As the political analysts pick over the election results, pretty much every possible theory about why the GOP lost has been floated by someone, somewhere. Here are the ones I think have the most weight:
-- Mitt wasn't true to himself or anybody else. In Massachusetts, he strongly backed a state health care reform that became the model for "Obamacare." But to get nominated, he felt compelled to run away from his own record, swearing to repeal Obamacare on Day One. That first flip-flop was deadly for any hope of attracting moderate independents to the GOP camp. THEN, after being nominated under a hard-right banner, Romney tried to turn to the center during the debates leading up to the election. That flip-flop had two effects. It confirmed suspicions that Romney would say anything to get elected and it may have weakened support from the so-called Republican base who finally realized they, too, were being lied to. Party loyalists often put up with lies just to get their candidate elected -- but such blatant inconsistency doesn't sell for independent thinkers.
-- The rape gaffs. The majority of Americans believe in the status quo on the abortion issue -- that the woman has the right to choose. Period. End of story. But along come tea party darlings Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Akin's claim that a woman's body naturally prevents pregnancy from a "legitimate rape" was astonishingly stupid. Not just bad politics but utterly, proveably false from the medical point of view. Mourdock's view that if a pregnancy results from a rape, the new life generated represents 'God's will,' was astonishingly insensitive. At least his comment was only an opinion. Mourdock later claimed he was 'attacked' for stating his beliefs. Well, no, he was not attacked. His view was rejected, soundly. But if these rape gaffs were the only abortion-related problems that occurred, Romney would not have suffered so much. However, he picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate, and Ryan's beliefs closely parallel Akin and Mourdock. Also, the GOP platform directly, specifically includes extreme right-to-life positions on abortion. So the gaffs were not misstatements at all. They reflected official beliefs that the campaign managers hoped would be glossed over in all the talk about jobs, jobs, jobs. Knowing that this was a losing stance -- especially for a majority of women, but also for the men who love them -- Romney tried to say he didn't share those extreme views. So, let's see...Romney is absolutely positively a staunch conservative...until he's not. (See point one above).
-- The overall meanness of GOP 2012. Back when the first George Bush was elected, he talked about 1,000 points of light and made a heartfelt case for the concept of compassionate conservatism. But this year, instead of compassion, the GOP was caught touting Ayn Rand's harsh attitudes about "moochers" right in the middle of an economy that's cutting pay for hourly workers while raising costs on everything from health benefits, college tuition and gas prices. Romney -- who is personally a compassionate, faithful Mormon -- was caught dismissing the 47 percent. (See again, point one above). Do Republicans have any idea how insulting these stands are? Nobody can get elected by insulting such huge portions of the electorate. Meanwhile, it became quite obvious that the GOP is on the wrong side of history in its continuing resistance to gay marriage. More meanness, more judgementalism, more efforts to shove religiousity down other peoples' throats in the name of smaller government. Yet young voters are astonished that there's even a question about gay marriage. Some of the few moderates left in the GOP realized they had a problem with all this harshness, but their voices were drowned out by the extremists who dominated the primaries. Politics 101: You can't go around blaming and insulting the people you claim you are trying to help.
-- The specific meanness of the GOP's anti-immigration attitude. Yes, Mitt said he was all in favor of legal immigration. Well, duh. That's not the issue. The question is what to do about the 12 million or so illegal immigrants already here. The overwhelming majority of Americans favor providing a path to citizenship for those 'illegals' who have lived here for years, worked hard for years, and paid taxes for years. Those are the people we specifically want in this country. I know that the pragmatic Rockefeller Republicans would have agreed to immigration reform a long time ago -- their business colleagues want the cheap labor. But every attempt at compromise was viewed as giving "amnesty" to lawbreakers by the harsher elements inside the GOP. They couldn't even make a compromise "for the children" by supporting the Dream Act and that requires a really harsh attitude. And guess what, the GOP lost the Latino and Asian votes 70-30. Surprise. Surprise.
-- The hypocracy of small government and social issues. Ayn Rand was a 100 percent supporter of a woman's right to choose abortion - a very inconvenient fact for devotee Paul Ryan, also a professed staunch Catholic. At least Ayn Rand's view was consistent with her belief that big government should get out of peoples' lives in lots of other ways. Libertarians in general, and some Constitutionalists, also want government out of the legislating morality business. Early on, the tea party seemed like a new flavor of libertarianism. They seemed focused on balancing the budget, living within our means, and so on. I liked what I was hearing from the early version of the tea party. I am not a fan of reckless spending, nor increased debt. I believe Congress really needs more budget discipline. But the theocratic wing of the GOP just cannot stay out of the bedroom, can they? Sadly, the tea party jumped in with both feet by backing clowns like Mourdock. So much for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Meanwhile, the GOP claims it wants to cut spending, yet doesn't think a single dollar can be cut from the defense budget or homeland security. We cannot have enough alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies. We cannot give those cops enough power to snoop on people. Ayn Rand, Ron Paul and other libertarian-leaning people all say America should start backing off the global AND the domestic cop roles. Only the moralistas want to lock up pot smokers. Only the modern versions of Lizzy Borden care what substances adults choose to ingest or inject. But the "don't tread on me" voices in the GOP were stomped into silence by the war and fear profiteers who are addicted to the biggest and most corrupt forms of government welfare: defense contracts and the "war on drugs." So much for smaller government. (Btw, I find it comic that a casino owner -- Sheldon Adelson -- was among the biggest backers of the GOP puritans. While cashing in on debauchery, he spent millions backing the party of family values. Heh.)
Looking forward, the demographic changes in America make it clear that the GOP will be nothing more than an opposition party if it cannot change its judgemental, hateful and exclusionary attitudes. For example, there used to be such a thing as the Log Cabin Republicans -- gay people who believe in GOP economic policies. That group would grow if the GOP drops its silly and hateful opposition to gay marriage. Many Latino, Asian and African immigrants are small business owners who might well agree with GOP views on taxes and regulations -- yet they feel utterly unwelcome in the GOP. You want votes from a more diverse base? Well, stop treating LEGAL immigrants as criminal suspects. Make it easier for them to live here, do business here and become proper citizens of this great nation of immigrants. I've heard that family values are very strong among immigrant populations. So quit alienating them.
All these points -- compassionate conservatism, backing off on judgementalism, etc. -- send the message that the GOP tent must get bigger. The party has to stop being against so much stuff and start being for something positive beyond favors for the already rich and powerful.
Right now, the Democrats have a near-complete lock on the compassion-for-regular-people front. I know that's why I had an Obama sign in my front yard. And I know that's how I will evaluate candidates in the future.