In 2012, the Republicans had everything going for them heading into the election — just as they did in 2022 — until the candidates who won primaries started talking, and it all went south.
Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock referred to a women getting pregnant during a rape as something “God intended.” Mourdock lost the election to Joe Donnelly, a red-to-blue pickup for the Democrats. In Missouri, Republican candidate Todd Akin claimed that it’s very rare for women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” to become pregnant. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent senator, sailed to a second term. In Ohio, the tea party celebrated its primary victory with Republican candidate Josh Mandel, only to watch him fall to Democrat Sherrod Brown.
It doesn’t take much to figure out what went wrong for Republicans in 2012: They nominated far-right candidates who alienated themselves from the largest constituency of voters in America — women — and were unable to make inroads with minorities and younger voters.
And yet, the RNC, puzzled by the outcome, commissioned a report that was based on 52,000 contacts made. The conclusion: “The GOP today is a tale of two parties. One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future. ... Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongfully think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country...”
At this point, failure after defeat is a pattern. All evidence points to the Republicans having no interest in breaking the cycle. In the aftermath of their midterm underperformance, they have declared their intention to launch a series of witch hunts targeting Biden’s family and allies, returned to using the border as a scare tactic and are now busy trying to navigate a response to Donald Trump having dinner with a white nationalist and an antisemite. And of course, fighting among themselves over who will lead them in the House.
Does any of this sound like a political party that is taking failure seriously?
Trump wasn’t the cause of this rot in the GOP; it was there years before he came down that escalator to announce his candidacy for president, and it’s still there two years after he lost. The difference now is that racism, misogyny and conspiracy theories are accepted as part of the agenda. You can see it in virtually every soundbite, every tweet, every policy.