got the message when, during the town-hall-style debate, a questioner asked Romney how he would govern differently from Bush, and Romney answered, in so many words, “I’ll push for more free trade.” More globalist than Dubya! That’s what the unemployed in the Rust Belt wanted to hear!

In Santa Clara County, California—the heart of Silicon Valley—Obama bested Romney by more than 40 points

In fairness, the population of that county is only 35% white (and plummeting), but 27% Hispanic and 32% Asian. Romney could not have won there even if every techie whiterperson hipster had voted for him.

Romney’s donors appear to have harmed his campaign almost as they much as they helped it

Two words: Sheldon Adelson.

Another two: Marc Leder, the hedge fund zillionaire at whose mansion Romney made his infamous remarks about America’s moochers — before a crowd of other high-finance vampires.

#6 Comment By Puller58 On December 6, 2013 @ 9:01 am

The piece is far better than the lede of “McGovern’s coalition.” The current Democratic party has precious little to connect it to George McGovern’s period in politics.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc On December 6, 2013 @ 9:55 am

I am poking my head out home remodeling which what has become of a simple floor epoxy, bathtub drain pipe whole and realigning the back yard irrigation have become — so between wall removals — I pop in to say

This article dances all about the point. We conservatives are of of power and influence with the citizenry for several reasons — but primarily we are in the dog house for:

Iraq, Afgahjnsitan, the economy, ‘the war on terror (that nebulous monstrosity to which we have breathed global life and our rather childish like name calling rhetoric and having a leadership we supported which seemed to have no clear commitment what it means to actually be conservative.

It’s not democratic intelligence, governance ability, sound policies just that ever agonizing moving target of the emotional appeal everyone gets something and everyone gets less of it or get it taken from them for that all abused cause of the greater good — a farcical notion twisted out of context to suit individual gamesmanship.

We are not out manuevered or outsmarted by democrats just more offensive. We are in an era it seems winning is not garnered by policy and ability but by who the populace if less angered by —

and in my mind that is a dangerous place for any country. Drinking milk from the whichever carton which is the least sour.

#8 Comment By Charlieford On December 6, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Romney “was constitutionally incapable of internalizing the fact that the Republican Party had become the home of the white working- and middle-classes, as opposed to a preserve for America’s wealthy.”

That’s key. But I’m not sure it’s Romney’s problem exclusively. Rather, it’s the Republican leadership as a whole that hasn’t fully grasped this–or can’t find candidates to navigate these currents.

Think of all the successful Republican presidential candidates since WWII. Which among them could really appeal to the white working class?

Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Nixon, because he really and truly felt their resentment. Reagan, because he was an actor (or, just a really great politician).

The others–Eisenhower, Ford, George H. W. Bush–despite their many virtues, were not fire-up-the-base types, and were successful, when they were, despite disappointing the right-ward side of the base.

What about George W. Bush? Well, he lost the popular vote in 2000–because, said Rove, his “compassionate conservatism” turned off the base. Too much like liberalism-lite. It was 9/11 and the wars that saved him: In 2004, thanks to the national security crisis the nation was in, Americans rallied around him, and he became the only Republican to win the popular vote in the last quarter century. As the sense of urgency around the crisis diminished after his re-election, so did his political power.

So, I would say it’s not Romney’s inability to satisfy both the GOP’s elite establishment and its Regular-Joe-base that needs explaining (though clearly, in hindsight at least, he personally had an up-hill battle doing that–I mean dressage? seriously?). What would have needed explaining is if he had succeeded.

The elections one would want to learn from are 1984 and 2004. Unfortunately, each involved a unique situation that cannot simply be conjured by a campaign manager, no matter how ingenious: In one case, perhaps the greatest American politician since JFK, in the other, the greatest perceived national security threat since WWII.

Also this: “What might be called the modernity gap is a steadily growing problem for Republicans.” Excellent phrase, that. And a significant phenomenon: As we’ve watched conservatives with an analytic, empirical bent abandon the party in droves since Palin, and even more since the Tea Party, it’s apparent that it’s going to be very, very difficult to capture any significant number of voters from both these camps at once. They’re very aware of each other, they completely despise each other, and they despise even more any candidate who panders to, or is even acceptable to, the other.

