Column: Reality crashes the Republican Party

For Republicans wondering what went wrong, it's not a matter of fine-tuning a message or finding minority candidates; the problem is a platform that staked out the far-right fringe on many issues.

It turns out this presidential election wasn't so much about race after all, but about something bigger, more fundamental and harder to ignore. And there's a lesson here for shellshocked Republicans, still wondering how things went so wrong:

It's time to drop that "Take our country back" stuff and take your party back instead.

Barack Obama's romp took many by surprise. Even as Obama votes piled up on Tuesday night, political operative Dick Morris, who has worked both sides of the aisle, kept predicting a Mitt Romney landslide.

It's hard to argue with the demographic dimensions of Obama's victory. He won in almost every category of voters except senior citizens and white men.

That's led to lots of head-banging for GOP pundits: Romney might have won, they say, if he had eased up on illegal immigration and found a running mate who could attract Latinos or draw votes in swing states.

But this is not a matter of fine-tuning the message or rustling up a candidate with brown skin or serviceable Spanish.

The problem is a platform that staked out the far-right fringe on so many issues that it turned off immigrants, women, minorities, single mothers, young people, gays and lesbians.

The images of winners and losers on election night said it all: the Norman Rockwell tableau in Romney's sullen Boston ballroom versus the kaleidoscopic diversity of Obama's Chicago victory montage.

The America the Republicans want is not the one we have.

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Conventional wisdom would credit the win to smart campaigning and coalition-building.

According to exit polls, support for Obama came from 93% of blacks, 71% of Latinos, 73% of Asian Americans, 76% of gays and lesbians, 60% of voters under 30 and 55% of women.

But that is not your classic ideological coalition, with shared interests and concerns. That's a collection of folks alienated, over time, by Republicans and their mission to return America to an era when some people had it really good — and whole groups of others had to settle for leftovers.

People vote their pocketbooks, but they also vote their passions. And those reflect not only their age and ethnic heritage, but the sort of personal lives that right-wingers have made clear they're not willing to abide.

Women are having babies without marrying the fathers. Gays and lesbians aren't willing anymore to stay hidden in the closet. Young people are using social media to lift their champions and bury their opponents. And Latinos and Asian Americans are staking their claim to a growing slice of this American pie.

And that affects the rest of us. If you don't have a family member who's gay, you probably have a friend or co-worker who is. If you have teenagers at home, you've probably learned to accept their bands of multiracial friends.

And if you are, like me, a single mother, you don't want to be made to feel that you are shortchanging your kids. And I'm not willing to allow my daughters' reproductive options to be controlled by a bunch of narrow-minded, self-righteous men.

Voters carried those slights and insults to the voting booth, tired of being treated with contempt by a party that doesn't seem to understand their realities.

We're rejecting hypocritical rhetoric: Newt Gingrich, with three marriages and a string of infidelities, arguing that allowing gays to wed violates the sanctity of marriage.

Women heard a wake-up call in Todd Akin's remarks about rape shutting a woman's body down. That kind of idiocy is frightening, and it brings clarity to what's at stake in the debate over abortion.

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