In response to, ‘Real reason Mitt Romney, GOP lost; party must adapt to evolving society’

Many factors will contribute to the Republican Party’s success or defeat in the 2014 midterm and 2016 presidential elections. However, Mr. James’ assertion that Mitt Romney lost the election because of the GOP’s stances on social issues misstated – or overlooked – several key facts that deserve to be addressed.

It is unclear what source Mr. James was citing when he claimed, “In 2011, 36 percent of Americans (the highest ever) supported the legality of abortion ‘under any circumstances,’ and 77 percent now believe abortion should remain legal.” In May 2012, a Gallup poll found that Americans identifying themselves as “pro-choice” was at 41 percent, an all-time low, while 50 percent of Americans identified themselves as “pro-life.” This poll also indicated that the number of Democrats who identified themselves as “pro-choice” was a mere 58 percent, a drop from years past.

Granted, some Americans who identify themselves as “pro-life” support abortion in cases of rape and incest, and some abortion supporters favor limitations on abortion such as parental notification laws and abortion bans late in pregnancy.

In 2010, Gallup announced that “pro-life is the new normal.” It is also worth noting that upon announcing her resignation, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that there is an “intensity gap” among young people when it comes to abortion – young people who oppose abortion are more passionate than young people who support it.

Mitt Romney didn’t lose the election because of his social conservatism; he lost because he failed to appeal to Latino voters. The Democratic Party platform on immigration, particularly on the issue of illegal immigration and amnesty, is much more appealing to Latinos than the GOP platform, which can easily be misconstrued as one of massive deportations and a heavily guarded border.

As columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, “[Hispanics] should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion, for example),” but the GOP loses its appeal by largely failing to consider amnesty for illegal immigrants who already live and work in the United States.

If future GOP candidates can answer tricky or baited questions about abortion more delicately than Todd Akin and Richard Murdock did while still sticking firmly to their pro-life views, transform their party’s platform on immigration and continue to advocate socially conservative policies on abortion and gay marriage, they will gain much more of the Latino vote.

The fact that Colorado legalized recreational marijuana does not reflect a dramatic shift away from traditional conservatism; as columnist George F. Will put it, “…it is strange for conservatives to turn a stony face toward any reconsideration of drug policies, particularly concerning marijuana, which confirm conservatism’s warnings about government persistence in the teeth of evidence.” Marijuana legalization at the state level is the Tenth Amendment at its finest; proponents of a small federal government should embrace reformed marijuana laws.

Mr. James’ claim that Mitt Romney “lost because he believes the government can tell Americans how to make their personal moral choices, and we are at a point in history when Americans are no longer willing to accept this” implies the government doesn’t already tell Americans what personal moral choices they can or can’t make.

Actually, the government can and does; this is called the law. Laws, whether they are hotly contested, lobbied against as unconstitutional or largely ignored, still legislate and regulate based on morality. President Obama has certainly imposed his morals on Americans: he’s forced the intrusive Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, his signature piece of legislation, on Americans; he repealed the Mexico City Policy, which prevented international organizations that receive United States taxpayer funding from performing abortions abroad because his administration is not opposed to expanding access to abortion. He also stopped enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act because his position on gay marriage has “evolved.”

Mr. James claims that candidates who support something that less than 50 percent of voters back is “suicide,” yet he forgets that prior to 2012, the majority of voters did not support gay marriage. Obviously, education efforts, such as the pro-life ones and gay marriage ones, can and do change people’s views.

America will probably never agree unanimously about social issues, and there will probably always be single-issue voters on both sides when it comes to gay marriage and abortion. However, if the GOP can evolve its position on immigration while holding onto its social conservatism, it will garner a large part of the Latino vote. In a nation of immigrants with a growing, voting Latino population – 74 percent of whom felt that Mitt Romney did not care about Latinos or was openly hostile toward them, according to ABC – Latino approval of a candidate may determine the outcome of many future elections.

Claire Chretien is a sophomore majoring in American studies.