Ouch.

#9 Comment By Cbalducc On December 6, 2013 @ 11:30 am

Well, Millenials, what are you going to do about it?

#10 Comment By john personna On December 6, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

Shorter Republicans: “We will block everything until Obama unites the country.”

I’ll take Internal Contradictions for $200, Alex.

#11 Comment By TTT On December 6, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

I don’t think there would have been much of an historical difference to the stream of history if Mr.Romney had defeated Mr.Obama. Or for that matter if Mr.McCain had won in 2008.

If McCain had won, we would certainly still be in a full-scale war in Iraq, quite likely one in Iran or Syria, and Mayor Methlab would be a cancer-stricken septuagenarian torture survivor’s heartbeat away.

Romney…. well, so little has happened in the last year either way. He might have tried to abolish Obamacare but Senate Dems and the insurance industry lobby wouldn’t have rolled over for it.

#12 Comment By RadicalCenter2016 On December 6, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

Proudly voted Libertarian in 2012 and will do so again if the Republicans nominate another statist tool. GARY JOHNSON FOR PRESIDENT 2016.

#13 Comment By beowulf On December 6, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

“[Romne] was constitutionally incapable of internalizing the fact that the Republican Party had become the home of the white working- and middle-classes, as opposed to a preserve for America’s wealthy… In the general election, Romney managed only to eke out a five-point plurality among the Great Lakes’ white working class and did worse among that bloc in make-or-break Ohio than he did nationally.”

Romney would be president today if he had endorsed Ron Unz’s plan to raise minimum wage to $12/hr and Warren Buffett’s import certificate plan to eliminate the deficit. Without changing a single other issue position (though opposing drone strikes on citizens would have helped too), he would sheared off enough working class voters (especially in Great Lake region)from Obama to win.

What makes this is an unforced error is its not like Romney was the typical GOP candidate who, frankly, needs to keep the donor class happy to stay afloat. Any contributions Romney lost by getting to Obama’s left on economic issues (albeit, without adding a penny to the deficit) could have easily been made up for out of his own substantial checking account. He wasn’t backed into a corner, its like he wanted to lose.

#14 Comment By William Dalton On December 6, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

From the analysis given here I would say that there were not any problems with the Romney campaign, his public statements, his selection of and position upon issues, that would not have been solved by better organization. I know that here in North Carolina Republicans were well organized, not only to push Romney to victory in a state McCain had lost in 2008, but also to elect Pat McCrory as Governor four years after he had lost the same race and to set a new record in electing Republican members to Congress.

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie addressed our delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention, telling us that he expected North Carolina to fall behind Mitt Romney and that if we didn’t he would be down to take names and kick butt. Well, after the election I felt like taking a butt kicking trip to New Jersey. What had Gov. Christie and his party done for the GOP column in 2012?

#15 Comment By balconesfault On December 6, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

@EliteCommInc We are in an era it seems winning is not garnered by policy and ability but by who the populace if less angered by

Indeed. In fact, at times it seems that if the GOP wasn’t able to convince many Americans that Democrats want to take all their guns away, they might not be able to win an election anywhere above dogcatcher.

#16 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On December 6, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

I found this to be a penetrating and valuable piece. Especially:

“Romney’s problems were different. He was architect and author of Romneycare, the template for Obamacare writ small. He was also a reluctant candidate who never captured the heart or imagination of the party whose nomination he sought. The former Massachusetts governor—by way of Stanford, Harvard, and Bain Capital—was constitutionally incapable of internalizing the fact that the Republican Party had become the home of the white working- and middle-classes, as opposed to a preserve for America’s wealthy. Romney meant what he said about the 47 percent and never understood what all the resulting fuss was about. That was his downfall.”

The disconnect between the party elite and their funders, (or perhaps I have that backwards?) and potential GOP voters is now almost complete.

