Until the next campaign, Republican pundits will be mulling over Romney’s loss. Last night, at least a couple of them were trying to blame the natural disaster of Sandy and Governor Christie — who apparently committed the sin of acknowledging Obama’s competent assistance, even while he was tub-thumping for Romney. He probably didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be a 24/7 job, with no breaks for bipartisanship.
Romney didn’t lose because of a tropical storm. The great majority of voters had already made up their minds by then. Romney also didn’t lose due to a lack of campaign funds, the (mythical) liberal media, or because America just doesn’t like rich people. All of those excuses are easily undone by facts.
The main reasons Romney lost (according to internet buzz the last few months and in no particular order):
1. Personal Extremism
Romney’s views on today’s social issues such as abortion, gay rights, immigration, the poor and the elderly do not coincide with the views of the majority, including a substantial number of Republicans.
2. Party Extremism
The Republican party has steadily moved toward the fringe, not only in candidates (Mourdock, Akin, Bachmann), but in supporters. Whether conscientiously or not, the party has drawn racists, bigots, religious nuts, and those who use religion to justify anti-social, intolerant behavior.
3. His Backers
Divisive figures like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mitch McConnell, and Karl Rove did not help Romney. At a time when most of America is hungry for level-headed moderation, and hoping for at least some bipartisanship cooperation, these narrow-minded, hyperbolic figures are advancing deeper divisions. Even Romney’s celebrity backers, like Ted Nugent and the band Mustaine added to the crazy, fringe element with talk of assassination and staged shootings. No rational person likes to be on the side of crazy.
4. Corporate Interests
Many Americans do follow the money. In Romney’s case, the massive donations from political henchman Karl Rove’s SuperPAC, along with those from billionaires Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Bros. (who have spoken of creating a “conservative Utopia” eerily reminiscent of an Ayn Rand novel), as well as those from major Wall Street interests, painted the candidate as the rich man’s puppet. What favors would Romney be expected to return for those billions of dollars? Exactly what legislation or policies were the donors hoping their money would buy? It’s a question that many Americans, quite rightfully, ask.
And then there are the letters sent out by some Romney-backing corporations to thousands of their employees, threatening that they would lose their jobs if Obama was elected. American workers don’t appreciate being treated as pawns and threatened, especially when it comes to a fundamental personal right like voting.
5. The 47%
There are some comments that just can’t be taken back or spun into non-existence. Romney’s comment that 47% of Americans see themselves as victims who will never take personal responsibility or care for their lives was, to put it mildly, appalling. He repeated the line about “caring for the 100%” after that, but it rang hollow and untrue.
6. The Tax Returns
The campaign seemed to think that Americans would forget about the undisclosed tax returns, but we didn’t. The lack of disclosure only raised more questions. Was Harry Reid’s information right? Did Romney not pay taxes for 10 years? We wanted to know the tax history of the candidate who was espousing tax cuts that would, according to all bipartisan sources, largely benefit the wealthy. Romney’s refusal was like an admission that he had something to hide.
7. Paul Ryan
Young, attractive, healthy… and yet so far to the right that the majority of middle Americans couldn’t connect with him. His professed admiration for the tenets of Atlas Shrugged; his pre-campaign language of “forcible rape“; his desire to meld his religious beliefs with law; the tax plan that only groups like ultra right-wing Heritage Foundation found feasible — all of these things made Ryan an unpalatable running mate.
8. Flip-flops and Lies
Romney’s flip-flops were so head-spinning that not even a 19-minute video could capture them all. His outright lies number 917, according to “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity“. Romney’s proclamation that his campaign wouldn’t be “dictated to by fact-checkers” turned into a seemingly shameless disregard for the truth. In the most recent debacle, the accusation that Chrysler was moving their jobs to China, even a denial from the head of Chrysler himself wasn’t enough for Romney to pull misleading ads.
