This is meant to be a non-partisan look at the crisis facing the Republican Party.
Nothing feels more like a crisis or brings out holes, bruises and messes like losing the presidency. Were the roles reversed, the Democrats’ blemishes and moles would be on exhibit.
Here’s the crisis for the Republicans: Major chunks of its constituents — in shorthand the Tea Party — think Mitt Romney lost because he was too moderate, clearly not conservative enough. These constituents also include fundamentalists, much of Wall Street and major chunks of the nation’s business leadership who don’t want to pay higher taxes. [Not a unique failing of the rich.]
Contrast this rightward political pull with analysis of the electorate. While Romney won the white male vote, President Obama slammed him in categories like women, people of color — especially blacks and Hispanics — and the young.
The Republican Party is like a cartoon character stretched across an abyss, one toe to each side of cliffs that are drawing away, making the plunge inevitable.
The Republican paradox, going back to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 drubbing by Lyndon Johnson is that the more conservative the party’s candidates, the more energized the party’s core becomes; but the more right the party moves, the less likely it is to win the presidency and actually govern because its candidate doesn’t mesh with the electorate.
The perfect personification of this paradox is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. A fervent Romney supporter who castigated Obama through the summer, he became a governor of all the people in Hurricane Sandy’s wake when his state was seriously hurt and needed federal aid.
No one begrudges Christie pushing for aid, that’s his responsibility. But his born-again approach to Obama had to embarrass the Romney campaign on top of its being sidelined by the storm itself, while Obama got all presidential.
This is not to say the moderate-right Republicans like the presidents Bush, or even Richard Nixon, were flukes. But a great many Republicans — you heard and read it repeatedly during this campaign — still idealize Ronald Reagan. Like Sandy, however, Reagan was a 100-year storm. His conservatism was more populism and when combined with his gleeful personality he was not nearly as harsh sounding or seeming as George W. Bush and Nixon often seemed.
Reagan won by appealing to conservative Democrats. No one wrote about “Romney Democrats” this time around. Romney spent so much money and energy in the Republican primaries running with seven others — almost all more conservative than he — for the Reagan mantle that Romney depleted his financial and personal resources for the run against Obama. But beyond that, Republicans ran into issue buzz saws among the voters, given Republican stands on abortion [stigmatized by stupid rape comments], women’s rights, immigration, health care [yes, many people who need Obamacare voted], ending two costly wars, and a sense of tax fairness.
This paradox is not unique to Republicans. The late Sen. George McGovern was the liberal Goldwater in 1972 when his far-Left ideas and furious descriptions of Nixon alienated him from the electorate and into a landslide loss, even though history proved him right about Nixon.
After Obama it appears that Hillary Clinton and perhaps New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are lining up. They are, literally, Clintonian Democrats, like Obama. [She’s married to him; Cuomo was in his cabinet]. Unless the Republicans can reconcile their right-pulling base with a left-shifting electorate, there may not be another Ronald Reagan on the horizon for many years.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.