Mitt Romney’s severe electoral defeat Tuesday night offered the clearest and most public illustration to date of the myriad of problems that plague my party. While most of the cries of my fellow reformers have gone straight to the GOP’s voicemail, in the aftermath of yet another disappointing presidential cycle I see a clear opportunity to put our call on speakerphone.
Romney blamed no one for his defeat in his concession speech Wednesday morning. But while he may have been satisfied by simply “giving it his all,” if Romney was looking to hold someone responsible for his loss he could have very well started with his own campaign.
The big difference-maker this cycle was supposed to be SuperPAC money – unlimited sums from anyone who wanted to chip in, usually for the Republican side. Yet for all the millions he and his allies raked in, Mitt was simply unable to make the cash count.
As I’ve said in the past, Romney’s entire PR operation was amateurish and grossly inefficient. Mitt, even with his Harvard business school credentials, is not immune to the laws of campaign management – which require you to use dedicated PR firms and not random campaign employees to craft your message for you.
But while part of the blame does rest with some very questionable campaign decisions by a group of people who will never be trusted with a national race again, there’s a much heavier gorilla in the room.
It is an undeniable fact that my party has come to be dominated by members of what David Frum has termed the “right wing entertainment complex.” From his interview on Morning Joe:
“The real problem is with the Republican activist base and the Republican donor base. I won’t forget the lupine smile that played over the head of one major conservative institution when [a fundraiser] told me that our donors think that the apocalypse has arrived. Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex.”
The other night I had a discussion with my roommate about the importance of self-analysis. We both agreed that if you’re not constantly evaluating yourself, you can’t make solid decisions about your future.
For too long, the Republican Party has avoided this kind of self-analysis, out of a sense of either paranoia or delusion. Allow me then to lay to truth bare:
- If this party fails to get the Tea Party movement under control, we will be locked out of a senate majority again and again. This cycle is the second in the last two years in which Tea Party candidates have lost us seats.
- The GOP is missing huge opportunities with young voters and Hispanics. The debt (which my generation will pay) would be a great wedge issue for 18-29 year olds, and there’s no reason hard-working, family-oriented Hispanics shouldn’t fit under our tent.
- The tone of the GOP is dictated almost exclusively by talk radio and Fox news personalities. It’s hard to describe in words how much persuadable voters inwardly ridicule these people.
- Our messaging on social issues makes us sound like cavemen. Do you oppose abortion? Of course you do. But don’t try to say that rape is okay unless you want to tar the whole party.
Talks of a GOP civil war are now circulating just like they were after the blowout of 2008. During these last few years, while the problems I just pointed out festered under a kitchen-sink opposition to President Obama, party leaders like RNC chair Rience Priebus twiddled their thumbs. I pointed out early in the nomination fight that we had to choose a sane candidate, and while some of the most influential voices in the party have pursued birth certificates, blamed hurricanes, and droned about “legitimate rape,” I was writing about the need for a new direction for a movement that is still fixated on a president who was last elected in the 1980s.
I want my party back.