  • Brad Erthal

    You still trust Gallup? They were off by 7% in this election, and I would think that the same firm that gives a Republican who lost by 3% nationwide a 4% lead might be oversampling pro-life people:

    Also, as far as polling methodologies go, asking people: “Are you pro-life or pro-choice?” might sound like the same question as “Do you or do you not favor abortion remaining legal?” but it is not. The way you ask questions matters, and asking people to label themselves with loaded terms is a particularly bad polling technique. This is why we have nearly a record-low number of self-identified “liberals” across the country in the same political instant when for the first time gay marriage was just made legal in three states by popular vote for the first time, two states legalized marijuana, and we have just reelected a black President.

  • David Blake Jones

    If you think Romney lost because he failed to pander to “Latinos,” how do you explain the poor showing of support among them for McCain in 2008? He only received 31% of the “Latino” vote, despite being a frequent champion of “comprehensive immigration reform.” Furthermore, Latinos, especially those from Central America, and Mexico, are a natural constituency of the Democratic Party as they have on average, much less income relative to those of White Americans. Cuban Latinos increased their support for Obama relative to 2008, and immigration is no longer a priority for that group of “Latinos.”

    I am actually for open borders as soon as we end our welfare state, but not until. However, I am also sensitive to concerns from people about the need to keep immigration in balance, for rapid cultural change from huge shifts in the demographics of the population can cause conflict.

    Nevertheless, this new meme that Romney lost due to the immigration issue is not supported by the evidence and masks real reasons he lost. First, Romney alienated the Ron Paul supporters, by breaking rules at the GOP convention that would have placed Dr. Paul’s name in the nomination. He also alienate them as well as millions of other Americans with aggressive neoconservative foreign policy (see his obsession with Iran and Israel) that echoed the worst of the Bush era. People are sick and tired of war and interventionism. If Obama was a Republican, there is no way his supporters would tolerate his interventionism in Libya, Syria, etc.

    Finally, the GOP brand must embrace libertarianism as the young people of this nation do not support state control of the bedroom and many are growing uncomfortable with the state controlling the pocketbook.

    One interesting stat that few in the media have reported: Romney won only 4 per cent of the Muslim vote. The latter is a rapidly growing part of the electorate, yet none of the clueless neocon pundits or GOP elites have bemoaned alienating THAT group. I wonder why….

    • Brad Erthal

      McCain abandoned his support for immigration reform while he was running for the GOP nomination. I agree that Latino public opinion is much more complicated than just that one issue, but Bush and McCain’s wing of the party on this issue were part of what was winning them more Latino voters than the party had previously been able to win. But McCain was forced by the base to vote against his own reform bill, and publicly take the position that we must close the border first, and deport those here illegally, and only then could we begin to discuss comprehensive reform. I think that pandering to the base about this issue is both a policy reason why many Latinos disagree with Republicans and it probably makes Republicans seem like the party which is just completely hispanophobic (while the Democrats become increasingly hispanophone in contrast).

      • David Blake Jones

        Actually, he did not abandon his support for immigration reform. He only said we must first control the border before legalizing the millions who are here without proper papers. He did not call for “rounding them up.” Romney was actually correct in saying that enforcing the labor laws would lead to self deportation. And what is Hispanophobic about that? Do you really think our nation has no right to make sure our borders are secure and that all those who broke in line receive some kind of punishment? Who is really doing the pandering here?
        That is the current position even among those in the GOP calling for a new approach to “Latinos.” Are you seriously implying that McCain would have garnered much more support had he said, “legatlization, yes, even if the borders are insecure”? Not even Obama has called for that.
        I notice you did not bring up the FACT that Romney could have won had he adopted Dr. Ron Paul’s foreign policy, the end the Fed policy, and not antagonized Paul’s supporters in the state and national conventions.

        • Brad Erthal

          I granted you both that there could be many factors leading to Romney’s loss and that Latinos are not solely or even mostly motivated by immigration.I’m sorry that you missed that, but I thought I said it quite plainly. So moving on from your accusations that I completely forgot about your Paulite critique, and that I think that Latinos vote only on the basis of immigration policy, I’ll get to the issues where we disagree.

