We’re now well into the political aftermath of the 2012 election, and the pattern of destruction is telling. In demographic after demographic, Obama defeated Romney by remarkable margins: 55 percent among women, 60 percent among voters under 30, 71 percent among Hispanic voters, and a stratospheric 93 percent among African-Americans. Rather than a fluke, the Obama coalition of 2008 looks like it’s here to stay, and the recriminations and soul-searching amongst conservatives and Republicans are in full swing.
The sudden post-election shift of major politicians and media figures on immigration reform betrayed a fear that their party’s hard-line stance wrecked its chances with Hispanics. A chorus of conservative bloggers, Republican strategists, and even what’s left of the party’s moderate politicians have laid blame on its nurturance of white nativism, its tone-deafness on women’s reproductive challenges, or the absolutism of its anti-abortion rhetoric.
There’s certainly some truth to these takes. But this notion that scattershot appeasement of various voting blocks is the path back for Republicans makes a fundamental error. It buys into conservatives’ silly caricature of Democrats as a party without a vision — “an incoherent amalgam of interest groups, most of which are vying for benefits for themselves and their members at the expense of other Americans,” as Yuval Levin bitterly put it.
There is, in fact, a fundamental vision that unites virtually all the disparate groups in Obama’s coalition. It’s sitting right there in the exit polling and the narrative of the campaign, for anyone willing to see it. Crudely put, it’s the economic issues: on the practical level, the recognition that the free market, whatever its virtues, does not deal justly with people when left to its own devices. And on the moral level, the simple, elegant, age-old conviction that we are all our brother’s keeper. And it’s the GOP’s rejection of these propositions that set it on the path to electoral defeat.