#17 Comment By HeartRight On December 6, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

‘What makes this is an unforced error is its not like Romney was the typical GOP candidate who, frankly, needs to keep the donor class happy to stay afloat. ‘

Combine this with

‘As a result, Romney was essentially dormant in Ohio from the late winter until the summer. Balz frames the facts on the ground like this, “Obama had at least 130 offices around the state, plus five hundred staging areas for volunteers working the final days.” Romney had “about forty offices and 157 paid staff.”’.

A mass Party – and I presume the GOP would like to be one – needs to be able to engage with a lot of people.
Even if Romney had never made a single gaffe, the machinery for connecting with the voter was quite inadequate.

#18 Comment By EarlyBird On December 6, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

Surely, historians will call 2012 the year the Reagan Revolution officially ended. Hyper-successful businessman Romney – a good man – couldn’t have been a more fitting symbol of its demise.

For a long time, hard working white, middle class Americans had been flattered and inflamed by the GOP’s narrative that only the Democrats’ constituency – made up of the lazy, the losers, the born out-of-wedlock, the druggies, the dysfunctional, the welfare queens – needed government, and that they were being forced to pay for it all.

By 2012, after decades of following GOP policies, the surviving white middle class voters were starting to wonder, if only secretly:

“You mean, it’s ‘class warfare’ to ask the uber-wealthy to pay a bit more taxes? It makes ME a loser to wonder if government has a place in keeping me from going bankrupt from medical bills? And wasn’t it too little – rather than too much – government that recently allowed Wall Street to lead us to the edge of the economic abyss?”

Many GOP polling analysts were famously surprised by Romney’s loss. I wonder if this was due to a version of the Bradley Effect, where GOP voters answered polling questions designed to tickle their socio-cultural funny bones such as “Do you prefer big government?” in the negative, then getting into the voting booth thinking, “I could actually use a bit more government now, thanks.”

#19 Comment By Noah172 On December 6, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

Uncle Billy wrote:

The GOP wrote off Black voters years ago, and are now in the process of writing off Hispanics [the fastest growing group], along with single women [another fast growing group]

You have it backwards: those groups wrote off political conservatism and the Republicans. Blacks were Republican before the New Deal, when the two parties were sectional, ideologically incoherent coalitions, and the Democrats did not offer blacks anything concrete on economic policy that (many) Republicans did not also offer.

The GOP has become a strange coalition of the very wealthy, along with semi-literate, bible thumping rural whites

Putting aside your oversimplification (Republicans are also the party of middle-class white suburbanites, even in the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific coast), is this alleged coalition any stranger than the Democrats’: a “high-low” alliance of Manhattan/Hollywood Jews, fashionable homosexuals, and Silicon Valley techies cobbled together with the black and mestizo underclass and public-sector employees and the dwindling private-sector unions (the latter of whom oppose free trade, unlike the Democrats’ donor class)?

Why can’t we appeal to a Hindu software engineer who wants his taxes spent wisely?

1) That Hindu is in this country in the first place because of immigration policies pushed by the left (to dilute the economic and political power of America’s historic white Christian majority) and the big-business, racially-guilt-ridden right (cheap labor, futile chase for the votes of liberal diverse). His tech job could have gone to a native American at a higher salary, and he knows it.

2) As an “oppressed” person of color, the Hindu benefits (potentially, at least) from affirmative action.

3) Hindus are among the most pro-choice demographic slices in our society.

#20 Comment By balconesfault On December 6, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

@Noah Blacks were Republican before the New Deal, when the two parties were sectional, ideologically incoherent coalitions, and the Democrats did not offer blacks anything concrete on economic policy that (many) Republicans did not also offer.

And then came the Southern Strategy …

That Hindu is in this country in the first place because of immigration policies pushed by the left (to dilute the economic and political power of America’s historic white Christian majority)

You really believe that, don’t you?

Seems to me to be pretty silly, if it’s all just a cynical ploy, because clearly there’s a lot more money to be had in working for America’s historic white Christian majority, than in some of the more liberal policies espoused by Democrats. What’s more, given the incredible mediocrity of many Republican politicians, for someone who’s smart, cynical, and motivated, I’d think learning to spout a few bumper sticker cliches, attend Tea Party rallies, and cozy up to some Koch operatives for cash would be a lot easier than competing in a gerrymandered R+10 district as a Democrat.

