Brian Birdnow

Robinson’s characterization of voting and voters betrays a weakness in all political analysis and journalism. This is the tendency, even the necessity of oversimplification and squaring the circle. He assumes, as a matter of course, that all Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans think, act, and by extension vote in exactly the same manner. This is a classic example of racial stereotyping, or “profiling” if one prefers. It is dismissive and dehumanizing and would be denounced as patently racist if said by anyone other than a Washington Post columnist.

Still, one should not reject the “changing America” thesis out of hand. Kevin Phillips, the noted social scientist, first postulated this argument in the pages of National Review in the autumn of 1996, not coincidentally another year of GOP futility at the ballot box in a general election. Phillips made the point that most of the long-term demographic trends including immigration, birth rates, education levels, family size, upward mobility etc. favored the traditional Democratic Party constituencies, and that this heralded an era of Democratic electoral dominance. The two major Parties have split the four general elections since that date, but the GOP eked out wins in 2000 and 2004, while the Democrats cleaned up the last two times. Time will tell whether the Phillips thesis holds water. We have seen some of the cherished old chestnuts of the political scientists, such as people voting their pocketbooks, fall by the wayside in the last couple of years.

In the meantime, we may yet construct a narrative for the GOP defeat on November 6, 2012. The Republican Party lost because they fielded a mediocre candidate. Mitt Romney was a fine man, a well-bred business executive, and a solid family oriented fellow who might have made a fairly good President. Mr. Romney proved, however, to be a weak candidate. He refused to go on the offensive and attack President Obama’s vulnerabilities. Romney did not connect Obama to the worst economy and weakest recovery since the Great Depression. He declined, after a hammering by the mainstream media, to press for answers on Benghazi and other Obama foreign policy failures. Finally, Romney made no mention of the frequent Obama abuses of executive power, starting with the so-called policy “czars”, the BATF “Fast & Furious” scandals, the illegal recess appointments when congress was not in recess, the refusal to enforce certain federal laws, and the repeated stonewalling of the Obama Justice Department and his Attorney General when questioned by the Congress, as to whether the laws were being faithfully executed. Mr. Romney is a gentleman who had little stomach for the rough-and-tumble of presidential politics. He could not become the brawler that he had never been, and he lost the election as a result. In the hands of a stronger and better seasoned candidate the Republican message would have sold well, as it has in the past, most recently in 2010.

The majority of American citizens voted for four more years of Obama, rejected the GOP ticket, and gave great comfort to a mainstream media who were showing signs of a nervous breakdown in October. Still, Eugene Robinson and others now celebrating would do well to note that one election does not herald a sea change in American politics. If they do not agree, they need only look as far back as November of 2010 for a confirmation.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.