The Republican National Convention was marked by speakers deliberately alienating important constituencies (in part, with lies and misdemeanors), and largely ignoring their nominee. Yet, with it all, some polls show Mitt Romney leading President Obama by two percentage points. Can the GOP win without blacks and the majority of Latinos, union members, gays, women, and Jews?
No one expected Romney to attract the African-American vote. The symbolic value of an African-American president and Democratic policies are central to that community’s identity. Romney had nothing to lose in harshly confronting the NAACP when he spoke at their convention; if anything, he hoped to make points with his Tea Party followers.
There are other significant constituencies, however, who received curt treatment by the GOP. Foremost among them, perhaps, are Latinos. During the Republican primaries, Romney made both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry look like bleeding heart liberals with his inflexible stance concerning immigration and finding a way for at least some of the Latinos who are in the United States illegally to remain. He advocated making their lives so miserable that they would hightail it back to those countries from which they came, taking their U.S.-born children with them. He opposed the Dream Act as well as Obama’s recent executive order that allows young undocumented immigrants to continue working or studying in the United States.
The Hispanic community is not monolithic; the large Cuban community, thanks to Castro, are legal immigrants, while Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth. Yet Mexicans and Latin Americans are severely affected by the GOP platform and Romney’s stated position.
Realizing the importance of the Latino and African-American vote for Democratic fortunes, Republican legislatures in 22 states have passed so-called “voter ID” laws with the barely disguised intention (or, by their measure, happily coincidental outcome) of making it difficult for those minorities to vote. One court after another has struck down these “anti-fraud” laws as the frauds they are.
Meanwhile, the governor of our great state, in his keynote to the GOP convention, spent more time attacking teachers and their unions than in praising Romney and Ryan. Teachers and their families won’t forget Chris Christie’s ad hominum attack when they enter the voting booth. Though unions don’t have the numbers they once had, there are millions of dues-paying union members.
The GOP is also on track to alienate gays and women, with its opposition to same-sex marriage and a party platform that calls for a ban on abortion without mentioning exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Similarly, a much larger constituency of seniors, previously friendly, feel threatened by Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system and make health care more expensive for seniors who opt for traditional Medicare over private insurance plans.
In fact, the only “minority” Romney appears eager to court is the Jews, and even there he is trailing Obama 68 to 25 percent.
How can a candidate alienate so many constituencies and still be in a dead heat for the election, particularly a candidate with uninspiring oratorical skills, who refuses to reveal his tax returns, and who by his own admission pays a lower tax rate than those whose income is less than five percent of his?
We’ll find out in November. In Talmudic terms, I predict the Republicans who have based their campaign not so much on “ahavat Mordecai” (Romney) but on “sinat Haman” (Obama) will see their candidate wearing Haman’s three-cornered hat.