#21 Comment By JonF On December 6, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

Re: Given an opportunity to reevaluate its candidate’s support for race-based affirmative action during the Midwest primaries, Romney’s campaign demurred.

Thinking affirmative action is still an issue outside the racist fever swamps is itself evidence of outdated thinking. Most working people know that the problem is not black people getting jobs instead of white people; it is rather illegal immigrants taking low end jobs, H1B immigrants taking middle class jobs, and many other jobs being sent overseas entirely. Let a candidate address these issues and he will wrack up a goodly vote total– but of course make himself loathsome to the 1%.

#22 Comment By Noah172 On December 7, 2013 @ 8:16 am

balconesfault wrote:

And then came the Southern Strategy …

You didn’t understand, or perhaps even read, what I wrote.

Blacks shifted to the Democrats before the civil rights movement because of economic, not racial issues. Franklin Roosevelt got a large majority of the black vote in 1936 (as he did with the broader electorate) even though he had done zilch WRT civil rights in his first term (and after he had gotten a respectable minority of black votes in 1932, during which campaign he certainly did not discuss civil rights); Roosevelt’s strong support among blacks continued in his third and fourth election victories, again without his taking significant action on racial matters.

Harry Truman, who did take action on civil rights, did somewhat better than Roosevelt with blacks in 1948, but not as much as one might expect, given all the trouble Truman’s stance on race had caused him within his own party (almost a quarter of the negro vote went to Dewey). Blacks liked Truman, as they did Roosevelt, primarily as a pro-labor, welfare-state economic populist, rather than necessarily a civil rights crusader.

Dwight Eisenhower, who appointed to the Supreme Court the author of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and who was not far from his Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson on civil rights, got almost 40 percent of the negro vote in his 1956 reelection — astounding by today’s standards, and an improvement on post-New-Deal Republican candidates, but not a huge improvement: Republicans had garnered about a third of blacks in 1940 and ’44.

Yes, the civil rights movement did cement Democratic support among blacks to the near monolithic level that remains to this day, but had those laws never been passed, Democrats could still count on at least 60% of black votes (versus the 90+% they regularly gather nowadays) on economic matters alone.

#23 Comment By Anonymous Brown Man On December 7, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

@Noah

Speaking as one of those Hindus, we tend to not benefit from affirmative action. For hiring or admission purposes, we are not considered “people of color”. In fact there is often reverse discrimination at elite organizations (universities, wall street firms, etc.) to keep our membership lower than would seem to be deserved by our grades and test scores.

#24 Comment By Noah172 On December 7, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

JonF:

Thinking affirmative action is still an issue outside the racist fever swamps is itself evidence of outdated thinking

“Racist fever swamps”? Can those be found in your native Michigan? In the 2006 election — not all that long ago — 58% of the voters in that state voted to do away with the practice. The ballot initiative swept all but three counties (wait for it… Ingham, Wayne, and Washtenaw), every age cohort, every education cohort (except a narrow loss among post-grads), the devout and the secular, 40% of Democrats (and likely a majority of white Democrats), and 40% of self-ID’d liberals (again, likely a majority of white liberals).

Most working people know that the problem is not black people getting jobs instead of white people

Affirmative action affects more than just hiring (although that is still an issue, no matter what you say); it is also used extensively (in public- and private-sector employment) in promotions. Then there are college admissions and minority scholarships. Affirmative action is employed in the fields of government contracting (“minority-owned” businesses are given preference) and government aid to business (minority small-business loans: one of the reasons that, e.g., Indians now dominate the budget motel trade is because of their aggressive seizing of this type of support for their advantage).

#25 Comment By Dave B On December 7, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

We have all pretty much demonized all of what went wrong in the last elections.
If the Republican Party can not get it together after all the analytical posturing in the media and print, any election either local, state or federal is in serious question.

#26 Comment By Hugh On December 8, 2013 @ 4:13 am

I have to wonder why the GOP was unable to make anything out of Obamacare in 2012.

The law and regulations were in place, all it would have taken is some good quality analytical work on the likely sticker shock for the middle class.

