Note: This is a very long blog post, but I have a lot to say, and I think both Republicans and Democrats need to hear it.
Well, as you all can imagine, I was one happy camper last week. People said that gay marriage could never win a popular vote. It won in all three states where it was on the ballot this month. People said a pro-gay marriage candidate could not be elected president. Barack Obama supports gay marriage and beat Mitt Romney by over three million public votes and over a hundred electoral votes. Wisconsin has elected an openly gay Senator. Minnesotans voted against strengthening their state’s ban on same-sex marriage. At least five pro-gay marriage Senators got elected. John Boehner and his cohort of homophobes kept control of the House, but we did see the homophobic Joe Walsh lose to the pro-gay marriage Tammy Duckworth, and we will have four new LGBT members of the House of Representatives. Pro-gay marriage Senators like Sheldon Whitehouse and Bernie Sanders easily kept their seats. I once said I thought that, rather than marking the end of the world, 2012 would mark the beginning of the end of America denying gay people equal rights. I think I was right. So today and in the coming days, I will be doing a series of blog posts analyzing the voting results. The first thing that ought to be looked at is, why did President Obama win and Romney lose? Romney was so confident of his victory that he had failed to write a concession speech. He had designed a transition website, and fireworks had been purchased. You have to believe that McCain knew he was likely to lose in 2008, with the country having suffered through eight years of Bush, but it appears that until election night, Romney really thought that he was going to be polishing the drapes come January. Well, something that everyone has to realize is that the Republican Party cost itself the election and propelled President Obama to a second term. It snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. No president since FDR has won reelection with as high an unemployment rate as Obama. Obama was struggling to maintain a majority approval rating. This election could have been a slam-dunk for the Republican Party. Yet, that is not what happened. One important factor in Romney being caught completely off guard is that Republicans seemed to think that legions of people would voted for Obama in 2008 would be voting against him this time. Obviously, this did not happen. Most of the people who voted for Obama in 2008 voted for him again in 2012. I believe that the overconfidence from Republicans was largely the result of the fact that every time an individual who had supported Obama in 2008 withdrew support from him, it was a story in right-wing news outlets. Why did more of Obama’s 2008 supporters not vote for Romney? One factor is the Republican Party’s problem with minority voters. At one time, African Americans almost universally voted Republican. But as the Democratic Party did with gay voters until very recently, the GOP took their votes for granted starting in the 1890s. The Democratic Party remained the more racist of the two parties until the 1960s, so, the thinking went, most blacks were always sure to vote Republicans, and working hard to appeal to them was therefore unnecessary. But when FDR began offering economic programs that were seen as beneficial to African Americans struggling in the Great Depression, many of them began voting Democrat. Although the Republican Party was less racist, many African Americans probably felt that if neither party was going to do a whole lot about civil rights, they might as well go with the party with the economic platform that they favored. Still, the African American vote remained at least somewhat competitive until 1964. Dwight Eisenhower got about 40% of the black vote in 1956, and Richard Nixon got about 30% in 1960. This would be an incredible feat for a Republican to pull off today. But in 1964, the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater, a Southwestern conservative who opposed the Civil Rights Act. A greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats in the House and Senate voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but black voters saw the writing on the wall. Lyndon Johnson, realizing the benefit of a united black voting bloc for the Democratic Party, had signed the legislation, and the Republican presidential candidate opposed it. In 1968, the Democratic Party nominated its most pro-civil rights candidate in history, Hubert Humphrey, while Richard Nixon tried to play both sides of the fence and colluded with segregationist Democrat-turned-Republican, Strom Thurmond. From 1964 to 2012, each Republican presidential candidate has received less than 20 percent of the black vote. GOP icon Ronald Reagan palled around with white supremacists, had a record of opposing federal civil rights legislation, and coddled apartheid South Africa. A party that gets almost no votes from people of a particular race has a precarious existence. Romney made some attempts to win black votes, but he also appointed blatant white supremacist Robert Bork to his Justice Advisory Committee. Furthermore, while he spoke of pursuing affirmative action for women, he did not publicly support affirmative action for African Americans, which would have been a prime opportunity to portray himself as a Rockefeller Republican rather than a Goldwater Republican on civil rights. Romney’s decision in the primaries to attack Gingrich and Perry for supposedly being too liberal on illegal immigration backed him into a corner with Hispanic voters that he could not “etch a sketch” his way out of in the general election. And while I was unable to find statistics on the Native