The election was a huge success in my eyes, with referendums around the country demonstrating the will of the people despite gridlock at the federal level of government. As an independent voter, my only qualm was with the fact that I felt as though I didn't have a choice; I don't completely agree with either Republicans or Democrats, but I felt as though Republicans offered no reasonable alternative to Obama. Clearly many other moderates felt the same way. I actually would have voted for McCain in 2008, but this election there was barely a doubt who I was voting for from the Republican primaries onward. Therefore, I want to constructively explore my hopes for the GOP as it attempts to recover from the election.
Romney was an unelectable candidate. He certainly made some fatal mistakes, particularly with his 47% comment, that cost him the election. The field of Republican candidates was far from ideal, possibly due to the intimidating prospect of going against such a formidable and popular candidate as Barack Obama. However, in an economy like this an incumbent President should not be winning elections, and definitely not by such an overwhelming margin in the Electoral College. This was the Republicans’ election to lose. They completely whiffed at a meatball of an election that should have seen them retake not only the Presidency, but Congress as well. The singular mistakes that may have cost them the election are not isolated occurrences; they are symptomatic of a much graver disease within the Republican Party itself that threatens its ability to take on the Democrats in the coming century.
The Republicans did not lose on the economy; to the contrary, more Americans tended to see Romney as better for the economy than Obama. In a recession, this should have resulted in a resounding victory and widespread support for fiscal conservatism and orthodox liberalism. Instead, Obama has received a perceived mandate for a much more interventionist approach towards the economy and the debt crisis in particular. Instead, the Republicans lost on social issues, systematically alienating the fastest growing demographics in America and putting the livelihood of millions of immigrants under possible threat. The impact of these issues can be seen even more clearly when looking at state referendums which portrayed clear support for gay marriage, women’s health choices, progressive solutions to illegal immigration, and decriminalization of cannabis. It is clear from voting patterns that many fiscally conservative people are voting Democrat, despite the economy, because they value their personal freedoms more than personal wealth.
These defeats bring to light the Republican Party’s central pathogen: its ideology suffers from fatal contradictions that make it unable to contend with an adaptive, mutating liberal agenda. The amalgam of fiscal conservatism and religious traditionalism imperils the ability of the Republicans to compete in a society that has been marked by the constant addition of new ethnicities and beliefs. Furthermore, this ideology possesses far less logical consistency than American liberalism. Libertarians scoff at Republican social stances for good reason; these policies are ideologically opposed to the conservative ideal of small government. Obama’s jibes about the antiquated and unsubstantiated nature of Romney’s intent to increase military funding were targeted at conservatives and moderates, not liberals. He was saying: “This is not what you believe in; this is not small government. This doesn't make sense. You are worse off with ridiculous policies that you partially agree with than reasonable policies that you partially disagree with.” And we received that message loud and clear.
It is this inconsistency of ideology that is causing all of the symptoms of a broken party we can see: a ridicule and rejection of most media, consistent failure to achieve policy goals, and a receding primary demographic. For the last four years the Republicans have just barely managed to hold political ground, and now they are retreating into their own territory at full speed with enemies on all sides. Meanwhile, the GOP itself is split as libertarians and religious leaders pull at their respective corners of the political blanket. The cracks exposed in 2008 that inspired the Tea Party movement were deftly exploited and widened by Democrats in 2012 despite a bad economy and concerns abroad.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel of adaptation for Republicans: if policies allowing for more personal freedom are at accepted to an extent by the Republican Party, voting patterns indicate that they will be able to gain ground on economic issues. Appeal to fiscal conservatives without driving away minorities and young people with social stands that would appeal to voters in the 19th century. Lose religion, embrace personal liberties, and people will listen to the economic message. Serve fiscal conservatism with a side of Christianity, and 2012 should give you a fair picture of the next century’s outlook. As an independent, the most disappointing fact about this election is that the Barack Obama’s shortcomings were not met with any sort of reasonable counterargument. There was no logical alternative for me. That is bad for the country as a whole as well as for Republicans; a democracy without intelligible debate is a sad substitute for a vibrant party system. I can only hope that in future elections the GOP will adapt and offer a constructive opposition to present America with a real choice.