#27 Comment By isaacplautus On December 8, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

The real trouble for the GOP is they can’t win the electoral college with hard right stances on social issues. This is the reality in voting demographics and turnout that the GOP base can’t bear to endure or accept. I think Christie could easily flip Ohio, Virginia, and Florida back to red if he took softer stances on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. But the base of the GOP is simply unwilling to participate in any coalition of moderate stances on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. These are issues of religious doctrine to them. And I suspect if the GOP nominee did embrace social moderation, we would see a Huckabee or Santorum launch a 3rd Party bid, which would hand the Democrats an easy victory.

#28 Comment By JonF On December 8, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

Re: In the 2006 election — not all that long ago — 58% of the voters in that state voted to do away

I didn’t say people don’t have an opinion on it. Only that it’s not a top tier, or even second tier, issue. Jobs are not being lost to affirmative action, after all. They are being lost to the issues I posted on, much of which I think you might agree on. The days when scapegoating black people for the loss of good working class jobs was a major vote getter are over– just as scapegoating gay people for the marital failures of their straight brethren has begun to come a-cropper.

By the way I do work in this economy too, at a company noted for commitment to diversity. At least in the private sector unqualified applicants will not be hired (or promoted) in place of qualified applicants. No company can do business like that– Of course there is almost always an over-abundance of wholly qualified candidates. And by the way, as you may know, I am a plain old white guy (aside from some distant Native American ancestry, which I would never claim on a racial survey, as it’s a drop in the bucket of my ancestry), and I have never had any trouble getting a job, or getting ahead at one because if affirmative action. At a guess that’s true of the vast majority of people (as I do not think I am extraordinary in matters of employment). When I hear blame their workplace woes on AA (instead of on themselves or maybe even on an idiot boss) my BS detector starts jangling.

#29 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 9, 2013 @ 6:45 am

The GOP has painted themselves into a corner, and ratched themselves righter and righter. This pleases the semi-literate, bible thumping element of the so called base, but alienates everyone else. My wife has a gay nephew who owns and operates a restaurant in San Francisco, and he likes the GOP goal of smaller, efficient government, but the almost hystical gay basing is a deal breaker. Most young people, especially educated young people are not fanatically anti-gay. The GOP leadership is not doing themselves any favors long term with these anti-gay policies.

Most Americans do NOT think that women who have been raped, should be forced to carry a pregnancy from it to term. Some of the crazier religious right types even think that women who have been raped should be denied emergency contraception. This is insane and is going to convince a lot of people, whose IQ’s are higher than their body temperature, that the GOP cannot be trusted to govern, as they are way too accomodating to the crazies.

The GOP needs to stop trying to please the craziest white man in Mississippi and try to win the votes of people than The Dukes of Hazzard and Thurston Howell III.

#30 Comment By Matt On December 9, 2013 @ 9:19 am

I agree with JonF on AA. If AA has any serious effect outside of government hiring, I haven’t seen it. Most AA is a private initiative at this point, specific to a college or business. The most effective critique of AA is that it is a dinosaur left over from an era in which it was actually useful, but even then it isn’t an issue which is on most people’s radar.

Also, my Sikh coworker claims he is not eligible for any AA benefit. I’ve never checked this, but if true I would imagine the same holds for Hindus.

#31 Comment By westie On December 9, 2013 @ 9:44 am

Only fools can ignore the 2010 mid-term elections & there are many fools commenting on this. 2014 mid-term election will be very interesting & my bet is even more lopsided than 2010. Good-bye ZeroCare & Zero!

#32 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 9, 2013 @ 10:12 am

“I have to wonder why the GOP was unable to make anything out of Obamacare in 2012.”

There remained in limbo and like all such purgatories — one doesn’t know until ones there.

But in my view the warnings and the why’s one needed warning were very clearly articulated. Good grief, at it’s first read one knew —

‘something wicked this way comes.’

#33 Comment By balconesfault On December 9, 2013 @ 10:22 am

@Hugh I have to wonder why the GOP was unable to make anything out of Obamacare in 2012.

The law and regulations were in place, all it would have taken is some good quality analytical work on the likely sticker shock for the middle class.

