The elections are over, Americans have voted on the direction they would like to see their country go, and President Obama has been reelected for a second term. However, the elections have left about half of America confused and the Republican Party in a state of shell-shock. How did a President under whom America saw an unemployment rate of over 8%, the national debt rise each year, and America’s role in the world being questioned manage to win a second term? The GOP had half their work cut out thanks to the policies of the incumbent President whose 4 years were more a liability than an advantage, and the 2012 elections should have been theirs for the taking. However, it played out very differently and ended in the GOP losing every single battleground state for the Presidential race and its senators struggling to even compete against their rivals. What happened? What went wrong for the glorious GOP with their young conservative guns like Ryan and Rubio that promised a bright future?
Over the last few days, we’ve had plenty of analysis on this from how Governor Romney was not given fair treatment by the liberal media, or how Hurricane Sandy helped the President, or how the demography of the voters has changed drastically in the last decade, to the misrepresentation of the numbers as Mr. Rove did on Fox News. While all of those reasons played a part, some more so than others (such as the change in demography), the final failure of the GOP has been that it simply has not been able to get its message across to the voters, especially the minorities; and this was one thing I’ve noticed throughout the campaign.
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The success of the Democratic Party has largely rested on the fact that they have been able to sell their ideas well, even if it meant indulging in demagoguery. The GOP was painted as a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynous, racist, out-of-date, self-righteous, exploitative, anti-liberty party by the Democrats. Now who would want to turn out and vote for a candidate from such a party? The GOP is actually the very opposite of that, but the party never managed to convince the voters as such; and the failure in the communication is what cost them the election the most.
The Romney public relations team did have some very good moments, such as the “You didn’t build that, Mr. President” comment during their Ohio leg of campaigning, the momentum after the first presidential debate, and their painting of Obama as weak in his foreign policies; but these moments were very small. The Romney team was always on the back foot from Democratic spin, and the way they responded to Romney’s wealth and his 47% comment was disappointing. Even when they did have the advantage, like with the tragic Benghazi incident, they never pushed it enough; and President Obama was eventually able to wait it out. The Romney team was always reacting while Obama’s team was much more proactive. Not once was Romney’s team ever truly aggressive and the Obama team weren’t put under much pressure.
The GOP also never managed to get its message across. Their stance against Obamacare and Social Security was seen as being against the middle class. If anything, the middle class should have voted for the GOP since it is the funds that are going into schemes such as Obamacare that are draining the Treasury and eventually going to affect their standard of living in the future. The young voters who are concerned about the future should have realized that the policies of the Democratic party of spending more now means that their futures will be involved in paying off the debt. But that message never got through, and the Obama PR team was able to make most of it. And it’s sad to see that what iconic President John F. Kennedy said (“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”) has now been made into “Ask what the country can do for you,” by the Obama campaign and sold successfully to the American public.
On the economy, which was the biggest issue in the election, all polls showed that people thought Romney was better suited to tackle the huge debt crisis that America finds itself in; but the votes didn’t reflect that. Now with Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, you have two of the best brains to deal with this; yet they fell short on the day when it mattered. Why? One might say it was because most people who were on Obama’s welfare program didn’t want to vote for someone who would repeal it. After all, one doesn’t bite the hand that feeds them. While this may be true, the major fact is that Romney never actually got his message across to the urban middle-class that he was going to run the government as a business and not as a charity, so their future doesn’t involve paying for the debts of today. Another PR failure.
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Also on social issues, the GOP differs as they stand on some principles, but that gave the Obama campaign a chance to paint it as a fear-mongering party of hatred. The GOP was never able to shed the “homophobic” tag. Also, on the issue of abortion, the many gaffes by people such as Todd Akin and Richard Murdoch did little to help the cause. Instead of being seen as a crusader for life, the GOP was seen as putting down women and their rights. It was even sad to see how the PR team handled the ‘binders full of women’ comment that was taken completely out of context.
A PR campaign is supposed to do damage control, but Romeny’s team never did a very good job at that. Obama’s team managed to hide their horrible track record for the last 4 years, which was in front of the world to see. How does one hide something so big? By shifting the attention onto things such as Romney’s wealth and his tax records. Did the Romney team come up with a proper answer to those negative ads? No; and in the end he was seen as a rich, greedy, selfish man who just cares about his own wealth, while Obama became the champion of the middle class, despite the fact that his policies affect the middle class more.
It’s time the Republican Party check where they stand and just how effectively they are communicating with the public whose vote they need. They need to stop isolating the minorities. Given that Obama had an advantage with black votes, the fact remains that Romney failed to make any impression on them despite the fact that African-American unemployment rates were at an all time high at near 14% in some states! Similarly, the Latino votes were all lost as the party that strives to make America ‘the land of opportunities’ was seen as being xenophobic. The moderates aligned themselves with the liberals this election as they were confused about certain stances of the conservative GOP, thanks to Romney flip-flopping on certain issues such as abortion. The conservative message in the end came out as out-of-date and self-righteous. which did the campaign much harm. Women votes were also lost to Democratic demagoguery; and with the changing demography, these votes now become more vital than ever. It is of utmost importance that one gets the message across to them properly.
The first reason of success or failure in any business, marriage, friendship, government, or even a political campaign is communication; and Romney’s team failed to communicate properly while the Obama team (despite all their disadvantages) managed to portray a picture that got them the vital votes. With over $2 billion spent on PR in this campaign by both parties, it rates as the most expensive political campaign in history. The entire way of reaching out to the public has changed, but the message remains the same; and in the end, it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out which party was successful in their communication.
This election should have been Romney’s. He was a good candidate, and the GOP had a perfect platform to overthrow President Obama; but they failed, and now the GOP has some soul-searching to do. They need to go back to the Constitution that the forefathers wrote, take another look at their stances, and find ways to better communicate to the public. The 2014 mid-term elections will give us a fair idea where the future of the GOP is and its role in shaping America’s future.
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For the 2016 elections, the conservatives will back the GOP as they got behind Romney this time. But the party must be sure to reach out to the public with its message if they want a Republican in the White House.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)
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