Jack Tame: Republicans misreading voters in complex US


Contrast is a funny thing, especially in the USA.

In a nation of ultimate diversity, it's still staggering to witness the contrast in politics, values, and people that make up one place. At the sharp end of politics, the divides across the spectrum are angry and extreme. With contenders raspy-voiced and exhausted, and the polls still crazy-tight, the 2012 election carried Henny Penny pressure for hardcore Democrats and Republicans alike. Victory - the only outcome feasible. Defeat - the end of the world.

Needless to say, contrast wasn't quite so funny in Boston on Wednesday night.

Bleak and oh-so sober, in blue suits, white shirts and red ties, a few hundred Republicans stared up at blaring Fox News screens and images of joy and delirium. A few murmured and shook the odd hand but few seemed eager to work the room. They rocked on their heels, checked watches and phones, and stared up, glum and forlorn.

One man near the back was sitting on the floor, preppy still, but propped against the wall. If you'd given him a backpack and an iPod, he could've been a tourist waiting for a train.

Ohio was falling to Obama. The man rose to his feet.

"America is over," he said, as he passed me for the door.

Henny Penny was right after all. This might be the end of the world.

Of course, the sun still rose on Thursday and the sky was still in place. But as the GOP turns to consider defeat, the obvious flaw in their campaign is apparent. Mitt Romney lost the Presidential election because the Republican Party and platform are not the best representatives of the US as a whole.

This is a changing place, a place of extreme diversity. Five time zones and enormous geographic space is filled with a rich variety of religions and languages and people of different ages and cultures.

For the first time this year since records began, white births in America were the minority. For the first time in any statewide popular vote, Maine and Maryland supported gay marriage. Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin was defeated in his Senate race, in a win for the pro-choice abortion movement. Washington State legalised marijuana while Latino voters hit the polls in record numbers, voting in a vast majority for the incumbent. Almost all African American voters cast in favour of Barack Obama.

But, as the social makeup of America slowly changes and the social values of its society shift left, Republicans have been caught flat-footed and too far right of the American mainstream.

"The country is changing and the people our party appeals to is a static group," Republican strategist Mike Murphy told the Washington Post upon Mitt Romney's defeat.

Many of the problems in political positioning stem from the Republican Primaries. To win the party nomination, Mitt Romney had to win over the more conservative factions of the GOP.

But the Tea Party and ultra-conservative influence is misrepresentative of a larger society where the masses are moderate. Diversity is to be celebrated. Contrast is to be embraced. America is no longer just middle-aged, God-fearing and white. The Republican Party is.

To change now is to be American, for America is a changing place. For Republicans it will be essential. It may not even spell the end of the world.

- Herald on Sunday

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