That all depends on how broadly you want to use the term “middle class”. For example, some economists use a household income distribution of around $50K to $100K to represent the “lower middle class” – about 42% of the American population.

A family of 5 living in Cherry Hill NJ, with an income of $100K, will still be receiving about a 20% tax credit for insurance premium support. At the lower end of the “lower middle class” range, that becomes a 75% subsidy.

So the problem with your “good quality analytical work”, is that if it is really good quality the net result would be to sell an awful lot of your middle class voters on the economic benefits that Obamacare will provide to them.

#34 Comment By EarlyBird On December 9, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

Westie wrote: “…2014 mid-term election will be very interesting & my bet is even more lopsided than 2010. Good-bye ZeroCare & Zero!”

Certainly, Dems are going take a beating as voters make a judgement on the president’s execution of ObamaCare and the economy – but this is critical – they will NOT be rejecting his goals.

Come 2016 we’re going to be right back to square one, and the electorate is going to be faced with these two choices once again: a Democrat who at least seems to understand what’s been happening in the middle class for the past few decades, or the Republican who is still promoting the same trickle down economic policies that were set in amber in 1980, which has brought the middle class to the crisis its currently in, i.e, the religion which has gripped GOP economics. Not only are people no longer buying it, there’s not enough middle class people around any more to buy if they still wanted to.

#35 Comment By sglover On December 9, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

Noah172 thinks he’s putting in the blade:

“Racist fever swamps”? Can those be found in your native Michigan? In the 2006 election — not all that long ago — 58% of the voters in that state voted to do away with the practice. The ballot initiative swept all but three counties (wait for it… Ingham, Wayne, and Washtenaw)

You do yourself absolutely no favors by citing my home state as a bellwether. I was born in Detroit, spent my teenage years in Oakland County, and since them I’ve lived in several parts of the country (including, in 2008-10, Detroit, again). No place matches the poisonous racial climate of SE Michigan. It was that way when I was growing up: It’s forever been a commonplace in Oakland County that Coleman Young — mayor of **those people** — singlehandedly ruined Detroit. It was still inescapable during my more recent stay. And yes, lots of Detroit/Wayne County politicians have built careers by stoking hostility to the white suburbs. But the overwhelming balance of political and economic power is with those suburbs — as it has been for the last half-century.

This poisonous mindset has tangible consequences. It’s well-known that one of Michigan’s central problems has been its auto-based industrial monoculture. But city-suburb/black-white hatreds have long hobbled any kind of regional cooperation, which is essential is the area’s ever going to get off its back.

#36 Comment By Tony D. On December 9, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

“I have to wonder why the GOP was unable to make anything out of Obamacare in 2012.”

?? You mean other than the fact that it was based on their candidate’s signature achievement as governor?

#37 Comment By BillWAF On December 10, 2013 @ 1:17 am

Is this the Lloyd Green who was Columbia College , Class of 1982 and who later went to Cornell Law School?

#38 Comment By Glaivester On December 11, 2013 @ 12:14 am

Thinking affirmative action is still an issue outside the racist fever swamps is itself evidence of outdated thinking. Most working people know that the problem is not black people getting jobs instead of white people; it is rather illegal immigrants taking low end jobs, H1B immigrants taking middle class jobs, and many other jobs being sent overseas entirely.

Affirmative action exists for Hispanics as well as for blacks. And “anti-racism” is a big part of the reason why we can’t enforce our immigration laws; any effective attempt at finding illegal aliens get scuttled as “racial profiling,” businesses who try too hard to combat document fraud are threatened with lawsuits.

To act as if Affirmative Action is only about blacks and whites is ludicrous.

I think Christie could easily flip Ohio, Virginia, and Florida back to red if he took softer stances on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. But the base of the GOP is simply unwilling to participate in any coalition of moderate stances on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration.

Why do people keep equating immigration with other social issues? The fact of the matter is, immigration restriction is very popular. It’s just that the wealthy donors hate the idea of cutting off their supply of cheap labor and the media is constantly telling us that there is nothing we can do about illegal immigration except accept it.

