Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Romney Lost

Epistemic Closure - "Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This is epistemic closure." - Julian Sanchez, Cato Institute
With Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's loss last night in the presidential race, a discussion is in order about what caused the loss and how to make the GOP stronger.  I want to be clear here that I believe the country benefits from two parties with two approaches to our challenges but only when those parties work together to compromise.  Up to now, the GOP has decided not to do this.  There are two moments that stood out for me in this regard (As much as possible, I'm going to link to clips of the actual people saying these things in their own words lest I be accused of making things up):

You'll have to forgive me when I chuckled during this part of the first presidential debate when Romney lectured the president on compromise and bipartisanship:

Why did I chuckle?  This self-proclaimed bipartisanship cheerleader vetoed 844 pieces of legislation while Governor of Massachusetts - a majority of which were overturned by the state legislature.  Towards the end of his term, his vetoes became so annoying that he even lost the support of the Republicans in the legislature.  And his party openly admitted that they were willing to stall progress for the entire country so that Obama could fail.  Their hatred for this man coupled with their desire to win, came at our expense as a nation.  That's not un-American?

But let's not digress.  I want to stay focused on how Romney (and the GOP) lost this election.

GOP in Crisis

Whether they know it or not, the GOP has lost its way.  The country is becoming more socially accepting, more diverse culturally, and less religious.  What's left of the white, religious (some would argue racist) demographic is being shoved firmly into southern red states.  Uneducated voters make up the largest segments of these constituencies.  I don't just mean personal education, I mean "low information".  Epistemic closure is the reason.  Fox News has created a narrative that if you don't hear it there, you're hearing left wing propaganda.  This means that the message is controlled by Fox.  If you hear something there, then start tuning into other right wing media outlets such as Rush, Drudge, AM Radio, etc, you are firmly caught in an echo chamber where the same talking points bounce around under the guise of "some people say".  This chamber just doesn't allow unmolested facts in.  The problem with this is you begin to believe what you're told instead of what's really happening.  There were GOP pundits who were genuinely shocked last night that Romney didn't win by a landslide even though polls were showing Obama leads or, at the very least, that it was a close race.

As Andrew Sullivan said, "Fox deserves a great deal of credit for re-electing president Obama. Because they refused to see who he actually was, they could not effectively counter him. They countered a figment of their imagination - and it was a particularly nasty, bilious, mean figment. Their universe became a black hole last night, sucking almost all of them in."

What's shocking to me is how faithful these viewers are.  If I'd been misled this badly by any network, I'd be very distrustful of them right now.  But because of epistemic closure, the reality can't make it in.  The victim stories were already starting last night.  It was hurricane Sandy's fault.  It was Chris Christie's fault.  It was the liberal media's fault.  Everyone's fault but Romney's and the GOP's.  If this keeps up, Republicans better like losing and being surprised by it.  There isn't a big conspiracy to keep the election out of the GOP's hands.  They did it all by themselves and I'm going to walk you through how they did it right now.  

There are at least seven demographics at play in any election in the United States:
  • Racial Minorities
  • Gays and Lesbians
  • Youth
  • Women
  • Lower and Middle class
  • Whites
  • Upper class
To understand how Romney lost, you need to understand how he and the GOP around him systematically (and politically suicidally) alienated themselves from all but the last two of these demographics.  Buckle up.

"We're outnumbered." - Rush Limbaugh, November 7, 2012

Racial Minorities

Obviously, Romney had a natural (but not insurmountable) disadvantage here by running against a black man.  I've heard some accuse the black community of reverse racism because they "automatically" vote for the black candidate (93% of black voters representing 13% of the electorate voted for Obama).  But that's just silly.  White (and black people when they were allowed to vote at all) have been voting for white presidents since the founding of this nation.  Black people are willing to vote for white presidents.  Just not millionaires whose idea of struggle would be considered luxury for many minorities.  The black vote for Obama is all the more reason for Romney to have avoided alienating other racial minorities.  Latinos represent 10% and Asians represent 3% of the electorate.  71% of Latinos voted for Obama and 73% of Asians did so.  So how did the GOP screw this up?  Like this:

This hard-assed approach to immigration is not popular in a country that is increasingly becoming a minority based demographic (2011 was the first year that more minority babies were born in America than white babies).  I'd also ask you to look behind Romney in that clip above and tell me how many minorities are in the room?