          First, I still think that at least a significant fraction of Latinos care about immigration. I am hard-pressed to figure out why Romney did worse than McCain, who did worse than Bush, who did better than Dole with Latinos if we’re not accounting for the differences they had on immigration. Is it hard to believe that differences on immigration policy could account for swings of 10-15 points among Latinos? I don’t think so.

          As to the order that we do things in, it matters. If the idea is to close the border then negotiate the rest of things later, then the right gets what it wants first, and those of us in favor of actually making an immigration system that isn’t just finding people and kicking them out get to wait to see if the Republicans will stop blocking that from ever happening once we have removed the one positive incentive that they had on the issue.

          So the fact that McCain went from being for one comprehensive bill to being for a fence and deportation first was a big move. And he was for deportation first. The claims he made in the Republican debate were that we would force first self-deportation to start the process (which means we deport the ones who don’t self-deport), although he always qualified it with the caveat that we wouldn’t send anyone home who was, for instance, the mother of a soldier. He made no guarantees about their fathers, and this was about the only specific he kept coming back to, leaving many to wonder where he drew the line on “humanitarianism” in this policy.

          As for antagonizing Paul supporters, I agree that it couldn’t have helped Romney. But I reject the conclusion that all or even a large majority of Paul supporters left the Republican voting block this year, so I’m not sure that makes up the gap.

          Incidentally, ending the Fed is insane. If the Republican candidate doesn’t support it, that’s not the fault of the Republican candidate. I think the Republicans would hemorrhage the support of everyone who knows what they are talking about on this issue the moment they adopted that policy, so I would imagine that is why Romney did not do it.

          • David Blake Jones

            Well if you are happy with a private cartel holding a monopoly on the money supply and the devaluation of dollar value via excessive money printing, as opposed to what the Constituton calls for, then we can’t agree on the issue of the Fed. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson both were vehement that a private central bank would destroy this nation, and their prediction is coming true. Since this bank issues currency as debt, we can never fully pay off our debt. It is a huge ponzie scheme that creates endless booms and then busts.
            If you are a true conservative, you would want the market, not central planners working for big banks, to set interest rates.

            As for the rest, I encourage you to read this piece by Heather Macdonald from the Manhattan Institute. She does not argue against immigration reform, but explains why it is delusional to think that changing that one policy will cause a great shift among Latinos. Please read it, and let me know what you think.

          • Brad Erthal

            I’ve never claimed to be a true conservative (or an untrue one, for that matter). In fact, I am quite liberal. However, when it comes to the need for a central bank, I take my lead from economists, bankers, and financiers in every developed country. I do not do that only on their authority, but on my evaluation of the historical, theoretical, and empirical evidence that central banks improve economies.

            I would start by noting that economic cycles do not begin with the founding of the Fed, and that the Fed was founded in response to the large number of downturns in the 19th century.

            The Fed also produces price stability. Inflation is steady, which is a good thing. Under the firm gold standard, we used to have slow choking deflation interspersed with fits of rapid inflation when we discovered new gold reserves.

            Many monetary economists criticize the Fed and other central banks for not pursuing the best policies. I am unaware of monetary economists calling for the abolition of central banks, regardless of what Jefferson and Jackson (who were not authorities in this field) may have thought. I would note in passing, however, that if we are citing dead guys with far outdated non-expert views of economics, Hamilton and many others were in favor of a national bank at the time.

          • David Blake Jones

            I can assure you that very few Ron Paul supporters voted for Romney. He was a horrible candidate who failed to repudiate the worst of the Bush years. That is why he lost…

          • David Blake Jones

            I think Bush received a decent proportion of the Latino vote for several reasons. First, he probably received a much higher proportion of Cuban Latino votes in that year. Second, even many Latinos were caught up in the post 9/11 hysteria to prosecute the War on Terror, third, the economy was not very bad, so fewer lower income Latinos voted. Regardless, I don’t think 41 % would have been enough to shift the election, for there aren’t that many Latinos in Ohio, Iowa, VA, NH, Wisconsin, etc. It might have made a difference in Florida and Nevada, but doubt it.