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“Can You Hear Us Now?”

The GOP reexamines its political message after Obama’s re-election.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

“I said it before and I’ll say it again,” noted slacker and political philosopher Ferris Bueller famously observed. “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

It’s been a dizzying past few weeks on the political front. One week, San Francisco Giants star closing pitcher Sergio Romo, California native and grandson of Mexican migrant workers, wears a T-shirt that reads “I just look illegal” at their World Series championship parade. The next week, President Obama wins a second term despite losing the white vote nationwide.

Americans woke up from a post-election stupor to some stunning results on November 7: we had re-elected our first African-American president, would be sending 20 female senators to Congress, and had voted in favor of marriage equality in multiple states, from sea to proverbial shining sea.

Giving his victory speech in front of supporters in Chicago, President Obama spoke of an inclusive United States: “I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or who you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

“Fifty-five percent of women voted for Obama, according to CNN’s exit polls,” Bonnie Kavoussi reported for The Huffington Post. “Obama also won nearly three-quarters of the Latino vote, more than 90 percent of the black vote, and 73 percent of the Asian-American vote, according to exit polls.”

And as John Nichols pointed out in The Nation, though Obama declined to speak of winning a second term as a “mandate,” as former president George Bush famously did in 2004, his margin of victory is historically significant. “Obama’s win was bigger than John Kennedy’s in 1960 (303 electoral votes, popular vote margin of 112,827), bigger than Richard Nixon’s in 1968 (301 electoral votes, popular vote plurality of 512,000), bigger than Jimmy Carter’s in 1976 (297 electoral votes, popular vote margin of 1,683,247), bigger than George W. Bush’s in 2000 (271 electoral votes and a popular vote loss of 543,816),” Nichols noted.

So how are the Republicans going to move forward from this election? What is the GOP going to do to remain a viable political party in this 21st-century world? What is the plan on the right?

On a recent post-election edition of PBS Newshour, host Jeffrey Brown discussed those questions with three GOP supporters.

“If the Republican Party doesn’t heed this warning—and this is the warning about the massive demographic shift we’re talking about—we will cease to be a majority party,” observed Leslie Sanchez, Republican strategist and author of Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other. “It’s very simple. The math doesn’t add up, not only with the size and growth of the population, but the engagement level and the enthusiasm level.”

“I think many Republicans have been tone-deaf in those areas,” Sanchez continued. “I mean, to the extreme case of, even in the primary debates, of ‘electrified fences’ or ‘those people’ or ‘illegals’ … Oh, my gosh. It raises the hair on the back of any person’s neck. And I will tell you, a lot of independent voters didn’t like that type of messaging, because it sounds as if you’re isolating people, and it’s dehumanizing in many senses.”

“I also think that perhaps the Republican Party should consider a different strategy than just choosing the next old white guy that happens to be standing in the queue,” suggested Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a major Tea Party-supporting organization.

“Republicans need to take note,” added Brad Dayspring, senior advisor to YG (Young Guns) Action Fund, a conservative superPAC. “Since 1988, when George H.W. Bush was elected, we have only won the popular vote in one national election, and that should be concerning. And I don’t think it’s because we’re wrong on the issues. I think our issues are pretty good.”

As has been pointed out, President Obama won election not because he is African-American, but despite that fact. Similarly, Sanchez, Kibbe and Dayspring seem to suggest that Republicans should aim to win more votes from the various nonwhite male communities, not because they are pandering to a particular populace, but because a number of individuals in those communities agree with them on certain issues. In short, they should stop ignoring various demographic populations and have enough faith in their policies to bring their message to the entire electorate.

“It’s like a sports team,” Dayspring suggests. “When you lose the World Series each year, you don’t go and copy your opponent. What you do is, you see what you did right, see what you did wrong, and you make the changes to go and win the following year.”

Which seems like an effort that even supporters of Sergio Romo could support.•

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