Election 2012

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, right, and President Barack Obama shake hands with audience members following the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (Eric Gay/AP)

The modern Republican Party hangs around Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency like a cement block around the neck of a Mafia hit. It is dragging him down in spite of his best efforts to get clear of it.

As many have noted, the biggest drag on Romney’s candidacy comes from the last Republican President George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney.

In Monday night’s debate President Barack Obama reminded everyone that Bush and Cheney were the ones “who brought us this mess.” Bush has the least favorable rating of any of the living presidents; only 43 percent of Americans have a positive view of his presidency. And Vice President Cheney, a.k.a. Darth Vadar, still holds the record for the most unpopular vice president in modern history.

Bush and Cheney, as most of us will remember, were all about going to war — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in theory — anywhere. Enraged by the 9/11 attacks, America stood by them for a while – until it became clear that the bellicose policy was not only misguided but also very expensive in both lives and money.

Romney had one mission: show America that he was not cut from the Bush-Cheney cloth.

By the time Democrats took back the Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, the verdict was in. American’s thought the war in Iraq was a mistake. No surprise then, that Bush and Cheney have been sent to “undisclosed locations” for the duration of this campaign. And no surprise that the Mitt Romney who showed up Monday night as an agreeable and peace loving guy. He had one mission: show America that he was not cut from the Bush-Cheney cloth.

But the Bush-Cheney foreign policy is not the only cement block dragging Romney down. Thanks to a man named Pete Wilson, who was Governor of California in the 1990s, Mitt Romney has a big problem with Hispanic voters. In 1994 Wilson promoted and passed Proposition 187, a law many believed to be discriminatory towards the state’s large Hispanic population. Wilson and Prop 187 killed the California Republican Party. Just as Latinos were growing in the population and starting to vote, they got the not-so-subtle message that the Republican party was not their friend. With the exception of Arnold Scharzenegger, no Republican has won the California governorship since then. Not only did California move into the Democratic column in the Electoral College but the Republican Party nationally followed Wilson’s lead. And so today President Obama holds a commanding 45 percent lead among Hispanic voters; a fact that could turn out to be decisive.

The third cement block was tied around Romney’s neck during the Republican primaries this spring. Romney’s final primary opponent turned out to be a conservative Catholic former Senator named Rick Santorum. Not only did Santorum take an absolutist position on abortion, he introduced into the presidential debate the possibility that states should be free to ban contraceptives – and moreover that the 1965 Supreme Court ruling asserting a right to privacy when it comes to contraception was wrong. Many women were amazed and then appalled that, after nearly half a century of legal contraception, someone would actually want to go back in time. The legacy of that one is the fact that Romney is still trailing Obama among women.

Romney’s Republican Party problem is not insurmountable. When Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992 he found himself saddled with a Democratic Party that had managed, in the preceding years, to come down on the wrong side of just about everything including, for instance, being on the side of criminals, not victims, during the country’s biggest crime wave. His strategy was to proclaim himself “a different kind of Democrat” and to take a few high profile positions such as opposing the violent lyrics in a song by a black singer called Sister Souljah in order to prove his independence from the orthodoxy of the party.

On Monday night Romney tried to untie one of the cement blocks around his neck by agreeing with President Obama and rejecting war. But the other blocks are dragging him down.

Unlike the Clinton era Democrats, no one in the modern Republican Party seems to be too worried about the fact that they have alienated some of the fastest growing parts of the electorate. Even if Romney manages to pull this one out and win, the prospects for the future of the Republican Party look dim unless they can manage to get themselves on the right side of history again.


Tags: Barack Obama, Election 2012, Mitt Romney

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  • NamePick

    And Mitt brings along his own cement blocks. So why is this election close?

    • massappeal

      Because unemployment is at 7.8% and the economy is growing slowly. Add in the 1-3% of the electorate that likely voted against Obama in 2008 because he’s African-American, and you get a close race.

      • Nick Sophinos

        Yep, it is going to be close.

  • MrLongleg

    The Republicans need to redefine themselves and get rid of all that right wing insanity. Then they might appeal more to the center (that is what Romney is best etch-a-sketch manor is trying to do right now). But unfortunately the right has been taken over by Fox News that spews out so much hate and lies that I have little hope that they will ever be able to do it. People that think for themselves are far to few. So history will tell them a tough lesson.

    For the country it would be a great thing if the moderates in the Republican party would be able to get out of the shadow of the Tea Party.

