While the GOP sorts out the reasons they lost in November, Democrats can only hope they come to the wrong conclusions, keeping the U.S. swinging blue for years to come. Here is some advice to Republicans:
The first step in the GOP's recovery is understanding that both their policies and the attitudes of their members need an extreme makeover. They need more than cosmetics, candidates who have Spanish surnames, a certain racial complexion, or a different gender. They need more than a better sales job. The GOP tried this election to make the case more conservative social policies and trickle down economics would be better for them, but other GOP attitudes and policies drowned out those messages.
Mitt Romney's post-election rationale for losing, that President Obama won by giving "gifts" to certain targeted groups, exemplified a wrongheaded attitude. Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal put his finger on it, calling Romney's "gift" remarks as "absolutely wrong ... If we want people to like us, we have to like them first. And you don't start to like people by insulting them and saying their votes were bought."
Romney's "gift" remark was revealing. In the spring, Romney made comments to the Florida fat cat contributors that 47 percent were not going to vote for him because they did not pay taxes and liked being dependent on government programs. Romney's blaming "gifts" has become the defining evidence that his comments were more than inelegant; they showed a basic misunderstanding of those he disdained.
What Romney did not understand was that lust for more gifts did not drive those groups so much as it was the fear a GOP victory would take away gains already made and a party would control Washington that supported policies that were unsympathetic to their needs and tolerated those who were hostile toward them.
Certainly, Hispanics feared they would lose any hope that Obama's commitment for a path to citizenship for their undocumented relatives would be fulfilled since the GOP was opposed to "amnesty" and certainly Hispanics welcomed a temporary dream act, but it was more than just a matter of immigration policy differences. Even Florida Puerto Ricans and Cubans (the first time in modern history) who already had citizenship rights voted for Obama over Romney.
Minorities also saw many GOP supporters expressing "nativist attitudes." A poll conducted by Latino Decisions before the primaries found "forty-six percent of Latino voters said Republicans 'don't care too much' about Hispanics, and another 27 percent said they are being hostile."
Let's face it. The GOP these past four years has tolerated and supported candidates who "dog whistled" to Southern racist attitudes ("welfare queens, train their kids to be janitors"). They have been over the top in their vehement support of policies that are targeted against racial groups, the Arizona "show me your papers" law, restriction of poll access by making poll schedules inconvenient and proof of citizenship more difficult, and "self deportation" as the solution to the undocumented problem. Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) dared to take a moderate position on immigration and was ridiculed and drummed out of the primaries.
For women, the issue was loss of control over their health care that they already had. The GOP tolerated candidates who advocated government and physically intrusive policies, including radical definitions of when life begins that would ban forms of birth control, promising to overturn Roe v. Wade, raising the cost and access to care from mammograms to pills, requiring vaginal probes, and calling some rapes legitimate and others not. The accumulative effect was that for many women it looked like the GOP was hostile to them. The GOP had hoped futiley that women cared more about economic issues than having rights taken away, but the gender gap did not close.