Going moderate on gay issues or abortion might help switch some states from blue to red. But there is no reason to think that taking a “moderate” stance on immigration would gain the GOP any electoral support, and I’m sick of people asserting that there is.

And the reason the GOP base is unwilling to participate in “moderate” stances on immigration is that the goal of such stances is to replace and displace us. The current immigration policy is destined to destroy the white middle class heart of this country; whites are currently scheduled to become a minority around 2040. All of the current suggestions for “reform” involve accelerating that. “Moderation” in this context simply means surrendering to our own dispossession. Who but an idiot would agree to that?

#39 Comment By Glaivester On December 11, 2013 @ 12:15 am

Romney’s donors appear to have harmed his campaign almost as they much as they helped it

His entire campaign seemed to be more about fundraising so that Karl Rove and his cronies could get an extra few million in fees than about getting votes; the reason why his donors harmed Romney is that his entire focus was on getting their money rather than doing anything with it that would help him.

#40 Comment By Jim Evans On December 11, 2013 @ 1:35 am

Regarding Obamacare: It’s obvious the Romney campaign never seriously studied or analyzed the fine print because if they did then they would have known Obama was lying about: “If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it, period.” And, paraphrase, “If you like your doctor you can keep him/her.”

But Romney’s campaign only offered boilerplate objections, never a serious analysis of Obamacare’s problems.

Romney personified Wall Street — big loser with the bulk of the electorate. (It’s why some people call the Republican Party, the “stupid party”.)

Romney ran a bad campaign: While the Obama campaign was blitzing Romney as a Wall Street fat cat, Romney’s campaign was silent (during the period after Romney had won the primaries up to the convention).

Of course, there was a big problem: Obama’s campaign was right. Romney was a fat cat Wall Streeter.

Just the kind of guy average folks would rally to after a Wall Street induced economic crisis — NOT!

And I’m a Republican (yes, I voted for Romney, anyway… holding my nose).

#41 Comment By bacon On December 12, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

Republicans, as pointed out here and pretty much everywhere, need a plan they can articulate to voters. What they had in 2012 was the result of leadership which focused only on denying Obama any perceived victory, however small, and even when his position was one they might have supported otherwise.

Obama’s greatest service to our country was getting elected in the first place and because Republican rage at that result distracted them from working on some adjustment to the new electoral climate in the US he was re-elelcted. If his health care reform works even reasonably well everything else will be forgotten in a decade or so and he will enter history as the first black American president and the man who finally got us on the path to providing health care to our citizens who don’t have six figure incomes. Republicans who don’t like that view of the future should loosen their grip on ideology and start to work on the practical matters of governance and elections.

#42 Comment By An Anachronistic Apostle On December 12, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

The GOP cannot win unless we become a party which is comprised of more than Thurston Howell III and the Dukes of Hazzard. — Mr. Uncle Billy

Good luck.

I’m not sure “we” the party will ever win, if its adherents can’t quite shake the temptation to myopically equate living-and-breathing people, with the black-and-white caricatures of television.

#43 Comment By An Anachronistic Apostle On December 12, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

“The GOP has painted themselves into a corner, and ratched themselves righter and righter. This pleases the semi-literate, bible thumping element of the so called base, but alienates everyone else. My wife has a gay nephew who owns and operates a restaurant in San Francisco, and he likes the GOP goal of smaller, efficient government, but the almost hystical gay basing is a deal breaker. Most young people, especially educated young people are not fanatically anti-gay. The GOP leadership is not doing themselves any favors long term with these anti-gay policies.” — Mr. Uncle Billy

It is an hysterical and indeed alienating banter for the literate reader, to hint that ANY political party in today’s America would support the shutting down of a restaurant, simply on the basis of the owner’s adult sexual preferences.

I have no idea if Thurston Howell III or the Dukes of Hazard have ever disagreed with this conclusion, on the screen … it appears that Uncle Billy would be in the know about this matter, here … but in any event, there is little reason to suspect that these savants have influenced the GOP greatly.

The nephew should rest easy; continue to operate anxiety-free, and listen more to his empty pockets and the annoying drones over his head, than to his uncle.