In his sour-grapes postmortem of the 2012 presidential race, Republican Mitt Romney attributed his decisive defeat to expensive policy "gifts" that President Obama doled out to Democratic constituencies: African-Americans, Latinos, and young voters.
Stories in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times smartly point out the problems with his argument. For instance, "Obama won several key states without large cities or minority populations," wrote Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times. "And he did so in part by asserting that it was Romney who was planning to disburse gifts--by virtue of a budget plan that included tax breaks heavily skewed toward the wealthy."
So let's take a moment to thank Romney for the gifts he bestowed upon voters in his failed campaign.
1) The race card. It arrived by air, not mail, but it was nonetheless a campaign hallmark when Romney's team falsely accused Obama of gutting welfare-to-work legislation signed by President Clinton. The Romney campaign knowingly exploited the anxieties of some white, working-class voters who see welfare as a handout to minorities (despite the fact that more whites than blacks get government assistance).
2) Class war. Another gift that wouldn't stop giving, Romney declared that his campaign wouldn't worry about the 47 percent of the electorate that was unlikely to vote for him because they paid no income taxes and were dependent on the government. Yes, there is an element of racial politics in this cynical construct, but we won't look a gift horse in the mouth. Fittingly, Romney finished with about 47 percent of the vote.
3) Civil war. Losing to an incumbent yoked to a weak economy leads to introspection, which is a fancy word for retribution. Republicans are at war over the question of whether to fight or bow to demographic change. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, knows that citing "gifts" to blacks and Hispanics is no way to broaden the party's appeal. Asked about Romney's comments, the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association became visibly agitated, according to Politico. "No, I think that’s absolutely wrong," he said at a press conference that opened the RGA’s postelection meeting. "We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent."
4) Flip-flops flop. For those who believe authenticity is a crucial attribute for a candidate, Romney's defeat is a gift. He paid for "evolving" on so many issues. A lesson for candidates: Obama's victory suggests that voters don't have to agree with every one of your policies or even fully approve of your job performance to support you--if they believe that you're comfortable in your own skin, with a consistent hold on some values.
5) Open fundraisers. Romney made the 47 percent comment at a fundraiser that he thought was private. He spoke of "gifts" on a conference call to donors, not realizing that reporters were listening. If future presidents and presidential candidates open their fundraisers to the media--or at least learn that they can't say one thing to all voters and another to high-dollar friends--that would be a gift.