Gays and Lesbians

Romney supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage.  And don't even get me started about the GOP in general which adopted the following language into its official platform:
"We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity." (my emphasis)
Yes.  Treated with respect and dignity by denying LGBT relationships any respect or dignity.  I think it goes without saying that the GOP has zero interest in LGBT rights.  I've heard an argument that goes something like this, "Yeah Sean, but Obama just recently changed his mind about this."  Those who make this argument are inferring that Obama's support is not genuine and is all politics.  I find this argument amusing coming from a group of people who voted for arguably the least genuine of all politicians.  A man who flip flopped on 18 months of campaigning so hard on the first debate, he left the president almost speechless.  But aside from that, we're still talking about a president who got DADT repealed, signed new rules preventing deportation for HIV+ immigrants (begun by Bush Jr.), and stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This all happened before the President announced his support for gay marriage so there was quite a bit of rubber on the road by that point.  I believe that the President will follow through on his position because I've already seen him do so many times.  Plus with potentially two Supreme Court justices retiring in the next four years and some very important gay rights cases headed their way, gays are not going to be taking any chances with Romney appointees.


Voters 18-29 made up 19% of the voting population (2008 it was 18%) and Obama took 60% of the vote from that group.  The youth vote greatly revolves around concerns about their future (retirement, climate change, etc).  This is not helped by ads like these:

The entire GOP seems to be in denial about climate change (and science in general).  Instead of walls to keep illegal immigrants out, how about walls that prevent the kinds of storm surges we just saw?  The younger voters are sitting in their houses with snorkels on having a difficult time believing the denials.

During the first presidential debate, you heard Romney clarify over and over that his plans for Medicare do not affect current retirees, only future retirees.  He was so defensive about that point that it looked pretty obvious that the plan would be painful for whoever was affected by it.  The youth vote couldn't help but see this and think that Romney had it out for them.

Lastly, the youth in this country consider gay rights to be a non-issue - even in red states.  Many young people have gay siblings, uncles and aunts, etc., and they are personally affected when gay rights are threatened.  This influences many votes.  The GOP decided to shoulder this issue and they need to accept the lost votes as a result.


Nowhere did the GOP screw the pooch more than with this demographic.  Romney's binder comment aside (I think this was overplayed by the Dems the same way the GOP overplayed Benghazi), he didn't support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - or at least refused to state a position on it.  But Romney was a saint compared to some of the rest of the GOP.  When you have a squad of ignorance running around saying things like what's shown above, it should not be a surprise when you have a difficult time getting women to vote for you.  That doesn't even include people like Rush Limbaugh who began the downward slide during the birth control debacle.  Don't believe these comments matter?  Check this out:

Tell me it didn't matter.  All this resulted in ads like this one:

How the GOP can allow their party to alienate over half the U.S. population without rebuke is just beyond me.

Lower and Middle Class

Obviously there are a slew of examples for this one.  Here we go:

People who've recently been fired or laid off could simply not relate to the joy of it all.

How exactly?  Oh by disenfranchising minority and lower class voters.  Thanks for being honest about that.  I'm sure that didn't drive a whole bunch of minorities to the polls.

Yes.  a $10,000 bet.  Small potatoes.  Make a friendly bet for an amount that's just under half the median income for an American family.  Then there's the mother of all videos:

Nice job Mitt!  You're either a total snob or a seven-faced lying monster.  Great way to turn supporters against you.  Surely many of them are part of that 47% including seniors on social security and medicare, military veterans, unemployed, etc.


I want to be really clear about something:  I'm not advocating that the GOP "change their message".  I'm advocating that they change their party.  You don't fix this by finding a "better nominee".  You fix it by changing the appeal to the above demographics at a party level.  I don't want the same out-of-touch people just telling America what it wants to hear.  I want these people out.  I want the tea party out.  I want the GOP to go back to its roots of fiscal conservatism instead of clinging to moral conservatism as if there are enough prudish people to put them in office every election.  If you want that too, then push for change in the Republican party. You do that by writing to your congressman and the leaders in your party and telling them to drop these social issues and focus on honing the size of government.  You tell them to expel these religious fanatics from their ranks.  You tell them to disown stupid people like Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump with their idiotic accusations of the president being "un-American".  You tell Fox and the rest of the right wing media machine that you want facts, not spin.  You want the whole story not the part that makes democrats look bad.  You want news, not opinion.  You want support for America, not support for a party.

And maybe, just maybe, if all these entities started behaving this way, the American people would follow.  Because the red vs. blue thing is not working.  It's not solving problems, it's keeping them around.  Don't make Romney's defeat mean nothing.  Use it as a wakeup call that your party needs to rally around its core fiscal principles.  Maybe next election, it will be a tougher choice for me.

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