It is the perfect time to reflect on Romney's loss and the future of the Republican Party.
Many have written off the Republican Party. Changing "demographics" supposedly has doomed the GOP as the electorate has grown less white. Democrats are winning not only among minorities, but young people and women in particular. The Republican Party is doomed...or so we are told.
One good thing about being an older observer of politics is that there is rarely something you have not seen before. Virtually every election has resulted in the the writing of the Democrats and Republicans' epitaphs. In every case, the losing party rebounded, made adjustments, and proceeded to win elections.
As I have said written before, the presidential election of 2012 actually rates among the closer elections in our nation's history. It is amazing that, as weak of a candidate as he was, that Mitt Romney came within a few hundred thousand votes in a handful of states of winning the election. Republicans again won a majority of U.S. House seats and did very well at the state level. We're not talking the Democratic philosophy, whatever that might be, swept the nation in some resounding triumph as my left-wing friends mistakenly believe.
Having said that, the Republicans cannot make the mistake of 2010. During those midterm elections, Republicans won overwhelming victories by being against all things Obama. They came to believe that the 2010 strategy would work equally well in 2012 and that the GOP could win by being the Party of No. It didn't work. Now as 2014 approaches, history tells us it will most likely be a rebound election with Republicans continuing to control the House and even possibly even winning control of the Senate. Republicans can not let a 2014 victory sow the seeds of defeat in 2016 as 2010 did with respect to 2012. The GOP does need to rebuild its coalition if it wants to win long-term.
Following the election, Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner wrote an article expressing my own argument that the GOP needs to move in a more free market populist direction:
Republicans need a new coalition and a new message. The heart of that coalition should be the working class. The message should be populism.
Populist movements in the past have often been ugly because they scapegoated vulnerable minorities. The new Republican populism shouldn't blame the "47 percent" of Mitt Romney's imagination, or immigrants seeking to make a better life. The new Republican populism should declare war on the cronies and special interests who use big government to rig the game in their favor and deny opportunity to those trying to climb the ladder and live the American dream.
It's time for free-market populism and a Republican Party that fights against all forms of political privilege -- a party that champions all who want to work and take risks in order to improve their lives and raise a family.
Romney thought he could win by getting the votes of those Americans who have been successful -- that was the apparent strategic thinking underlying his "47-percent" remarks at a closed-door fundraiser. But any electoral map reveals this as folly.
Upscale white suburbs have steadily trended Democratic. Montgomery County, Maryland, was one of the first. Westchester, New York, and the North Shore of Chicago followed. Philadelphia's white-collar counties and Northern Virginia soon joined the club.
In 2008, Obama made huge gains in the suburbs, pulling in 60 percent in Fairfax County, for instance, and winning the vote of those voters earning over $100,000, according to exit polls. In 2009 and 2010, Republicans bounced back a bit in key suburbs of Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, giving Republicans hope. In 2012 Republicans couldn't have picked a candidate better suited for highly educated, upper-middle-class suburban voters. Romney was successful, risk-averse, smart and nonideological.
The Romney campaign saw this dynamic, and tried to swing the suburbs back to the GOP. Romney campaigned in Northern Virginia's upscale suburbs again and again. In Ohio, he focused on well-off suburbs of Columbus and Cleveland
This suburban strategy fizzled.
...Tim Carney has an understanding of the political landscape that many in the GOP establishment lack. Republicans cannot win elections simply by fighting to let the well-off keep their money. The GOP instead needs to focus on working men and women, as well as the country's many small businesses, who have been the victims as government increasingly rigs the system so that the politically-connected wealthy corporations and individuals can get wealthier.
The GOP is out of power and it needs to play to the disaffected. The disaffected are not the wealthy, an obvious point that conservatives can't seem to understand. The wealthy got wealthier under Obama, and corporations earned record profits while median family earnings fell. Obama uses these facts to defuse the charges he's a socialist. Republicans should use them to show that Obama's big government expands the privileges of the privileged class.
Instead of trying to convince successful people that Democrats will take away their wealth, why not explain to the middle class that big government is keeping them down?
Americans look at Washington and know the game is rigged against them. Conservatives can promise to level the field by getting the bureaucrats and politicians out of it.
In short, Republicans need to come out - forcefully - against corporate welfare and for the free market. Republicans need to strongly oppose corporate and special interest lobbyists who work to rig the political and economic system to benefit their clients.
Corporate welfare takes many forms. It may be tax breaks, direct subsidies or even regulations that keep out competition. More specifically, in Indianapolis we annually hand over tens of millions of tax dollars to billionaire professional sports owners. We also draw more tax increment financing districts to divert property tax dollars from the general fund to politically-connected developers. In this city, virtually every big business that hires the right lobbyists and makes the right political contributions is rewarded with some sort of tax break or some type of taxpayer-funded subsidy.
Who suffers? Well certainly the multitude of small businesses which do not receive the corporate welfare their bigger competitors receive. Ironically those smaller businesses actually employ more people combined than the bigger businesses which are rewarded with our tax dollars.
But also working men and women suffer with corporate welfare. As more and more tax dollars are diverted from the general fund for corporate welfare, city services such as public safety, education, libraries and parks are reduced. Eventually city government raises taxes to make up for that shortfall.
When I started writing about the dangers of corporate welfare a few years ago, I was surprised to find myself getting strong support from the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats. The populist issue cuts across party lines. The only ones who seemed bothered by my continued arguments against corporate welfare are the handful of Establishment Republicans and Democrats who are cashing in on a system that has been rigged in their favor.
Carney is right. The Republicans need a new coalition and that coalition should focus on the working men and women who have had the political and economic system rigged against them.