The Republicans’ 1950s campaign

I’ll wait for President Obama’s apparent victory to be confirmed before trying to express what it means. For now, it’s much easier to get my head around the Republican Party’s comprehensive failure.

The GOP and Mitt Romney ran a campaign designed to capture a huge share of a shrinking segment of the electorate: white men. Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s the demographic Republicans tried to capture, with their incessant talk of “taking the country back” and their long-running attempt to portray Obama as somehow alien and threatening.

They not only failed to unseat an incumbent saddled with an anemic economy, painfully high unemployment and sagging approval ratings — an incumbent who should have been beatable. They also managed to blow a golden opportunity to take control of the Senate and in fact actually lost seats in a year when that hardly seemed possible. Quite an achievement.

Republicans said in recent days that they sensed an electoral wave that would sweep the party to victory. But they were listening to each other, not to the rest of America. They didn’t hear the African Americans who make up 13 percent of the electorate or the Latinos who constitute 10 percent. They didn’t listen to women, who hold up half the sky. They ran a campaign that would have been perfectly appropriate for the 1950s, but that was an anachronism — and a failure — in 2012.

Republicans threw away their opportunity in the Senate by nominating candidates, such as Todd Akin in Missouri, whose views are extreme and frightening. They appealed to anxiety about the demographic and social changes taking place in America, without realizing that the newcomers and outsiders they tried so hard to demonize were — inconveniently — paying attention. They couldn’t imagine that the black and brown people who turned out to vote in such numbers four years ago would find their way to the polls yet again. And even wait in line.

Note to the GOP: It’s our country, too. And no, you can’t have it back. We all have to share.

Eugene Robinson writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture, contributes to the PostPartisan blog, and hosts a weekly online chat with readers. In a three-decade career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s Style section.

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