Months ago, it looked like a cakewalk for the GOP. The Republican nominee would face off against one of the most divisive presidents in history.
Barack Obama would be running on his record: four years of big government boondoggles, statist economic disasters, government intrusion and failure after failure to revive the floundering economy. The Republican presidential candidate, on the other hand, would champion a platform based on the Constitution, limited government, individual liberty, states' rights and private enterprise -- beliefs supported by a large majority of Americans.
The president's time in office had been an abject disaster by any reasonable standard. When he wasn't stumbling his way through foreign policy disasters, Obama spent most of his first term driving the economy in the ground with his bailouts and handouts and stimulus schemes.
How could Republicans lose?
But, as Republicans, we forgot something. Two things, actually.
First, we forgot to elect a decent Republican nominee to run against the failed president -- someone who didn't come across like an unprincipled flip-flopper to conservatives and Rich Uncle Pennybags in magical Mormon underwear to everyone else.
Second, and more importantly to the future of the GOP, it apparently slipped our minds that, in 2012, being the party of racism and homophobia just isn't going to work.
Nominate a good candidate
Mitt Romney was a sorry candidate. Pathetic.
He failed to energize conservatives -- mainly because he wasn't one.
Romney's record remains one of ideological malleability. He was pro-choice, then pro-life. He created Romneycare, and then campaigned against Obamacare. He hiked taxes and fees in Massachusetts, but didn't want to increase taxes if elected president...except for some people ... in certain circumstances ... sometimes. He wanted to slash spending, but he refused to touch the bloated military budget. He wanted to be everything to everyone.
More importantly, Romney was not someone anyone could root for.
His moments of likeability -- like his speech at the Republican Convention and moments during the first and third presidential debates -- were powerful, but far too rare.
Still, plenty of Americans checked Romney's name in the voting booth.
Few, however, were excited to write the Romney campaign a check, canvas a neighborhood on his behalf or festoon their car with one of those Romney/Ryan bumper sticker with the silly logo that looked like somebody wrote the "R" with a tube of Aquafresh.
That's because almost none of us, as conservatives or Republicans, were actually excited to vote for Romney. We just wanted to vote against Obama.
Romney wasn't who we wanted; he was just a means to an end -- a way to get rid of Obama.
Until the Republican primary produces a candidate that we can embrace -- someone who actually has a track record of upholding conservative principles -- rather than just a candidate who is the lesser of two evils, the conservative base won't put forth the effort necessary to elect a Republican as president.
Bigotry is bad policy
Even if we are able to put forth a solid conservative presidential candidate who could do what Mitt Romney couldn't -- unify the Republican base without scaring off moderates -- would it even matter?
Judging by the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election, probably not.
That's because the GOP, as a result of its homophobic and racist policy stances, already alienated a large number of America's voters before a vote was ever cast.
The Republican Party claims it is the party of individual liberty, but continues to attack and condemn gay Americans.
A withering portion of the GOP is comprised of people who feel somehow threatened by gays and lesbians. Thankfully, this number is decreasing. Most younger Republicans don't support the political bigotry aimed at gay Americans by some in the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, however, there are still enough people in Republican circles who oppose gay marriage, gay adoptions, gay parades and everything else that could be seen as advancing the "gay lifestyle" that anti-gay legislation is seen as a viable function of the GOP by some.
The Republican Party must realize that gay Americans aren't mostly Democrats because they're gay. They're mostly Democrats because they've been persecuted by dumb laws advanced by a small minority of narrow-minded extremists who affiliate themselves with the GOP.
Many gay Americans are small business owners, Christians, Second Amendment advocates, and supporters of lower taxes and less government. In other words, people who would make damn fine Republicans.
Rather than engaging in a cultural warfare against gay Americans that simply isn't supported by younger generations of conservatives, the Republican Party must become a welcoming home for all Americans -- regardless of sexual orientation.
Not only is it the right thing to do, but party support will increase as a result.
An even bigger problem for future Republican presidential candidates in terms of electability is the party's perception among the Latino community.
Going forward, it will be almost impossible to win the White House without winning a sizeable share of Latino votes. Latinos (or "Mexicans" as they're known here in Tennessee, whether they're from Mexico or not), currently comprise nearly 20 percent of the American electorate. As Latino birth rates and immigration rates continue to climb, that number will rise.
Historically, Latino voters are both fiscally and socially conservative. The Republican Party should be a natural political home for most Hispanic Americans. The Republican Party's unreasonably aggressive and malicious policy stances regarding immigration and deportation have turned even Latinos whose families have been in America for generations away from the GOP.
In 2000, George W. Bush won nearly half of the Latino vote. On Tuesday, Romney struggled to pick up 27 percent of Latinos. The Republican Party's perceived racism against Latinos cost Romney Colorado, Nevada and even Virginia. Unless Republicans work to become more inclusive of Latino Americans and stop coming across as racists in their policies, the GOP will simply no longer have a viable chance of winning enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency.
As it stands, Republicans can't beat even the worst Democratic candidate.
Unless we, as Republicans, are willing to both choose better presidential candidates to represent us, and work to become a party that accepts and embraces gay Americans and recognizes Latinos as a valuable part of our nation, electing a Republican president will become all but impossible.