Republicans' Mad Men are no match for the rainbow US
Outdated values worthy of the hit TV show and a blindness to the changing face of the US cost Romney the election
AS THE first significant battlefield of the American Civil War 151 years ago, the quaint* town of Manassas is a favourite stop on the trail of civil war buffs*.
Nestling among the rolling hills of rural Virginia, the onetime Confederate stronghold used to be so reliably Republican that election candidates scarcely bothered to visit. But in the last two presidential elections, the town has voted for a black Democrat. It provides a vivid illustration of the changes in America that stunned* the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, last week.
Today there are Peruvian car-repair workshops and Guatemalan restaurants as well as civil war re-enactments, and an annual Latino festival. A third of the town’s population is Hispanic.
“I’ve seen huge changes in the town,” said Bob Chase, manager of Prospero’s Books, a military history bookshop. An Obama volunteer, he said: “I canvassed* in an area that was 100% for [John] McCain in 2008. The same place this time round, 26 Hispanic families had moved in and it was 100% for [Barack] Obama.”
This rapidly changing face of America explains how President Obama managed to be re-elected for a second term last week with only 39% of the white vote and the support of barely one in three white men.
Romney lost heavily in every racial group except whites. African-Americans chose Obama by 93%, Asian-Americans by 73% and Latinos by 71%.
Manassas is in Prince William county, which George W Bush won by 15 percentage points in 2000. It gave Obama a 15-point lead this time, helping him carry Virginia.
The Obama campaign was quick to recognise the demographic shift. All its communications went out in both English and Spanish and at the campaign headquarters in Chicago I saw signs stuck up on walls asking “Have You Tweeted #Latinos2012*?”
Republicans were accused of antagonising* Hispanics rather than attracting them. During the primaries Romney said he would solve the problem of 10m illegal immigrants by making their lives so uncomfortable that they would “self-deport”.
“It’s ironic that in this nation of immigrants they should take such a negative attitude,” said Jose Paiva, a housing officer in Manassas who hails from* Nicaragua.
“Should I win a second term,” Obama said last month, “a big reason is because the Republican party have so alienated* the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”
Although the figures have been clear since the last census, the realisation that America is no longer dominated by the white vote seems to have taken many Republicans by surprise.
Romney was said to be “shell-shocked” by the results and leading conservatives were horrified.
“I went to bed last night thinking we’re outnumbered,” said the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. “I went to bed thinking we’ve lost the country. I don’t know how else you look at this.”
Bill O’Reilly, an anchor for Fox News, said: “The white establishment is now the minority. The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America any more.”
Romney’s campaign was backed by so many billionaires that there was a jam of private jets arriving at Boston airport in anticipation of his “victory party” last week. But despite spending $1bn he ended up with 2m fewer votes than were cast for McCain in 2008.
Romney, a former management consultant, is often described as “data driven”. But critics say his campaign failed to pay sufficient heed to the most important data of all — the make-up of the electorate.
The evidence was visible at the party conventions and campaign rallies. While Obama drew a rainbow crowd of young, whites, blacks, women and Hispanics, Romney’s supporters were mainly older white people. Even his posters had a 1950s air to them.
“This election makes it clear that a single focus directed at white males or at the white population in general is not going to do it,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “And it’s not going to do it when the other party is focusing on energising everybody else.”
Romney also failed to attract enough female votes. Exit polls showed that he lost to Obama by 11 points among women. The Republican platform, which included a call to ban abortion, end free contraception and oppose gay marriage, alienated many.
Women were infuriated by comments from Republican candidates for the Senate such as Missouri’s Todd Akin, who referred to “legitimate rape”, and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock, who said pregnancy resulting from rape was “something God intended”. Both lost in seats Republicans should have won.
“If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue,” said Karen Hughes, a former adviser to President George W Bush. “The college-age daughters of many of my friends voted for Obama because they were completely turned off by neanderthal comments like the suggestion of ‘legitimate rape’.”
Matthew Dowd, a former adviser to Bush, said in a reference to two of American TV’s most popular series that the Republican party had become “a Mad Men party in a Modern Family America”.
898 words (abridged)
Source: TimesOnline of 11 November 2012, by Christina Lamb.
* quaint - idyllisch gelegen
* buff - (sachkundiger) Fan
* to stun - verblüffen, schockieren
* to canvass - werben (für eine Wahl, meist telefonisch oder von Haus zu Haus latschen..)
* #Latinos2012 - hashtag 'Latinos' meant a campaign where Latinos express their intention to vote for Obama
* to antagonise - gegen sich aufbringen
* to hail from - herstammen von
* to alienate sb - jdn. verstimmen
1. Describe how America has changed in the past 20 years concerning its demography and its consequences on the electorate's attitudes?
2. How has Obama attracted his voters?
3. How have Romney and other Republican candidates alienated their electorate?
4. How do you think will America have changed by 2016 when the next election takes place?