GOP dilemma: Change or keep losing

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By Rick Howell

    If you could boil down to one word how national Republicans managed to lose another presidential election, that would be it. Aside from President Barack Obama’s popularity and the issues that helped him, the GOP’s refusal to come to terms with the changing population face of this country is mostly what got it beaten.
    Some people get very sensitive if you say that the GOP is too white, or “lily white,” as I like to put it. But go to a Republican rally, and tell me what you see.
    Mitt Romney visited Roanoke County about a week before the election. It was my pleasure to organize a counter-rally for Obama with a colleague in the labor movement. The press reported that more than 3,000 people showed up to see Romney.
    I watched the crowd coming out to the Kroger parking lot when it was over, and I have so say to you – fault me for my honesty if you wish – it looked like a National White People’s Convention.
    I’d be willing to bet any amount of money I’ve ever had that there weren’t 20 people of color in that crowd.
    Now, while you’re thinking about that, consider this: Barack Obama won 93 percent of the black vote; 71 percent of the Latino vote, and 74 percent of the Asian vote. White votes, nationwide, were down by 4 percent from 2008. By the middle of this century, the non-white population will be the majority.
    While shell-shocked conservatives stare into space and try to figure out why they lost, one conclusion ought to be real easy: The Republican Party will never again win a national election with nothing for a constituency but aging white men.
    Yes, they also lost the youth vote, the 18-29 crowd, by a large margin, and Obama won the women’s vote by 11 points.)
    Black voters have long chosen the Democratic Party because they know it to be the party of civil rights. While Lyndon Johnson got the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed – one of the most historic pieces of legislation – “Mr. Conservative,” Barry Goldwater, opposed it and said it was “a federal intrusion” into our lives.
    Latinos listen to the harsh policies on immigration that come out of the GOP today: “Build a wall!” “Get tanks and round ‘em up.” Conservative Republicans have thwarted every reasonable attempt to create a fair policy for immigration reform, even when George W. Bush proposed it.
    Already, right-wingers are saying, well, we lost because Romney wasn’t “conservative enough.” Really? Here’s a party where all but a few of its moderates have been purged. Yet some would still say it’s not conservative enough?
    The GOP needs to moderate its positions on women’s rights, immigration, and climate change. It needs to stop acting as though conservatism is a religion. If it moves any farther to the right it’s going to be swimming in a sea of fascism.
    But nothing in the GOP will change if it continues to listen to the so-called tea party. These people hurt the party on election night. They had replaced highly-respected Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana with Richard Mourdock, who got into the dubious game of trying to re-define rape.
    With his counterpart in Missouri (“legitimate rape”), they both caused a sad Republican joke on Election night. Question: Did the rape guy lose? Answer: Which one? No wonder they have a gender gap.
    The few moderates left in the party are going to have to find the guts to push the right-wingers aside, reinvigorate themselves, and take their party back. Otherwise, it’ll be a long time before Republicans see the White House again.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.