As we all know, the 2012 race for the White House was a long, drawn out battle between two candidates each offering a very different direction for America’s future. In the time following the first Presidential debate Republican candidate Mitt Romney raced ahead in the polls; the Republican Party confidently anticipated that come 7th November Romney would be the next President and Karl Rove predicted a landslide win for the GOP. Democrat supporters held their heads in their hands in despair at Obama’s failings. So why, in the event, did Romney and the Republicans fail to win the hearts and minds of the American electorate?
Not Conservative enough?
In the way that many Democrat supporters felt that Romney had swung too far to the right of the ideological spectrum, many Republican supporters felt that he hadn’t swung far enough, accusing him of taking too safe a stance on many of the tough debates.
On the key issue of healthcare Romney remained heavily critical of Obama’s reforms during the election, pledging to simply repeal all that Obama had fought for if he won office. However, critics needed to do no more than point to the healthcare reforms introduced in Massachusetts under Romney’s governorship to discredit much of his anti-healthcare rhetoric; his shake-up of the state’s healthcare was based on very similar principles to the Democrat’s ‘Obamacare’.
Even with hard-line Republican Paul Ryan brought in to satisfy the more right-winged of the party it seems that many G.O.P. supporters are looking for a party more akin to the values of the Tea-Party movement. But with the holy-grail of electoral success being in successfully claiming the ‘middle-ground’, the Republicans are faced with the putative ‘Rubiks Cube’ problem; aligning all the colours on one side whilst making a mess of the other. If the ‘other’ becomes the voters then the party faces a long time excluded from Executive office.
The changing dynamics within the American population was something that party strategists were sensitive to during this election. The votes of African-Americans and Latinos were placed much higher in the agenda of the candidates as each side considered their growing importance in the electorate. When Bill Clinton was elected to the White House in 1992 87% of the voters were white. This year the number of white voters was down to 72%; a decrease of 2% from 2008. In contrast the number of Latino voters increased to total 10% (and is expected to continue its rapid rise) and around 92% of the total votes cast by the black population were for Obama.
This election confirmed the Republican Party as the party for white voters. Romney won the vote of the group by twenty percentage points. It is the Republican’s hard line against illegal immigration and lack of sympathy for those relying on hand-outs, of whom many are from minority backgrounds, that alienates the minority vote from them, a problem that the party will have to face if the country’s demographic changes continue as many analysts predict. It’s a case of do or die for the Republicans.
Does he care about people like me?
For many who voted in the election, this was a key question in deciding to whom to give their vote, and more often than not the answer was a clear-cut no if the ‘he’ in question was Mitt Romney. The Obama camp spent much of the campaign stressing an image of Romney as a rich, out-of-touch, plutocrat running for the interests of white, wealthy men. He helped them out a lot by denouncing 47% of American people as dependent on federal government, as feeling “entitled” to “healthcare, food and housing”. Imagine! Thinking you were, as a human being, entitled to food! Safe to say it didn’t do much in the way of promoting Romney’s much needed caring image.
The issue of women’s rights was again another aspect of the election that played against the Republicans. A women’s right to an abortion is a hugely divisive subject in the US. Clinics, doctors and even patients are often attacked by those on the Pro-Life side and in the election the issue was again raised as a key indicator of where the candidates stood on rights for women. Again, it was an issue that played against the Republicans after a raft of controversial statements from prominent party members and governors.
Considering their problems it seems unlikely that the Republicans will be able to reconfigure to win in the next election of 2016, but it seems they will have to make some fundamental changes to their ideology and hopes if they ever want to see one of their own in Presidential office in the future.
BY: Louise Hill