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The Big Winner of 2012: True Representation

Women. And compromise. And health care. And moderates. And the embrace of 21st century life. Election 2012 showed Republicans that they need to make some major changes to keep up with today.

I'm not writing this because I’m gloating over the results of Election 2012. I'm not writing this because I think my guy beat their guy.

I'm writing this because I think the election showed us some very important things about the citizens of these United States: 

Our country’s electorate chose to recognize the plurality of all its people and cast their votes in ways to protect the rights of all its citizens. Our country’s electorate chose to promote the idea of governing for the benefit of all citizens rather than the benefit of a few. And our country’s electorate chose to cast the majority of their votes for candidates who ran on a platform of inclusion and compromise against those whose party staked its campaign on religious superiority, intolerance and values from the past century.

On the whole, we learned quite a lot about our country on Nov. 6.

We learned that the country doesn’t take kindly to the restrictions on women and women’s health that many Republican candidates promoted during the campaigns. We saw this in the overwhelming rejection of candidates that not only made outrageous comments about rape and contraception, but also proposed legislation restricting women’s ability to make their own reproductive choices.

Candidates like Todd Akin (of “legitimate rape” fame), Joe Walsh, Scott Brown, Richard Mourdock (who suggested pregnancy after rape is a “gift from God”), Alan West, and others were defeated. An historic mark was made in the Senate—20 women senators will now hold seats in the upper chamber, including the legislative body’s first lesbian senator. Tammy Ducksworth, Clair McCaskill and others won spotlighted, news-making campaigns. Pro-choice candidates (including CT’s Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts) received resounding support across the country and women voters cast ballots overwhelmingly—by 38 percent—for Democratic candidates who supported women’s equality measures.

I heard one pundit on the morning after the elections make a pithy, yet incredibly insightful, analysis of what happened during Election 2012 when it came to how the Republican Party positioned itself. Matt Dowd of ABC said, “The Republicans ran a ‘Mad Men’ campaign in a ‘Modern Family’ world.” That couldn’t be more on point.

The election showed us that voters support social issues, like marriage equality and even legalization of marijuana, that are more of today than 50 years ago. When the 18-month debate and election cycle hyped the GOP’s reproductive platform that was not only anti-choice but also seemed to be anti-contraceptive, the country seemed to scratch their collective head at the end point and say, “What century do they think it is?” With states as varied as Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington supporting gay marriage referendums, it seems the country is supporting diversity more and more.

What the country doesn’t seem to support as much is the Tea Party. Five Tea Party candidates lost their runs for seats and the standard bearer—Michele Bachman—managed to only eke out a very tight win. This only highlights another major conclusion from the election: The GOP is highly fractured and needs to reassess its priorities, its leadership and its direction if it’s going to maintain a large enough electorate to represent.

Even in the less extreme sectors of the party, there is recognition that party unity has taken a major hit. Former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said that Mitt Romney wasn’t the “spiritual leader” of the party. Former party head Michael Steele and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani both spoke out about how the Republicans as a whole need to reexamine how to incorporate more moderate views front and center into their party’s platform.

There were other major miscalculations the GOP made, especially when it came to money, and we saw that big money didn’t necessarily equate to big wins. Despite outspending the Democrats, the Republican candidates in key battles lost to the surprise of some party stalwarts. Karl Rove, the high priest of the party, had to come up with every rationalization in the book to explain why the big bucks and his strategy didn’t work—not only to big money donors but to himself—to great embarrassment on live TV while serving as a pundit on the conservative FOX network.

Speaking of overspending and waste, just look what happened to Linda McMahon. In her second failed bid for political office, the Connecticut Republican spent $50 million, this after the first $50 million she spent losing a run for the Senate two years before. That’s quite a lot of money to spend on learning that what you stand for isn’t what voters want any more.

The Republicans failed to campaign in a 21st century way. The Democrats took much more advantage of social media platforms, fundraising and incorporating contemporary methods to economize what their less full war chests contained.

Overall, the Republicans miscalculated who would come out to vote and who was important in the electorate. Despite beliefs that the youth vote wouldn’t turn out for President Obama in 2012 like they did in 2008, the opposite happened: the youth vote increased and the overwhelmingly supported the President’s re-election. The enthusiasm amongst women and minority voters was at an all-time high for the Democrats once again.

Sadly, it was reflected in the faces of the Republican candidates and spokespeople out front and center of the party. Donald Trump and the Todd Akins of the world did the GOP no favors. White men who seemed to be out of touch with the electorate became equated with what the party stood for. And in the immediacy of today’s news cycle, those kinds of newsmakers hurt the Republicans in critical ways.

Here’s what did win: Truth. Tolerance. Compassion. In the days following, we’ve seen an acknowledgement of that as Republican leaders, like John Boehner, have made more conciliatory remarks about some of the president’s major programs that voters favored—health care and immigration among them. Key to these initiatives is the intangibles of compassion and inclusion. Those are hard messages to get around and it worked in the Democrats’ favor.

We all can take away lessons from Election 2012. Compromise is something voters want. Middle ground and moderates—especially when it comes to social issues—is the way the majority of the country trends. And finally, the country is different now in racial makeup, in priorities and in the direction it’s heading. Politicians would be wise to heed what it is the citizens of this great country want when it comes to representing them.

Update Nov. 12, 6:00 PM The article has been corrected to update the position that Linda McMahon ran for in 2010. She lost a Senate bid that year against Richard Blumenthal. She did not run for governor, as the article originally stated.

Barry S November 28, 2012 at 01:34 AM
You are right the parasites that feed off the rest of us and the next 5 generations of americans were BOUGHT OFF. ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN,,,, EVENTUALLY THERE WON'T BE ANYONE LEFT FOR YOU TO FEED ON.
Mike November 28, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Heather, here is my best Uncle Joe Biden maniacal laugh and joker-like smile in response to your highly partisan and amateurish opinion piece.
Alexander Hamilton November 28, 2012 at 04:26 AM
The simple fact of the matter is that Roe V. Wade will never be overturned. I'm pro-life and even I realize that. So it's nice to see that so many women feel that contraception and reproductive rights were SO important to them that it doesn't matter that their father, uncle, and brother have no jobs and the huge tax hike is coming their way. Unbelievable. That the majority of this country is uneducated and actually believed that Mitt Romney would tackle women going into CVS to get their birth control pills!!
Jeanine Vecchiarelli November 28, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Part of me is laughing hysterically at the lunacy of this opinion piece. Another part of me is furious over generations looking the other way while communists infiltrated our education system & indoctrinated our children - with this misguided diatribe being exhibit "a" of the result. Yet another part of me grieves for MY PROPERLY EDUCATED children, who will suffer greatly in the future because of the kool aid drinking shortsightedness of people like this garbage's author. Dear Heather, what part of conservatives and tea party patriots don't give a damn about your contraception, gay marriage, or any other social issue don't you get? We hold our beliefs to ourselves, unlike YOUR party, which forces their beliefs on everyone else. That said, there is NO REASON WE should be paying for your desires. When I was in 2nd grade my teacher told us "Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other." Leeches like you are bent on proving that adage wrong. Well, it won't work. As the great Margaret Thatcher said, "The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money." In spite of the drivel you learned, that day is right around the corner. Thanks to leeches like you we will be arriving there much, much sooner. As for the current GOP, they are the best friends the Dems ever had. Because the only difference is the name of their party. I'll end with 3 words: MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD. Research it.

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