Commentary: GOP still doesn't get it, but thinks it can win anyhow

Special to McClatchy NewspapersMarch 13, 2013 

Ever since failing to make Obama a one-term president, Mitt Romney has been trying to figure out why he doesn't occupy the White House.

In a recent interview (naturally with Fox News), he blamed his loss in part on his failure to connect with minorities and his remark that 47 percent of Americans think they are entitled to a government that does something for them. He said he regretted the comment, but indicated his only error was a poor choice of words and not the sentiment behind them. Politicians say they misspoke whenever they inadvertently reveal what they really think.

For her part, Romney's wife Ann said the loss was the media's fault for portraying her husband as an out-of-touch plutocrat. Romney attributed the fact that minorities came out in large numbers for his opponent because "Obamacare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance"; thereby demonstrating he is still an out-of-touch plutocrat. It's apparently hard for him to envision why people one illness away from financial ruin would want insurance they can afford.

However, Romney was still an excellent choice as the standard bearer of his party. His denial of the reasons for his loss was quickly followed by his regret that his deception did not fool more voters. Now Republican leaders are following the same path. They were surprised by the fact that they can't win the presidency after alienating women, minorities, gays, environmentalists and younger voters. Perhaps because they refer so often to the Founding Fathers, they failed to notice that a majority of the electorate is no longer white, Christian, wealthy, older straight men.

Despite today's demographics, the Grand Old Party is not going to remake itself into a political organization with broader appeal. That's not going to happen any more than Romney is going to engage in some serious introspection. Why would Republicans change their policies when engaging in deception is so much?

To be sure some Republicans have come out of the closet for gay marriage and are talking about immigration reform in a way that does not involve putting ten-million people on a bus bound for the nearest border. But that is just cosmetic blather as they still must cling to their base. A higher-pitched dog whistle and never surrendering in the culture wars will get the faithful to the polls.

The poster boy of the effort to change the messaging without changing the meaning of the message is Senator Marco Rubio. He is the GOP’s Great Brown Hope based on the assumption that Hispanics will vote for anyone who looks vaguely like them even if it is against their economic interests and for a Cuban American who made up key parts of his family story.

And if that doesn’t attract enough voters, there are always ways to keep the wrong people from the polls. The Bush administration spent five years scouring the country for voter fraud cases and came up with a grand total of 86 convictions. But that hasn't stopped states where the Republicans control the legislatures from passing ID requirements and other laws designed to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

And there are other ways to make voting difficult for those who might not vote the right way. In his last State of the Union speech the President mentioned Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old woman who had to wait six hours in line to vote. She is African American and guess which voting districts in Florida had the longest waiting times. But don't wait for the Supreme Court to do anything about. Justice Antonin Scalia thinks protecting the rights of minority voters is reverse discrimination.

And if a majority of the voters still goes for the other guy that does not mean the election is lost as George Bush can attest. All that needs to be done is to steal it. Proposals are cropping up as fast as voter ID laws, but only in swing states, to change the Electoral College vote from a winner-take-all system to one dividing up the votes by congressional districts. If that had happened last time in a handful of key states, there would be one less out-of-touch plutocrat among the ranks of the unemployed.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.

McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.

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