One party platform stated that Hispanics and others should not “be barred from education or employment opportunities because English is not their first language.” It highlighted the need for “dependable and affordable” mass transit in cities, noting that “mass transportation offers the prospect for significant energy conservation.” And it prefaced its plank on abortion by saying that “we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general — and in our own party.”
The other party platform said that “we support English as the nation’s official language.” It chided the Democratic administration for “replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.” And its abortion plank recognized no dissent, taking the position that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
Not so hard to see why Republicans may have lost Hispanics and women, no?
The Republicans' election day disaster wasn't a Mitt problem. In many ways, Mitt was the perfect Republican candidate for an election day that now hinges on a handful of swing states that demographically, geographically, and philosophically lean towards the Democratic party: A business-side moderate from a blue state. The problem was the rightward shift in the Republican party's platform, a shift brought on by the party's decision to rely on the evangelical vote, regarded as a key to victory in Bush's 2004 election.
The party's platform shift aimed to galvanize its supporters on the far right, a historically apathetic voting block that demonstrated what it could do in 2004. But it came at a cost the Republicans didn't seem to anticipate: alienating the socially liberal or moderate Republicans that made up a portion of their party. According to a 2012 PEW Research poll, 23% of Republicans FAVOR gay marriage, as do 58% of independents. 30% of Republicans and 60 percent of independents believe abortion SHOULD BE legal. And a majority of Republicans and Independents believe the government should invest in clean energy like wind and solar. These percentages are not insignificant--when your candidate fervently goes against all of these, you will ostracize voters who factor these issues into their decision. Someone who dislikes Obama tremendously, but loves their gay son will be hard-pressed to vote for the guy who's angling for the bigot vote.
According to exit polls, Obama beat Romney among the 41% of voters who identify themselves as "moderate"-- by 15 percentage points!
Abortion and gay marriage bans may help win local and state races--although Akin and Murdock found out the perils of being too far right--but at a national level, it's hard to see how an adherence to far right social views is beneficial. For the vast majority of Americans, putting these issues on the ballot is akin to putting out an opinion poll--they're not impacted by the results, but they make their voices heard. It's a cheap trick from Karl Rove's playbook that worked well in the past, but is starting to cost the Republicans--because the beliefs of Americans are changing as rapidly as our demographics, perhaps even faster. There was a time in this country when the majority of people thought owning slaves was okay, when people thought that denying women the vote was perfectly natural, when people believed that "separated but equal" was fair. The vast majority of Americans have "evolved" concerning these beliefs, and there's a clear trend future Americans will repudiate the ideas that gays shouldn't marry and abortion is murder: 56% of young Americans support abortion rights (compared to 30% who don't), 70% support gay marriage. Will these young voters change their minds when they get older? Doubtful. And their kids will be even more likely to resist the social conservative viewpoint.
The far-right's war is already lost. Fighting it will only hasten the Republican party's demise.