By Guest Columnist Renford Reese : An unemployment rate hovering around eight percent, a sluggish economy, and a growing deficit were supposed to make the incumbent president vulnerable and the Republican challenger the favorite. Indeed, this election was Romney’s to lose. But, Romney let conservative extremism snatch victory from his assured hands.
Romney lost this election because he began his campaign too far to the Right and could not work his way back to the center in time. In fact, it was his tacit embrace of the negative spirit of his party that undermined his presidential bid.
The overarching posture of modern day conservatism is oppositional. The no- compromise stance of Republicans has proven to be sophomoric, counterproductive, and undemocratic. Ask New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, what Republicans really think about bipartisanship and compromise—even when dealing with a devastating natural disaster. By so passionately trying to undermine President Obama’s agenda, Republicans in Congress undermined their own credibility. Ironically, this anti-Obama hate has crippled the GOP.
Republicans put their disdain for the president over the public good, which turned out to be a losing formula. Not only did they not achieve their four-year objective of making Obama a one-term president, the backlash to their hate is being seen in Obama celebrations throughout the nation.
Romney, a moderate by nature, got swept up in the intensity of the “anti-” Republican fervor. It was a costly tactical decision for Romney’s platform to so rigidly mirror the base of his party, which is anti-gay, anti-women rights, anti-immigration, anti-minority, anti-welfare, anti-health care reform, anti-global warming, anti-unions, and anti-education. When you are harshly oppositional to all of these groups you necessarily limit your voting pool.
Republican Senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are reflections of the new unfettered conservatism. Akins’ infamous comment about “legitimate rape” and Murdock’s comment about how pregnancy from rape is “God’s will” are endemic of a callous, insensitive, and out of touch party that has lost its way. There is inevitable collateral damage when righteous conservatism goes unchecked.
If Romney were candid, he would tell us that his base held him hostage. He would tell us that instead of tap-dancing for the Rush Limbaughs of the right wing, he should have charted the same moderate course that he did as governor of Massachusetts. Moreover, he would tell us about his political dilemma; in order to appeal to his base he had to take an unyielding stance against a host of policy initiatives and groups. The more animosity he directed towards the liberal perspective the more it energized his base–but alienated others.
With Obama securing 80 percent of the minority vote and Romney securing 60 percent of the white vote, race politics was palpable in this election. The problem for the Republicans is that wooing only the white male vote is a failing strategy. And as the demographics increasingly shift towards a more diverse nation, Republicans will find it even more difficult in the coming years to win the White House and senatorial seats with their current philosophy.
In September, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham told the Washington Post: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” Graham is right. If the Republican Party does not become more inclusive and less hostile toward progressive initiatives they will be irrelevant and extinct sooner than later.
Renford Reese, Ph.D. is a political science professor at Cal Poly Pomona, the author of five books, and the founder/director of the http://www.PrisonEducationProject.org