(The Root) — Unless you live under a rock or in a deep state of denial (cough, cough, Mitt Romney), the re-election of the nation’s first black president, Barack Hussein Obama, was due largely to voter turnout from voters of color (mainly African Americans and Latinos), young voters and women. As The Root‘s Keli Goff surmised, the effect of GOP voter-suppression strategies and what I see as a clear attack on women’s bodies through extremist rhetoric about rape and other women’s rights issues caused voters to rebel against the GOP and show up in record numbers. The onslaught of anti-women rhetoric (“binders full of women,” anyone?) and the ease with which these so-called “gaffes” fell from the lips of GOP politicians helped some women voters determine that if they wanted to maintain any control over their bodies, then they had better turn out at the polls.
Contrary to Romney’s assertion that he lost the election because of President Obama’s “gifts” to women and “minority” voters, many of us know what he refuses to acknowledge. Romney lost the race because of a profound unwillingness to acknowledge the value of voters from historically disenfranchised groups, which is something that white arrogance, wealth and privilege allow him to do. It’s based on his ability to exist in his own world, where it’s OK to want to determine what’s best for everyone, even when fundamentally not appreciating, acknowledging or believing that the wants and needs of everyone matter. Quite obviously, these groups do not count in Romney’s privileged world.
The real gift of this election is the opportunity for Romney and some factions of the GOP, especially the Tea Party, to acknowledge their shortsightedness about the needs of women and voters of color. In addition, it’s become clearer about what can happen when those groups historically empowered by arbitrary factors (skin color, gender) continue to believe that they are entitled to run roughshod over others whom they have systematically, methodically and historically overpowered. Instead of receiving the “gift” of a loss and what can be gained from self-reflection and self-critique, Romney has resorted to appealing to the lowest common denominator (race-baiting and demonizing women and people of color) in order to maintain a connection with voters who look like him.
This is a man who time and again fails to understand the power of language and what can happen when people really hear you. While Romney is tone-deaf to the needs of women, people of color, young voters and, I would argue, poor whites (who Americans like to pretend don’t exist), the subtle hate that Romney spews under the guise of general conversation is deafeningly loud and transparent to those he believes are clearly less than him.
Romney is old enough, educated enough and has lived long enough to understand what his choice of words conveys to the world. His sad remarks are hardly from the mouth of a babe; Romney’s continued reliance on such rhetoric speaks to petulant behavior that is more befitting a child than a grown man who has moved about the world as he pleases. He of all people should understand that power is fluid — it shifts and moves. While women, young voters and people of color may not have the money or access to the resources that Romney has had his entire life, we do have the numbers, and that is real power in an election.
Romney’s perceived power was unable to override the real power of voters showing up to the polls and being seen and heard, and that is what he cannot accept, which is why he’s sounding like a broken record after suffering a definitive loss to President Obama. If he lost the election because of “gifts” to women and minorities, then how does he explain states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin?
Unfortunately for Romney, he continues to underestimate voters of color, which means he and his loyalists may very well carry on doing what they do (circulate misinformation and hateful rhetoric) instead of approaching politics differently (valuing the needs of all people). That is truly sad.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.