9. Flubs, Foreign and Domestic
Romney offended all of England over the Olympics. He jumped on the opportunity to politicize Benghazi before all the facts were in. He disenfranchised the poor with talk of safety nets that aren’t really all that safe, and diminished the troops by omission in his convention speech. His supporters complained that he wasn’t getting photo ops for Sandy, so he held a campaign rally under the guise of a food drive. His VP nominee faked helping at a soup kitchen. There were many flubs in, by, and surrounding the Romney camp, a few of which might have been redeemed had the overall number not been so high.
10. Fox News
As the country becomes more divided, and people grow increasingly uncomfortable with the level of animosity, the media darling of the right-wing is seen through less naive lenses. There is real fear, some of it founded, that Fox News is brainwashing a considerable segment of America. Fox News viewers are some of the least informed yet most opinionated television watchers. In the age of social media, Fox News has popularly become known as “Faux News” — an entity to be ridiculed and reviled — along with its viewers. Call it guilt by association, or not wanting to lie down with the dogs, but rational people, including moderate Republicans, are becoming ever-more leery of anything Fox supports, including candidates.
Most Republicans may not be racist, but as has been pointed out so many times this season, most racists are Republicans. And again, it may be guilt by association, but non-bigots of all political persuasions tend to not want to sidle up to a party where other members are hanging Obama dolls, creating “Don’t Re-Nig” bumper stickers, damning immigrants, and talking about “self-deportation”. Romney and other candidates had many opportunities to condemn overt racism, yet chose to stay silent. It hurt them.
The over 1100 Republican-sponsored bills that have been introduced in the last two years to restrict women’s reproductive rights were only the base of an iceberg seemingly meant to sink women. Fair pay was attacked by Republicans, and Romney/Ryan went along with it. The politicizing of rape into categories of “forcible” or “legitimate” was, for many women and the men who love them, disgusting. The fact that Romney has called for an abortion “prohibition” defies the majority will. That he would elect Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade is something many women fear.
In economic hard times, Romney’s (flip-flop) statements on minimum wage increases seemed as Dickensian as billionaire Gina Rinehart’s call to pay mine workers $2 a day. His speech about a Chinese factory with high fences — where we know low wage workers labor for long days, 6 days a week, while living on premises in substandard conditions — was almost slavish in admiration. Yes, America wants jobs, but it doesn’t want low-wage sweatshops or a return to the days when workers had few protections and almost no rights.
14. Health Care
Love it or hate it, the Affordable Care Act, now known as Obamacare, was an action that addressed chronic, long-standing public complaints. By a slight majority, Americans approved of this plan. Romney/Ryan wanted to abolish it on “Day One” with nothing ready to stand in its stead — no comprehensive overhaul, no great new idea — only some limited voucher plan for the old and disabled.
15. Gay Marriage & Rights
The world is changing. The red states and religious right may not want it to change, but just like other gained civil rights they’ve fought against, this is an issue they’re going to lose. There is no room for “separate, but equal” here, and certainly not for “marriage is between one man and one woman” dictates. Outside of religious beliefs — which should be kept separate from government — there is no compelling, logical reason to legally prevent two people of the same sex from marrying. Romney and Ryan chose their personal religious beliefs over the principle of equality.
Not a key factor, but the family is worth mentioning.
Ann’s infamous lines about “You people” and “the chattering class,” along with other gaffes, such as comparing the missionary work of her sons with military service, didn’t endear her to the American public. Neither did Tagg Romney’s classless desire to go punch Obama. While it’s a benefit to like the family members of those in office, it’s not a decision changer for most people — perhaps because most families have at least one problematic relative. That said, the Romney family didn’t tick, it grated. Stories of $77,000 dollar horses, multiple homes, and dogs on car roofs just weren’t warm or relatable.
Update: People have asked where the economy is on this list. It is in #7, Ryan’s tax plan. Romney’s economic recovery plan and his “12 million jobs” seemed to hinge on taxes first, and then increasing domestic energy. While Internet users did express concern that Romney would be “Bush 3″ — offering a Reagan-era trickle down plan that would never actually trickle down — they did not separate those concerns from the tax plan, likely because it seemed to be Romney’s chief offering for economic growth.
This article also appears on the Huffington Post.