Republicans should have won. The economy was having more trouble starting than my dad’s Pinto back in 1970s, and President Obama had gone from the black Kennedy to the black Jimmy Carter. People blamed the president for Republican obstruction. Fate was practically holding the door to the White House open for Republicans.
How the heck did Mitt Romney blow it?
By Halloween, Republican insiders were starting the blame game. It was Hurricane Sandy and that turncoat Chris Christie who did in Mitt Romney, and he didn’t do himself any favors by running TV ads in Ohio that drew rebukes from Chrysler and GM. And the rank-and-file never thought Romney was as severely conservative as he claimed.
Nonsense. Losing to Obama was a statistical anomaly, a disturbance in the Force, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The fundamentals of Romney’s theory of this race were sound, and Republicans would be smart to avoid taking the following advice:
Don’t worry about nominating an unlikable plutocrat. Picking the personification of Scrooge McDuck and Montgomery Burns didn’t make him look out of touch. He looked successful. This is why they don’t hire ugly models, people. So what if his cufflinks cost more than my car? Rich guys caused our recession. It was smart to pick a rich guy to get us out of the recession.
Republicans should also ignore the old rule that a candidate can never be his own manager. Sure, Romney personally asked Clint Eastwood to speak at the Republican convention and personally approved his campaign’s Libya statement on 9/11, but that just means he’s decisive. And it doesn’t matter that Romney personally rewrote his disastrous convention speech. That wasn’t meddling. That was just a rough draft. Next time, it’s bound to work.
Forget all the talk about reclaiming the Party of Lincoln that is bound to come up. Yes, the voters are getting more diverse. In fact, if everyone who voted in 2008 had voted in 1998, Michael Dukakis would have been president. And by 2020, non-white voters will grow from a quarter to a third of the electorate, leading some to say that focusing on white men will make the Republican Party irrelevant in national elections. But think about it: The Democrats are only too happy to hang out with blacks, gays, secular scientists, college students and the kind of women who actually use birth control, if you know what I mean. Are these the sorts you want on your side? The Republican Party isn’t some open-bar faculty mixer. They say “irrelevant.” I say “exclusive.”
Ignore those who say the Republican Party hurt Mitt. So what if he had to treat Republicans like a drunk uncle who will ruin your dinner party if he’s let out of the basement? You’ve got something to say about the hierarchy of rape? Let it out. If Dirty Harry didn’t let that chair interrupt him, then you shouldn’t let your mothers, wives or daughters stop you.
Finally, don’t let the fact that the Great Recession discredited your economic theories stop you from proposing tax cuts for rich dudes to solve slow job growth. Turning Medicare into Groupon for Grandmas was a good start, but promising to take healthcare money from old people and to give it to guys like A-Rod, Donald Trump and, well, Mitt Romney took real guts. Who cares if a large majority of Americans hates this idea? Who cares if cutting taxes doesn’t grow the economy? You believe it does, and your sincere conviction of things not seen combines two political attributes: the authenticity voters say they crave, and the wildly optimistic crazy talk that voters usually respond to.
Ignore the critics, your conscience, and the election results. What you did in 2012 is bound to work in 2016. Keep at it, and good luck.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.