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ROBINSON: The GOP's listening problem

WASHINGTON -- I know it's early, but I have a sinking feeling the Republican Party is taking all the wrong lessons from last week's election. Short-term, that's a boon for Democrats. Long-term, it's a problem for the country.

The GOP should be listening to reasonable voices such as that of Newt Gingrich. Yes, I used the words "reasonable" and "Gingrich" in the same sentence. He has occasional moments of lucidity, and one came on the "Today" show when he said Republicans "need to stop, take a deep breath and learn.

"I was wrong last week, as was virtually every major Republican analyst," Gingrich said. "And so, you have to stop and say to yourself, 'If I was that far off, what do I need to learn to better understand America?'"

The voices the party should ignore include those claiming that House Republicans, by retaining their majority, won some sort of mandate to continue pushing a radical conservative agenda. And yes, Gingrich has made this argument as well. The fog lifts, the fog descends.

A mandate for the GOP? Don't make me hurt myself laughing. The ideological hero and policy guru of the House Republican caucus, Paul Ryan, couldn't even carry his hometown of Janesville, Wis. (And Mitt Romney, by the way, lost all of his various home states.)

Look, President Obama won 332 electoral votes to 206 for Romney. Much has been written about the demographic shifts that threaten the GOP's future, but there has been less acknowledgement of an obvious fact about the present: Voters preferred Obama's policies to Romney's.

Obama campaigned on a pledge not to extend the Bush tax cuts for households making more than $250,000. He said umpteen times that he will insist on a "balanced approach" to taming the deficit, involving new revenues as well as spending cuts. At this point, if you woke the president from a sound sleep in the middle of the night and thrust a microphone in his face, the first words out of his mouth might be "balanced approach."

Polls show this is what voters want. The election proved this is what voters want. But I fear some Republicans are convincing themselves that their "mandate" requires further obstructionism of the kind we've seen in the last two years. House Speaker John Boehner may want to make a deal, but his caucus may not let him.

Some conservatives even seem tempted to listen to the delusional post-game analysis coming from Romney and Ryan. This is the way to ridicule and ruin.

Ryan said the problem was that he and Romney lost by big margins in "urban" areas -- which I take as a synonym for "places where minorities live." But Republicans always lose in the inner cities. It's the vote-heavy suburbs, such as Virginia's Fairfax County, where Romney and Ryan failed to connect.

Romney, in a conference call with big-money supporters, offered a variation on his "47 percent" hypothesis, which really does seem to be the way this benighted man sees the world. In Romney's view, Obama won only because he succeeded in bribing specific groups of voters with what amount to monetary "gifts."

"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," Romney said. "Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-age women."

And as for Obamacare: "You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you're now going to get free health care, particularly if you don't have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity -- I mean, this is huge. ... Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus."

It doesn't occur to Romney that Republicans might have countered this alleged gift-giving with a health care reform plan of their own, other than "go to the emergency room." If the GOP is really this obtuse, Democrats may win the next few elections without having to break a sweat. And that's the danger I hope we avoid.

Don't get me wrong: I want progressive candidates to win those elections. But parties without meaningful competition become flabby, lazy, unresponsive. Democratic candidates shouldn't win by default, and neither should progressive ideas. A smart, creative, reality-based conservative movement is ultimately good for the liberal cause -- and good for the country.

Step out of the echo chamber, Republicans. There's a big country out there, and it's trying to tell you something. For the sake of party and nation, try listening.

Eugene Robinson is an associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post. Email him at eugenerobinson@washpost.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/eugenerobinson.

Comments

notblind 1 year, 10 months ago

Eugene, Obama won the popular vote by a little over 3 million votes out of about 120 million votes cast [ somebody check my math !! :) ]. This is a very small percentage and yet in your mind Obama absolutely blew Romney out of the water. This was not the case. And there can be no doubt that Romney was a very poor candidate and had a very corrosive 'news' environment working against him. Yet he was still extremely close in the popular vote. This should be sobering to [D] shills but their euphoria over getting the most ill suited president reelected has them reaching for the stars while neck deep in a morass created by Obama's policies.

