Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Electorate Heard The GOP Loud And Clear

It has been almost three months since the 2012 election and the GOP is still struggling to comprehend why they were rejected by the voters. Nevertheless, there seems to be a consensus emerging among Republican pundits, strategists and elected officials that the party mainly suffers from a failure to effectively communicate its message. A few rhetorical tweaks, a better turnout machine and the GOP will be flying high again.

Language and presentation is an important part of politics. But no amount of clever or lofty words can overcome an unappealing agenda. In the rhetorical war over abortion, the term "pro-life" is more appealing than "pro-abortion" or even "pro-choice". After all, other than serial killers who isn't pro-life?

Despite the rhetorical upper hand, the pro-life movement has little to show for its efforts during the last 40 years. At the federal level, they have only managed to outlaw one late term procedure. At the state level, every ballot initiative to restrict or ban abortion has been soundly rejected; even in deep red states like Mississippi. A few days ago, Wall Street Journal/NBC released a poll showing that 70% of respondents opposed overturning Roe v. Wade.

Like the proverbial dog food, no amount of clever marketing is going to make women and minorities swallow the Republican party platform. A policy agenda that would strip away hard fought for rights. A policy agenda that denies equal rights to all Americans.

It has become fashionable among GOP circles to blame the remarks by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock made about rape for the party's poor showing among women voters. Never mind that the Republican party has been suffering from a gender gap for decades. Even if Akin and Mourdock had said nothing about rape, the GOP lost the women vote the moment it adopted a platform calling for personhood rights at the moment of conception.

Should the GOP pro-life plank be codified into law, abortion will be banned in cases of rape and incest. There is even some question as to whether abortion would be permitted to save the life of the mother. Once a fertilized egg is viewed - legally speaking - as no different than a born person, what legal theory permits the killing of a child to save the life of the mother?

Not only would abortion be banned in all cases, commonly used forms of birth control like IUDs and the pill would also be illegal since they prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs. In vitro fertilization treatments would become more difficult because it would be illegal to dispose of unused fertlized eggs. It is an extreme legal position that would adversely impact the lives of women.

The Republican party must understand that reproductive rights are fundamental to women's rights. As long as the party insists on treating women as too irresponsible to be trusted to make their own reproductive decisions, the GOP will continue to lose the women's vote. The choice before American women in 2012 was a party that wanted to force them to carry their rapist's child vs. a party that wanted to force insurance companies to cover birth control. Is it really any wonder that women overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats?

Unemployment rates among African Americans reached record highs under the Obama administration. There was never any illusion among Republican strategists that blacks would switch their vote in the face of such hard economic times. But the hope was that they would sit out the election. Instead,  African American turnout remained the same as 2008.

Black voters turned out and stood in line for hours for one reason alone: they wanted to protect their right to vote. Republicans in key battleground states like Ohio and Florida passed measures that reduced early voting. Moves that were seen as an attempt to return to a time when obstacle after obstacle was placed before African Americans when they tried to exercise their right to vote.

In Miami-Dade, people stood in line to vote well after it was declared that Obama had won re-election. Voters stood in those long lines not for Obama; but to send a message to Republicans that "you are not going to take my right vote away".

Young voters overwhelmingly support same sex marriage. Equal rights for the LGTB community is viewed by the younger generation as the latest struggle for civil rights for all Americans. Is it any wonder that they did not vote for the party that is committed to preserving DOMA?

In June of last year, Senator Marco Rubio announced that he would introduce a Republican version of the DREAM Act. He eventually dropped the plan deeming it unnecessary after Obama implemented his deferred action program. However, before Rubio withdrew his proposal, The Hill Newspaper reported that fellow Republicans were undermining his effort by taking the opportunity to introduce legislation to redefine birthright citizenship.

Latinos voters were very disappointed with Obama's failure to push for immigration reform and aggressive deportation program. But when faced with a Republican party that would go so far as to strip citizenship away from US born children, the choice was self-evident. The problem the GOP faces with Latinos is much larger than just dropping "self-deportation" from its vocabulary.

If there is one lesson that the Republicans need to learn from 2012 is that Americans cherish their rights. It has been a hard and long road for women and minorities to win their rights and there is no turning back. Any political party that is perceived as wanting to strip or deny rights will be punished at the polls.