American vote, Native Americans usually vote mostly Democrat, and Romney’s failure to talk much about the severe problems facing many Native Americans makes it unlikely that he got much support from them. The second reason was that Mitt Romney was simultaneously insulting to working class Americans and not fiscally conservative enough. There was simply no way to spin his “47%” comment in a positive way. The message was clear: the 47% of the country who does not pay income taxes, whether they are elderly, in the military, poor, or whatever, whether or they not they pay other kinds of taxes, are lazy, entitled moochers. And of course, people of all economic classes are split in terms of how they vote. Many veterans, senior citizens, and working class Americans were doubtless planning to vote for Romney, and plenty of people among the 53% of income tax-paying Americans voted for Obama. People like Warren Buffett and Alec Baldwin certainly did not decide to vote for Romney after hearing those comments, but a crucial number of “Joe Six Packs” in Ohio may well have decided to vote for Obama. Meanwhile, Romney failed to tap into widespread opposition to Obama’s health care bill. He had signed a bill while governor of Massachusetts that required people to buy health insurance whether they wanted it or not. Thus, he was unable to do a good job of distinguishing between his own health care policy and that of President Obama’s. I think this led some socially liberal, fiscally conservative Americans who opposed ObamaCare to vote for Obama based on social issues. The GOP’s tendency to be insufficiently conservative on certain fiscal issues is largely responsible for the 2008 recession. As president, George W. Bush helped continue Bill Clinton’s promotion of irresponsible lending by favoring low-to-no doc mortgages and the elimination of down payments. The result was that the end of Bush’s administration was marked by a recession that Bush justifiably received a lot of blame for. And finally, Mitt Romney lost because of women’s rights and gay rights. Since Ronald Reagan axed the equal rights amendment plank from the GOP platform at the behest of the Christian Right, Republicans have not surprisingly had a hard time appealing to women. And when you have Senate candidates claiming that the female body can magically prevent a pregnancy from resulting from rape or that such a pregnancy is a gift from God, you really have an uphill battle. Those comments were not merely stupid. They were offensive and reprehensible. As far as gay rights go, I have made it perfectly clear that this is a very personal, since the cause of equal rights for all Americans regardless of sexual orientation is so dear to me. I also made it crystal clear in my last blog post that my vote was based on that issue. Now, when you have a guy like me who opposes so many of the Democratic Party’s fiscal policies yet won’t even consider voting for Mitt Romney, it seems pretty clear that the Republican Party is doing something wrong. Please understand, it was not just Romney I had a problem with. There is no chance in Hell that I would have voted for any of the major Republican primary candidates: Paul, Santorum, Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann, or Perry either. Why? Because they are bigots. Commentators like Neal Boortz and Margaret Hoover have been warning the Republican Party that it would pay a price if it continued to trash gay people, but they were ignored. Republicans chose to listen to vipers like Karl Rove, Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, and Brian Brown. Obama got 77% of the gay vote, seven percentage points more than he received in 2008. Opposition to gay rights goes over badly with younger voters, even ones who are quite conservative fiscally. And it might behoove Republicans to pay attention to the fact that starting 2004, when the differences between the two parties on gay rights started becoming more pronounced, no Republican presidential candidate has been able to win a single Northeastern or West Coast state. When Neal Boortz went off on a tirade against social conservatives shortly after the election, at least one person said that Republicans had actually been trying to avoid gay rights issues and that it was all the fault of liberals for bringing it up. Wrong. Anderson Cooper did not make George W. Bush and most House and Senate Republicans support an anti-gay marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. What Romney and Ryan found out is that you can’t endorse a constitutional amendment about something, then say it is not a big issue. Basically, they wanted to claim that the big issue was jobs and only discuss gay marriage when they were speaking to evangelical and fundamentalist voters. It just does not work like that. Furthermore, whether Republicans like it or not, gay marriage is a current, important issue, and a lot of gay voters understandably want to know a candidate’s position on it. Rather than whining about Democrats bringing up gay marriage, Republicans should just admit that opposition to equality is quickly becoming political poison. Finally, I want to thank Linda McMahon. In her first Senate race, she lost to Richard Blumenthal, who ended up supporting gay marriage. In her second Senate race, she ran against Mike Murphy, who staunchly supported gay marriage during the election. With all of the WWE’s scandals, combined with her lack of debating skills and her disadvantage running as a Republican in a blue state, Linda McMahon helped Blumenthal and Murphy win. And thanks to Linda McMahon, Connecticut now has two pro-gay marriage Senators. I tip my hat to her. Tune in for my next blog post, in which I discuss what is next for the Republican Party.