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news2me 1 year, 10 months ago

I think it is the Democrats that have the most to lose by not listening. A large portion of those that voted for Obama won't bother to vote again, and the democratic party needs to realize that fact.

Why bother listening to an electorate that voted for Obama for all the wrong reasons? The democratic party is going to suffer even more under Obama's reign.

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Mack711 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe Romney lost because he did not say to the ones who take without working for it that he was not going to 'add' to their income. Now you take the 'evil rich' they have the money and control most of the jobs in this country. The Government can not create the jobs necessary to operate this country. So what do they do. They close their business's and keep their money, and not reinvest. Under the current plan that is being proposed we will be losing more jobs. The rich pay according to the current tax code that is in place at this time. Now is the time for the 'Fair Tax' that would be the best plan of all. The vote was a lot closer than most think but most do not look at the amount of votes cast for each, only the winner. The 47% is what got him re-elected along with the others that may increase the 47%.

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kevin 1 year, 10 months ago

Since Obama has not done anything to help the unemployment situation, this caused people to go on welfare and food stamps. They have been on this for so long, they now depend on the government. This is something a "socialist" government thrives on, the people being dependent on politicians. It is a terrible shame that people like Robinson and the the Obama administration look forward to giving away tax money for votes. This is exactly what has happened here, nothing less. Let me hear Mr. Robinson say otherwise! He is no different than the rest of the socialist Liberal ideology. This is the main reason the GOP should stand firm on its own principals. Let the big shots in power do the back bending to get things done. After all, the people voted for 4 more years of gridlock! It is so evident that the Obama admin has done everything in its power to hurt people from helping themselves, including immigrants, for whom he has passed not one law in four years. Never thought I would see half this country turn into a bunch of morons. You reap what you sow suckers!

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Stu 1 year, 10 months ago

If you want to understand why Romney lost, you need look no further than his infamous "47%" comments. First he made the comments in a private talk with fat cat donors -- a setting where you would expect a candidate to say what he really believes. Then, after a long delay, Romney claimed that he didn't "really" mean the comments -- as if a five-minute riff could somehow be written off as a slip of the tongue. Then, after he lost the election, when he had nothing to lose, he essentially repeated the 47% comments, only with an even more bitter and divisive edge.

So there you have Romney in a nutshell -- flipflopping on where he stands, telling each audience what he thinks they want to hear, and flatly denying inconvenient past statements. Part of the reason that President Obama flubbed the first debate was that he was incredulous at the blatant lies that Romney was telling -- for example, that Romney's health care plan wouldn't turn away people with pre-existing conditions.

As if this isn't bad enough, when Romney speaks candidly, as to his donors or after the election, the sentiments he expresses aren't pretty. They reflect the contemptuous, patronizing attitude that he displayed throughout the campaign. Having been lionized by his tight Mormon inner circle his entire life, Mitt felt that he was so self-evidently superior that the only explanation for his defeat must be that people wanted "stuff." Romney simply couldn't accept that voters sized him up and found him wanting.

Yes, Mitt, you're right, we voted for Obama and against you because we wanted stuff. Stuff like respect for our intelligence. Stuff like openness to diversity. Stuff like a refusal to pander to our worst prejudices. Stuff like a president who wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and who actually has a clue about ordinary people's lives. Is that too much to ask for?

Thanks for the parting shot 47% reprise, Mitt -- just when I was starting to feel sorry for you, it reminded me how grateful I should be that you didn't make it to the White House.

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R 1 year, 10 months ago

So what of the comments Prez Obama made to HIS fat-cat big checkbook donors about fools clinging to GOD and guns?

Not very Presidential was it?

Voters didn't want Stuff? Did you miss the Obama phone lady or vote Obama for Obama bucks out of Chicago? You may not care or agree with all Romney says or the way he says it but the dislike shouldn't result in dismissing it all out of hand...

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