Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Grand Old Party and its Future

Despite some of the pundits who seem to be in denial, the US Republican Party - the Grand Old Party (GOP) - didn't just lose the election, they lost it big time. Obama took most of the swing states and won a handsome majority in the electoral college – he won by 126 votes, a much bigger margin than even the Obama team had hoped for. The question is why?

The current answer you are hearing is that the GOP misunderstands the new demography of the US. Demography is destiny in terms of the voting behaviour of the electorate. This is certainly part of the reason - now just Latino's but also women (binders full of them) influenced this election. The suggestion is that the Obama team had a much stronger understanding of the new demography of the US - much better than that found in the GOP.

A second part of the answer you are hearing is that the GOP's election team put too much belief in rumour and pundits and not enough in data. This is evidenced by the fact that six hours before the vote closed they were still hiring people for the transition to the White House (over 200 were hired) and had the fireworks on a barge ready to go. They didn't believe the data that suggested the race was lost or even that it was close. There are linked suggestions that their election "machine" was lacklustre and not fit for purpose - they couldn't get the vote out. They didnt worry about this as much as they should - they were over confident of winning.

The real issue is vision. Mitt Romney thought that his business experience and the challenge of the US economy was enough - he found out that it wasn't. His vision for America was as clear as his understanding of women. The GOP has a vision based on fiscal accountability and responsibility, less government and a strong focus on family value.  But this has morphed into weird policy positions - no new taxes, tax breaks for the rich, cutting social and health programs, all debt and deficit is bad, favouring white males over all females and other ethnic groups and so on. For serious minded policy analysts, the GOP policy book is becoming more and more confusing and less and less driven by evidence, especially when it comes to economic matters.

As the race for 2016 begins - Rubio is already planning trips to Iowa - the key for the GOP is to develop its vision for America and then to document and detail its policies to get the country nearer to that vision. Romney's refusal to spell out detail (e.g. which tax loop holes he would close and what else he would do with the tax code) was a mistake.

What the GOP thinks matters. At some point they will get the chemistry of ideas and people right and they will win.

1 comment:

Harold Gardner said...

The interesting issue for the GOP is what lesson they take. Most of the Democratic & Independent voters I know assume the obvious lesson is to move the party toward the center. As you state it, follow the demographics. Most of the Republicans that I know take exactly the opposite lesson. They believe that Mitt was too moderate or centrist, and the key to winning an election is to nominate a 'real' conservative.