  • Don_B1

    While it is not a “cement block” as Ms Kamark defines it for this election, the Republican approach to recovering from a financial crisis of forcing government austerity will have similar effects as it is having in the United Kingdom, which has reentered recession because of government spending cutbacks. If Republicans do the same, as Romney and Ryan have promised, at least up to last week, and Tea/Republicans are demanding, the progress in building a recovery from the Great Contraction of 2007-2009 will be wiped out. Maybe Romney is basing his hopes for a continuing recovery on his military spending program, but again, as with tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans always pick that part of a policy that has the least bang for the dollar spent.

    Note, the current Great Recession [Contraction], is also called a balance sheet crisis (due to the homeowner excess debt) that causes a large sector of the consuming public to cut back on spending causing employers to cut back on hiring and laying off employees, further inciting consumers to cut back, in a vicious cycle (circle) spiraling down like the 1930 recession that created the Great Depression. In that economy, individuals and businesses correctly cut their spending and try to either save or pay down debt, and full consumer spending does not return until at least a majority of those initially with excessive debt pay that down. But that is slowed when they have no jobs and when they lose their homes, their neighbors lose value in their homes and, in effect, join
    them in “excess” debt.

    The situation can be modeled as “my spending is your income, and your spending is my income.” Thus when I reduce my spending to pay down debt or save for a possible job loss, your income is cut and your attempt to cut spending for the same reasons leads to cuts in my income. Thus our joint effort to cut spending results in less income for each of us and we probably have to raid our savings, if any. Thus when everyone tries to save simultaneously, as in a balance sheet recession, most or many people end up poorer, and deeper in financial trouble.

    But there are businesses who still make money but have no incentive to buy capital goods and hire workers to increase their output of goods and services because enough people do not have the money to buy them (there is not the level of aggregate demand). That money the businesses are “saving” which is now over $2 trillion, is invested in treasuries, where it actually earns less than inflation in interest. Those businesses are losing money on their attempts to save it because they do not have an alternate investment that earns a better return. [This is because to find places for all that money among the few smaller, and much riskier, places to save is more effort than it is worth for that large an investment.]

    It was only the ARRA (and TARP) that halted the vicious cycle, but more was necessary to get that consumer debt reduced to the point that consumer spending would return to a level of real economic growth. And Republicans have been assiduously working to prevent that from happening. As an example, a large group of economists from across the political spectrum agreed that the American Jobs Act, proposed by President Obama in September 2011, would have reduced unemployment by at least 1%.


    The Republican Party is mixing and pouring the cement for another “block” in its total irrationality in claiming that CO2 emissions are not causing climate change, and that whatever changes that occur will not be serious. Just a year ago the IEA stated that for every dollar not spent on mitigating (reducing) the results of CO2 emissions before 2020 will require spending $4.30 afterwards. When the American public realizes the extent of the Republican’s water-carrying for the fossil fuel industry they should make the Republicans strict minorities until THEY pass laws increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for the damage done to the environment, which will last for thousands of years.

    If the wealthy are reacting to threats of modest tax increases now because they see it as an existential threat to their increasing share of the growth in income, they need to think about what will happen when the enormity of the disaster that climate change will be, the demand for government action will be overwhelming and the action required will be expensive, and more so for each year of delay in responding to the climate crisis.

  • David C. Holzman

    Hispanics may be a cement block around Romney’s neck, but I don’t know that it has that much to do with prop 187. Somehow, the mainstream media has gotten it into its head that the votes of Americans of Hispanic extraction turn on immigration. In fact, this group opposes amnesty by a whopping 52 to 34 percent (Zogby, Feb. 2010). “The Myth of the Latino Vote” (Sept. Atlantic Monthly) is a nice refutation of this notion: More generally, immigration is pretty far down the list in importance, after the normal things that Democrats worry about, like jobs and the economy.

    This is also the same sort of prejudice that resulted in Americans of Japanese extraction being interned during WWII.

    Maybe Americans of Hispanic extraction are simply a more left leaning demographic, like Jews (disclosure–my own Demographic). You don’t need prop 187 to explain why they are a cement block on Romney.

    I might add that Democrats are fairly evenly divided on immigration, and most Americans, including most Democrats think there is too much immigration. Nicholas Kristof had an excellent column on how mass immigration really does take jobs from the most deprived Americans (Compassion that Hurts, April 9, 2006). It’s only the elites (of both parties) who favor de facto open borders, which is why we have the problem in the first place.