Like the legacies of many before him, that of the current candidate Mitt Romney will quickly fade away. For the entire party to now avoid being erased, it must cut out the radicals and move closer to the center, even if this means biting their tongues.
On the day after the elections, President Barack Obama stopped by the campaign office in Chicago and, in an impassioned speech, thanked the team that made the journey with him over the past year. Mitt Romney chose not to make a publicized visit to the emptying offices. No one in Boston was in the mood for summaries or pep talks. The losing party never sticks around for long. In the absence of roles to allocate to the campaign leaders, they are the first to disappear, and will reappear, possibly with a new candidate, in the next round.
So what will Romney do now? After six years of campaigning, starting before the 2008 elections when he ran for the Republican nomination, and then in his run against Barack Obama in 2012, Mitt Romney’s career has now truly come to an end. Unlike in Israel, the candidate does not remain the party leader after the elections. No one will approach asking him to enter the race again after he takes some time off. The next stop for unsuccessful candidates is a combination of lecturing, some advisory work and maybe also a role at Fox News as a political expert – as was done by the one and only Sarah Palin. But Romney is not looking for a job. With a wealth of $250 million and at 65, he can retire to his home, or rather his four homes, and spend time with his family, sons and grandchildren. It is also customary to write a book at some point during the year after retiring.
His partner in the race, Paul Ryan, is in a slightly more complicated position. Being chosen as the vice presidential candidate has significantly raised his political position. From a young and promising congressman, Ryan became a national figure, a political celebrity. Now he returns to the House of Representatives and as the chairman of the esteemed budget committee, but it is questionable whether we will hear about him in a presidential election context four years from now. Ryan was successful in fulfilling his position as a vice presidential candidate, but did not shine in a way that will encourage anyone to consider him as a candidate for presidency in the next elections.
Reassuring the Contributors
Either way, Romney and Ryan’s employment, which will have no effect on unemployment rates in the U.S., is not the Republicans’ main concern these days. Self-criticism is a common theme after the elections, but in Mitt Romney’s case the main issue is the financial accounts. Romney managed to raise over $1 billion from contributors to try to win the race for the White House. The contributors, all businessmen who know a thing or two about investments and returns, have already started asking questions. Karl Rove, who administrated the largest Super-PAC on Romney’s side, has been trying for the past few days to reassure the investors and explain the defeat, but if Mitt Romney – during his younger years at Bain Capital – had lost $1 billion of investors’ money in one year, it would have almost certainly not gone so unnoticed.
The explanation for the defeat, as provided by Romney and the party leaders, can be summarized in one sentence: We ran an excellent campaign, but the bad guys changed the rules. This is because the basic principle of the campaign, which could easily be seen in Karl Rove’s furious expression regarding the Ohio voters on the night of the elections, was that the white man always wins. The Republicans believed that their base group, white middle- or upper-class Christian men, would determine the vote – as always.
But it was a different America this time. Hispanic citizens, who make up 11 percent of voters today, did not forget Romney’s opposition to any immigration reforms, even for children who have grown up in the U.S.; women went out in masses to vote in protest, not against Romney but against his party, which gives shelter to extremists who are prepared to take away a woman’s rights regarding her body, health and future; and African-Americans did not forget to vote in gratitude to the president, who brought pride to every household. The Republicans may not have expected these groups to fully support Romney, but they did expect the disappointment in the current financial situation and the general depression prevailing in the U.S. to make these key Obama supporters unenthusiastic and apathetic to the point that they would not bother voting.
What the Republicans overlooked was that the bitterness against Romney and his party’s views toward Americans who are not white men managed to motivate their opponents despite the lack of enthusiasm for Obama’s achievements. On a large scale, this is a structured defeat. At the Republican Party, where the Tea Party members set the tone, and the extremely conservative flourish, life is tough for a relatively middle-of-the-road candidate like Romney. He had to steer right to win the primaries, and had to back every piece of madness coming from his party, including broadcasts supporting the senate candidate who thinks that pregnancy as a result of rape is God’s will. All of this was to make sure he did not anger the conservative crowd. But after this, during the real battle for votes in the elections, this extremism became a burden.
Romney’s era is over, but the Republicans are seeking a way forward, and we are already seeing a new approach toward the Hispanic voters. Leaders within and outside of the party are suddenly expressing positive views on immigration reform. Even the conservative commentator Sean Hannity announced that his position on this subject had “evolved” lately. Others called for opening the party to new crowds, to add variation to the color of the party. Conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin even called to put down the banner of resistance against same-sex marriage. John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, encouraged viewing Obama’s healthcare reform as a done deal, after fighting it to the bitter end. The Republican pendulum is starting to swing toward the center again. After a few years of sliding away to the far conservative extreme, the height of this being the Tea Party movement and its’ success at the 2010 midterm elections, now is the time to normalize toward the center, to rebuild the Republican party, one which will look a little less like the white man’s fort.