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The Big Winner of 2012: True Representation

Women. And compromise. And health care. And moderates. And the embrace of 21st century life. Election 2012 showed Republicans that they need to make some major changes to keep up with today.

I'm not writing this because I’m gloating over the results of Election 2012. I'm not writing this because I think “my guy” beat “their guy.”

I'm writing this because I think the election showed us some very important things about the citizens of these United States: 

Our country’s electorate chose to recognize the plurality of all its people and cast their votes in ways to protect the rights of all its citizens. Our country’s electorate chose to promote the idea of governing for the benefit of all citizens rather than the benefit of a few. And our country’s electorate chose to cast the majority of their votes for candidates who ran on a platform of inclusion and compromise against those whose party staked its campaign on religious superiority, intolerance and values from the past century.

On the whole, we learned quite a lot about our country last Tuesday, Nov. 6.

We learned that the country doesn’t take kindly to the restrictions on women and women’s health that many Republican candidates promoted during the campaigns. We saw this in the overwhelming rejection of candidates that not only made outrageous comments about rape and contraception, but also proposed legislation restricting women’s ability to make their own reproductive choices.

Candidates like Todd Akin (of “legitimate rape” fame), Joe Walsh, Scott Brown, Richard Mourdock (who suggested pregnancy after rape is a “gift from God”), Alan West, and others were defeated. An historic mark was made in the Senate—20 women senators will now hold seats in the upper chamber, including the legislative body’s first lesbian senator. Tammy Ducksworth, Clair McCaskill and others won spotlighted, news-making campaigns. Pro-choice candidates (including CT’s Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts) received resounding support across the country and women voters cast ballots overwhelmingly—by 38 percent—for Democratic candidates who supported women’s equality measures.

I heard one pundit on the morning after the elections make a pithy, yet incredibly insightful, analysis of what happened during Election 2012 when it came to how the Republican Party positioned itself. Matt Dowd of ABC said, “The Republicans ran a ‘Mad Men’ campaign in a ‘Modern Family’ world.” That couldn’t be more on point.

The election showed us that voters support social issues, like marriage equality and even legalization of marijuana, that are more of today than 50 years ago. When the 18-month debate and election cycle hyped the GOP’s reproductive platform that was not only anti-choice but also seemed to be anti-contraceptive, the country seemed to scratch their collective head at the end point and say, “What century do they think it is?” With states as varied as Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington supporting gay marriage referendums, it seems the country is supporting diversity more and more.

What the country doesn’t seem to support as much is the Tea Party. Five Tea Party candidates lost their runs for seats and the standard bearer—Michele Bachman—managed to only eke out a very tight win. This only highlights another major conclusion from the election: The GOP is highly fractured and needs to reassess its priorities, its leadership and its direction if it’s going to maintain a large enough electorate to represent.

Even in the less extreme sectors of the party, there is recognition that party unity has taken a major hit. Former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said that Mitt Romney wasn’t the “spiritual leader” of the party. Former party head Michael Steele and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani both spoke out about how the Republicans as a whole need to reexamine how to incorporate more moderate views front and center into their party’s platform.

There were other major miscalculations the GOP made, especially when it came to money, and we saw that big money didn’t necessarily equate to big wins. Despite outspending the Democrats, the Republican candidates in key battles lost to the surprise of some party stalwarts. Karl Rove, the high priest of the party, had to come up with every rationalization in the book to explain why the big bucks and his strategy didn’t work—not only to big money donors but to himself—to great embarrassment on live TV while serving as a pundit on the conservative FOX network.

Speaking of overspending and waste, just look what happened to Linda McMahon. In her second failed bid for political office, the Connecticut Republican spent $50 million, this after the first $50 million she spent losing a bid for the Senate the year before. That’s quite a lot of money to spend on learning that what you stand for isn’t what voters want any more.

The Republicans failed to campaign in a 21st century way. The Democrats took much more advantage of social media platforms, fundraising and incorporating contemporary methods to economize what their less full war chests contained.

Overall, the Republicans miscalculated who would come out to vote and who was important in the electorate. Despite beliefs that the youth vote wouldn’t turn out for President Obama in 2012 like they did in 2008, the opposite happened: the youth vote increased and the overwhelmingly supported the President’s re-election. The enthusiasm amongst women and minority voters was at an all-time high for the Democrats once again.

Sadly, it was reflected in the faces of the Republican candidates and spokespeople out front and center of the party. Donald Trump and the Todd Akins of the world did the GOP no favors. White men who seemed to be out of touch with the electorate became equated with what the party stood for. And in the immediacy of today’s news cycle, those kinds of newsmakers hurt the Republicans in critical ways.

Here’s what did win: Truth. Tolerance. Compassion. In the days following, we’ve seen an acknowledgement of that as Republican leaders, like John Boehner, have made more conciliatory remarks about some of the president’s major programs that voters favored—health care and immigration among them. Key to these initiatives is the intangibles of compassion and inclusion. Those are hard messages to get around and it worked in the Democrats’ favor.

We all can take away lessons from Election 2012. Compromise is something voters want. Middle ground and moderates—especially when it comes to social issues—is the way the majority of the country trends. And finally, the country is different now in racial makeup, in priorities and in the direction it’s heading. Politicians would be wise to heed what it is the citizens of this great country want when it comes to representing them.

KEVIN DILLON November 10, 2012 at 12:47 PM
This was not a 60/40 victory. Dems did not get a filibuster proof Senate nor take back the House. None of the above occurred. Obama won by less than 2%. It is a win. Don't get me wrong, but this country is split down the middle for reasons too long to get into here. The Senate and the House are in the same hands as they were in before the election. You point to Dems winning in CT, Wisconsin and Mass as if this is newsworthy. You tout accomplishments of women Tuesday night yet leave out Deb Fischer winning the Nebraska Senate seat, held by a Dem, defeating Kerry by 16%.You take delight in Linda McMahon losing to a Congressman who has done very little in his time in office. One of your main premises was promoting women in politics but it seems like what you mean to say is you support Dem women in Congress while accusing the repubs as anti women. There are 4 female Repub Governors to 1 Dem Gov. Tea Party Senators won in TX, AZ and NEB. About 65% of the states have passed amendments stating marriage to be between a man and a woman. As to inclusive, Pres.. Reagan signed an amnesty bill into law. He got 37% of the Hispanic vote. Bush, in 1988, got only 30%. Hispanics vote Dem, regardless. Economic woes the same for all. Unemployment up amongst all Obama supporters. There is a reason Pres's with unemployment above 7% don't win reelection. They have failed at their job, yet you gave him 4 more years to pursue the same policies. PS: women on his staff are paid 18% less than men.

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