Nov 27 2012




Daily Beast columnist and political commentator Robert Shrum believes given current behavior and the election returns that the Republicans could spend years in the wilderness. Clearly the message the grassroots Tea Party Republicans are embracing is not that this election was rejection of their right wing ideology but they had a flawed messenger and need to define their rhetoric better.

The columnist believes is that there is real denial about the new demographics, developing technology and ineffectiveness of the politics of fear. Here are some excerpts from Shrum's column. Click here to read the rest.

"So here is the Republican Party reinventing itself. The GOP majority in the Ohio legislature rushes to defund Planned Parenthood in its post-election session. The orange-tinted speaker of the House proposes to undo Obamacare through “oversight” in the name of “solving our debt and restoring prosperity.” Never mind that health-care reform doesn’t raise the deficit but reduces it. Or that “a new low,” 33 percent of Americans, the anti-Obama bitter-enders, still favor repealing the law (PDF). And a rising star in the GOP future, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, offers a dim view out of the pre-Darwinian past that maybe the Earth was created in seven days—and that since “theologians” disagree, we should teach “multiple theories.”

This doesn’t sound like rethinking, or thinking at all, but like the reflex and revanchism of a party that doesn’t comprehend or simply can’t respond to the dimensions of its 2012 defeat. There’s not just the delicious irony that maladroit Mitt Romney, the 47 percent man, will end up with 47 percent of the vote. Outside the South, President Obama defeated his opponent 55 to 45 percent, winning a landslide there as well as in the Electoral College. The bottom line: Romney got elected president of the old confederacy.

The aggrieved and deluded suggest secession—a question that was definitively settled four score and seven years ago. The fantasist who founded conjures up a new website,, “proving” that the president stole Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. Sensible Republicans—perhaps even Boehner, who has to fear the Tea Party and a coup from Eric Cantor, his House majority leader—know this is self-defeating nonsense. So do smart GOP strategists, who for speaking truth to the loss of power were promptly denounced by the grand inquisitor Rush Limbaugh as heretics who want “to get rid of conservatism.”


Obama pollster Joel Benenson responded that such shifts may require two or three more cycles of presidential loss. It took the Democrats that long in the wilderness in the 1970s and 1980s, when only one Democrat won the White House for only one term, and then only in reaction to the Watergate scandal. Democratic consultant Steve McMahon amplified the point: until Bill Clinton, Democrats kept hoping or clinging to the certainty that they were right and that all they had to do was find the right candidate.


Schmidt [Republican Consultant Steve] recommended that Republicans dispense with the Iowa caucuses, where the litmus test is who’s most for Jesus, according to the narrow measures of right-wing fundamentalists. That change won’t happen, not yet; religious and movement forces on the far right won’t yield their hold on the primary process and their veto power over the nominee. In the last two elections, they sacrificed at least five Senate seats for the sake of ideological ultra-orthodoxy. So why won’t they demand their kind of presidential candidate—no doubts, no flip-flops, always there with them? And they believe the country will come around to them. Former Moral Majoritarian Ralph Reed smoothly explained how. Yes, there has to be change, to “combine core principles with outreach.” But outreach to whom, if the core principles are reaction and intolerance?

That’s the potentially insuperable challenge for Republicans in the near and medium and maybe even the long term. As Biden adviser and Obama media-maker Mike Donilon said in Florence, the GOP is simply on the wrong side of the emerging majority in the country. In the exit polls, 59 percent of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. By 49 to 46 percent, they supported gay marriage; the tide has swiftly turned on the question that carried George W. Bush to a narrow win in 2004 on a wave of evangelical turnout. And 65 percent in the exit polls favored immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

All this leaves Republicans out there on a demographic cliff with women, Hispanics, and young people. And for the most part, their own primary voters won’t let them



The GOP used to take comfort in the cliché that Hispanics were cultural conservatives, Catholics who agree with them on social issues. Wrong again. In the exit polls, they are more progressive than the electorate as a whole on questions of marriage equality and the role of government. For Hispanics, the passage here has probably already been made with the politics of insult driving them toward the Democrats. And to add injury to that insult, Asian-Americans also are voting Democratic by a wide margin; the likely reason is that they too see the GOP as the party of an indivisible prejudice that demeans them too, even if it doesn’t explicitly target them.

Young people may be another lost cause. As Professor Tucker said at La Pietra, party ID tends to be set by age 30, and those under and approaching 30 are decisively Democratic. So are unmarried women, a growing segment of the population, alienated from the GOP on concerns ranging from reproductive rights to equal pay. Is it really conceivable, soon if ever, that Republicans in the presidential primaries would be willing to leave abortion rights to the states or to leave Planned Parenthood alone? And it’s inconceivable that this would be enough to convince women that the party is on their side.

Economic conservatives and wealthy Republicans have formed an unholy alliance with a religious right whose views they don’t share but whose votes they covet. Now they’re saddled with a base that could leave them with increasingly unelectable nominees—for president, for the Senate, and for the House, which this year was largely saved for the GOP by partisan redistricting.


Can the GOP catch up? It’s not just a matter of technology. There is a “pressing and alarming deficit in human capital.” A sophisticated process doesn’t run itself. Thus the imperative of recruiting “a new generation” of Republican operatives; for example, from the “libertarian-minded minority in Silicon Valley.” But why would libertarian geeks flock to a party that argues for big government interference in the most private aspects of people’s lives, and that discriminates against the gay or lesbian techie who sits nearby in the same open-plan space?

The day after the election, the deputy GOP leader in the Senate, John Cornyn, predicted a “period of reflection and recalibration ahead.” But it’s hard to envision the party realigning itself to the new and real America.

Instead, in the throes of their self-proclaimed reexamination, many Republicans remind me of a scene in Theodore H. White’s classic The Making of the President 1960. JFK spoke in the Boston garden on the last night of the campaign, with politicians and ward heelers smoking cigars arranged in rows behind him. As the crowd cheered, White wrote, a look passed across their faces. You could see what the pols were thinking: Kennedy has a trick; if only I could figure it out, I could be president.

It was a false and easy conceit. And if what the GOP looks for now is a trick, what it will find is a way deeper into the wilderness.