Life Lessons After Defeat for the GOP

The dust has settled. Somewhat. The race for the White House captured much of the nation’s attention but while Mitt Romney’s loss was the highest profile defeat, Republicans lost to Democrats in other attention-worthy races across the nation. Each loss presents the GOP with an opportunity; enter the analysis phase of the post-election cycle.

Whether one blames Chris Christie, Hurricane Sandy or bad message delivery what cannot be disputed is that, as Bob Dylan said years ago, “The times…they are a-changing.” It’s up to the GOP to take each defeat and find, as any strategic consultant would say, the ‘lessons learned and next steps’.

But what, if anything, will the GOP learn? Here are a few examples:

Example 1: Paul Ryan. By smartly taking advantage of the Wisconsin law that allowed him to simultaneously run for both the vice presidency and his congressional seat, Ryan has his political ‘after-life’ mapped out. The GOP considers Ryan their “numbers guy” so its likely that Ryan will trot out his old copy of  ”The Road to Prosperity” and work with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to find new and improved efforts to thwart middle class growth.

Lesson? Hedge your bets. Keep your old seat while attempting to occupying a new one. Don’t give up a definite for a maybe. So what if it looks to the American people like you’re not 100% sure that you’ll get the big job you’re running for.

Example 2: Much of the nation became aware of Mia Love at the last Republican National Convention. Had she won Utah’s congressional race, Ms. Love, a well-financed far-right conservative Mormon, would have been the first ever African-American female Republican congresswoman. Though Utah is one of the reddest of red states, the voters of Utah ultimately decided to support Jim Matheson, the Democrat who is known for working on both sides of the aisle.

Lesson? Even in a heavily Republican state a Democrat can win if he is known for siding with sanity. Ms. Love became a darling of the very people who support the Tea Party so she became somewhat tainted with their extremism even if her own views didn’t sound as far fringe right as theirs. That said, her profile has skyrocketed so for her it’s a win-win. She’s young. She has time.

Example 3: {Fill in name of the 2016 GOP candidate for President.}

Lesson? Wake up to the reality of what the U.S. has become. Increasing ethnic diversity in and of itself should be the ultimate wake up call to the Republican party. Stop thinking that Barack Obama won the African-American vote solely because he’s black; he won the African-American vote because the GOP has become more of a frighteningly unwelcome party of religious zealots and racists. African-Americans are not likely to vote for candidates who still use the “southerm strategy” and who think that anyone other than the angry white men to whom they appeal is a government leeching deadbeat. And while we’re on people of colour, stop trying to appeal to Latinos by pitting them against African-Americans and, by all means, stop lumping all Hispanics together into one group with the same concerns. Latinos and African-Americans are not monolithic groups.

Much can be learned from defeat — if one sees that there is a lesson. Unfortunately, in some of the defeats, absorbing the wrong lesson could mean a wasted opportunity and a chance to dig in one’s heels even further. And with so much at stake — whether it’s a still shaky global economy or the U.S.’ own “fiscal cliff” issue which threatens to increase the taxes of all Americans if left unresolved by Congress — the country doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for the GOP to get its shit together lessons in order. Straighten up and become the loyal opposition the American people deserve.