By Robert Reich
Unemployment is still above 8 percent, job gains aren’t even keeping up with population growth, the economy is barely moving forward. And yet, according to most polls, the Romney-Ryan ticket is falling further and further behind. How can this be?
Because Republicans are failing the central test of electability. Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they’re relying largely on one slice of America — middle-aged white men — and alienating just about everyone else.
Start with Hispanics, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they become an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney-Ryan by a larger margin than they did six months ago.
Why? In last February’s Republican primary debate Romney dubbed Arizona’s controversial immigration policy – that authorized police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone looking Hispanic — a “model law” for the rest of the nation.
Romney then attacked GOP rival Texas Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And Romney advocates what he calls “self-deportation” – making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave.
As if all this weren’t enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won’t come to the polls. But they may be having the opposite effect – emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Obama and other Democrats.
Or consider women – whose political and economic impact in America continues to grow (women are fast becoming better educated than men and the major breadwinners in American homes). According to polls, the political gender gap is widening.
Why? It’s not just GOP senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s call to ban all abortions even in the case of “legitimate rape” (because he believes women’s bodies somehow reject violent sperm). The GOP platform itself seeks to bar all abortions, with no exception for rape or incest. And on several occasions Paul Ryan has voted in favor of exactly such legislation.
Meanwhile, Republican legislators in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Alabama have pushed bills requiring women seeking abortions to undergo invasive vaginal ultrasound tests. All told, over 400 Republican bills are pending in state legislatures, attacking womens’ reproductive rights.
Republicans have repeatedly voted against legislation giving women equal pay for the same work as men. Republicans in Wisconsin have even repealed a law designed to prevent employers from discriminating against women.
Or consider students – a significant and growing electoral force, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. What are Republicans doing to woo them back?
Paul Ryan’s budget plan – approved by almost every House Republican and enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney – would have allowed rates on student loans to double, adding an average of $1,000 a year to student debt loads. (Under mounting political pressure, House Republicans came up with just enough money to keep the loan program going safely past Election Day by raiding a fund established for preventive care in the new health-care act.)
Now Romney wants to hand the federal student loan program over to the banks, which will charge even more. Earlier this year he argued subsidized student loans were bad because they encouraged colleges to raise their tuition, and suggested students ask their families for money.
Republicans have even managed to antagonize seniors by seeking to turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won’t keep up with rising healthcare costs, and cutting $800 billion out of Medicaid (which many seniors rely on for nursing home care).
And, of course, they’ve come out against equal marriage rights for gay couples.
Romney, Ryan, and the GOP don’t seem to know how to satisfy their middle-aged white male base without at the same time turning off everyone who’s not white, male, straight, or middle-aged. Unfortunately for Romney and Ryan, the people they’re turning off are the majority.