Host of reasons why Republicans lost in November

Published 1:23 pm Saturday, December 22, 2012

by Wyatt Durrette Jr.

Virginians have only a momentary pause from political overload.

Before the final results of the 2012 election were known, Virginia’s 2013 hopefuls for statewide office were jockeying for position. Virginia Republicans do not have the luxury of time in assessing what went wrong on Nov. 6 and how a bruised party can find its way in the demographic evolution changing America and Virginia.

There are a host of reasons why Republicans overall lost this election, and they cannot be rationalized away by continued majorities in the House and in governorships. While factors unique to this election and Romney contributed to the losses, it is not useful to play the “blame game” when far more serious problems must be addressed.

So, here let’s focus on three:

* Women, especially single women

* Minorities, especially Hispanic, Latino and Asian

* Youth.

Abortion may be the toughest issue because so many Republicans believe that human life is at stake. It is for many why they are politically active.

Nevertheless, our country is seriously divided over this issue. If Republicans expect many women who share other GOP values to listen, the party must abandon litmus tests, accept candidates who disagree on when life begins, strongly disavow candidates who take extreme positions (Romney left his endorsement of Mourdock in place), and take the hard edge off by supporting the minimal exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother.

Republicans in state legislatures must stop their frenetic pace of legislative fiats that the majority of women find offensive. For a party that believes it is an infringement on free choice for government to mandate the purchase of health insurance to then mandate invasive procedures upon a woman’s body presents a very selective devotion to freedom.

One dear female friend who voted for Romney did so in spite of thinking she betrayed her core values as a woman and dear friends, who are gay. She felt Romney was the better leader for this time of financial turmoil but it was hard to pencil in the circle. She also voted for Tim Kaine. No Republican who voted for the ultrasound bill or who is strident in opposition to gay marriage will get her vote next year. She is not alone.

Comprehensive immigration reform must be part of Republicans future. The harsh rhetoric characterizing Republican positions towards immigrants who risk their lives to come here to make a better life for themselves and their families has exacted a heavy price. The meanness must vanish from this discussion.

With regard to all minorities, Republicans must recognize that while too much government is criticized, so is too little when government action is necessary. Just like the victims of Sandy cannot be left to fend for themselves, neither can those who are born into poverty where without help only the exceptional child can pursue the American Dream.

The right policy is debatable. How to help is uncertain. The point is that GOP messengers too often pay homage to equal opportunity without recognizing that hope is oh-so-dim-and-grim for many. Unless minorities believe Republicans truly care for them as much than the businessman suffering from over-regulation, regaining a foothold in minority communities will not succeed.

Young people saddled with our colossal debt should be an audience receptive to the GOP fiscal message. By and large youth are idealistic. When they perceive Republicans as hostile to women and minorities, as extolling the virtues of unfettered capitalism — even its recognized excesses — and unwilling to employ some level of government assistance to the poor and others, they tune out everything else.

Wall Street excesses are real. A party that is perceived as tone deaf to these excesses will suffer among our youth.

To use a cliché, Republicans need to care as much about getting government out of the bedroom as out of the pocketbook. Abuse of power must excite reaction wherever it occurs. Political discourse that speaks from the heart as well as the mind can reach American’s youth and improve Republicans’ brand.

Finally, compromise must return to the lexicon of noble concepts. Democrats control the U.S. Senate and the presidency. Republicans control only the House. Our nation is imperiled, and it is the task of officials to find a way to compromise. No one gets all he wants. The party that is unwilling to compromise will pay a price at the polls.

This was a very close election. Republicans remain strong in many states. Key states carried by Obama have Republican governors. The percentage of votes Republicans need from demographic trouble spots is not huge.

It is achievable, if Republicans understand why the GOP brand is tarnished and leaders emerge to take principled stands to address these shortcomings.

WYATT DURRETTE JR. grew up in Franklin and is an attorney and director of Bank of America Center in Richmond