That’s what I’ll remember most about the 2012 election. Yes, I’ll remember Mitt Romney making class warfare explicit with his 47% comment, Paul Ryan making generational warfare explicit in the vice presidential debate, Rick Santorum explaining that he’s against welfare for blah people, George Allen running a campaign that made Fred Thompson look passionate & energetic, and Scott Brown begging Elizabeth Warren to stop bringing his party into their campaign. Oh, and Mitt wanting to fire Big Bird.
But I’ll most remember how far the GOP has narrowed its field of play, as Buzzfeed visually explained. The 2012 elections have revealed just how much the GOP’s exclusionary extremism – against brown people, against women’s rights, against LGBT equal rights, against young people, against low-income families, against conservation, against cities – have narrowed Republican path to victory.
When you hear that Mitt Romney barely scraped out a win in North Carolina while losing Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and likely Florida … and that a Senate that was supposed to be primed for GOP takeover is now a Democratic gain … if I was a Republican, I’d be wondering how Karl Rove’s plan for a permanent conservative majority has suddenly flipped into a minimum of eight years of playing defense.
As Duncan Black put it at Atrios, “For awhile it was ‘the heartland’ and ‘the South’ and now it’s simply ‘white dudes in the heartland and the South.'” And with that core constituency, the plan still worked! They not only won big percentages of white men, they turned them out in high numbers. The GOP’s percentage of the white vote was the highest it’s been since George H.W. Bush clobbered Mike Dukakis in 1988.
But in 2012, that’s not enough to win a national election – or even a statewide election in much of America. Look at Jon Tester pulling out a surprise win in Montana, or Bill Nelson destroying Connie Mack in Florida.
I wish I could say that I was confident today that Republicans across America are blinking their eyes, wondering how they could’ve fallen under the spell of Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh & David Koch as they lined their own pockets and marginalized the entire party. In an ideal world, a Republican Party interested in broadening its base could return to that pragmatic past and play a critical role in hammering out solutions to some of our biggest problems – from immigration reform to climate action to easing skyrocketing student loan debt burden.
I grew up in a New England that was filled with reasonable Republicans, people like Lincoln Chafee, Bill Weld and Jim Jeffords. Having strong, sensible Republican candidates on the ballot kept Democrats honest & on their toes. (And unlike Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock & Todd Akin, they actually won statewide elections.) But you know how this story ends: Chafee, Weld & Jeffords were all subsequently cast out of the GOP.
But today those same hucksters are telling Republicans that they didn’t go far right enough. It was Sandy! And the media! And the blahs! And Mitt was never one of us in the first place! And if you’ll just write a check to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove’s Super PAC, next time it’ll all be different. They promise.