Finger-pointing is well under way by, for and about the national Republican Party in the wake of its disappointing defeat in the 2012 presidential election. That’s a necessary step toward rebounding.
The leader of the ticket, Mitt Romney, explained in a telephone call to major donors that incumbent President Barack Obama, won re-election because of the “gifts” he had provided to blacks, Hispanics and young voters.
That comment hasn’t set well with other Republicans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who instead attributed the loss to the lack of a specific vision that connected with the American people.” Indeed, Romney’s conclusion reflects his campaign’s serious misreading of what it would take to win, reinforcing his ill-fated “47 percent” remark.
It’s certainly true that blacks, Hispanics and young people contributed heavily to the Democrats’ win. Blacks favored Obama by 93 to 6 percent, according to Washington Post exit polls; Hispanics by 71-37; and voters between ages 18-29 by 60-37.
Not only did Romney lose overwhelmingly to the youngest group of voters, but also to those between ages 30-44 by seven percentage points. He carried the 45-64 age group by just four points and did well only with the 65-and-above group (12 points) — the smallest group.
But many people in those categories also have been hardest hit by the hard economic times. They certainlywould have been receptive to an alternative vision with a realistic chance of success. Instead, all they heard was a warmed-over version of the “trickle-down” economic theory that started the nation’s economy on a downward spiral.
Blacks represented only 13 percent of the nearly 124 million Americans who voted in this year’s presidential election and Hispanics only 10 percent. They contributed to, but did not cause the Republican defeat.
White voters preferred Romney by 59-39 percent, according to the exit polls — 72 percent of all voters. However, that’s misleading. A Pew Research Center poll, taken the week before the election and that proved quite accurate, showed Obama getting only 27 percent of white voters in the South, but 46 percent elsewhere.
What made the biggest difference in the presidential election was not a minority but rather a majority — the 53 percent of women who voted. And that’s not an anomaly Republicans can ignore: the percentage is the same as in 2008. Male voters have not been a majority in a presidential election since 1964. Worse for the GOP, a majority of women have voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1992.
How much did women help Obama this year? They gave him a percentage advantage of 55-44. On the other hand, men preferred Romney by 52-45. That’s an 18-point gender gap. Such a huge difference can’t be overcome when women are the majority.
Unmarried women favored Obama by 67-31, and married women favored Romney by 53-46. Romney also won among married men by 60-38 but lost among unmarried men by 56-40.
Let’s take the women’s issue further. The fairer sex not only picked a winner in the presidential race but gained more power in Congress. The U.S. Senate will have 20 female members — only 20 percent but still a record. And four of the five new female senators are Democrats.
In the 435-member House of Representatives, 77 women will have seats, also a record. New Hampshire will have the first all-female congressional contingent in history — four Democrats and one Republican.
However, the House Republican caucus will be made up of 86 percent white males.
This new-found female political power will only continue to grow and surely will result soon in the election of the first female president or vice president, or both.
On the state level the Republican Party had much greater success, taking a majority of both houses of the Legislature. But both houses will remain overwhelmingly male. In the 35-member Senate will be five women — three Republicans and two Democrats. In the 100-member House will be 19 women — 11 of them Republicans.
The female contingent of House Republicans comes almost entirely from Northwest Arkansas.
Both parties obviously need to attract and elect more women to the Legislature, as well as other key positions of government.
Nationally, the Democratic Party has already made this a part of its strategy. Republicans have not.
They must accept, though, that the result of the 2012 presidential election was not a one-time occurrence which can be blamed on “gifts” from the Obama administration, a weak presidential ticket or an unlikely coalition of minorities.
As former Bush speechwriter David Frum points out in the his new e-book, “Why Romney Lost (And What the GOP can Do About It),” Republican candidates have received a majority of the popular votes in just one presidential election since 1988. Frum’s boss, George W. Bush, won in 2000, only because of an Electoral College count that went against the popular vote. Then he won re-election in 2004 by a similarly close margin to what Obama had this year.
No political party can continue to play to its fringes and expect to win national elections.
• • •
Roy Ockert is editor emeritus of The Jonesboro Sun. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.