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Some of you may be familiar with the concept of the “Five Whys.”  Basically it’s an investigation technique designed to help you get past looking at the symptoms of a problem and get right to the root of it.

You start by stating the initial problem – say, “The ER patient’s condition is not improving.”  Then you ask “why?” and come up with a logical answer. Then when you get that answer, you ask "why?" again.  And then again.  Five times.  It's very useful.

For example:

The ER patient’s condition is not improving.  

(#1) Why?  Because he got the wrong medication.
(#2) Why?  Because the nurse misread the label and gave it to him by mistake.
(#3) Why?  Because a drug with a similar name was stored next to it.
(#4) Why?  Because we store them in alpha order for quicker re-stocking.
(#5) Why?  Because we’re under pressure to save money by making staff do re-stocking as quickly as possible.

The problem is the patient’s condition, and you might be tempted to blame the nurse or the storage system, but the root cause is about something deeper.  It might be counter-intuitive to say “The patient’s condition is not improving ... because we’re under pressure to stock our drugs too fast,” but when you dig down that’s what you find.

What happens if we apply this technique to the reasons serious conservative commentators are coming up with to explain Mitt Romney’s humiliating, totally unexpected, wholly surprising loss in Tuesday’s election?  Because let's face it -- the GOP has a lot of work to do, and it's no use trying to solve the problem if you misdiagnose it right?

By now the blame game is well underway.  Let's see if we can separate symptom from root cause:

PROBLEM: Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election.  

(#1) Why?  Because the media selectively reported his many gaffes on the campaign trail.
(#2) Why?  Because media outlets focus too much on ‘gotcha politics’ rather than more substantive policy issues.
(#3) Why?  Because many voters only pay attention to politics as entertainment, and substantive policy debates are not very entertaining.
(#4) Why?  Because fact-based debates on policy issues (budget deficit, taxes, climate change, energy, immigration, social issues, etc.) invariably lead to conclusions closely matching progressive points of view, frustrating large portions of the conservative viewing public.
(#5) Why?  Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.

Interesting!  Hmm... ok, but let’s try another possible reason.
PROBLEM: Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election.  

(#1) Why?  Romney was not conservative enough.
(#2) Why?  Because Romney muddied his positions on multiple issues of importance to conservatives in an attempt to track to the center for the general election.
(#3) Why?  Because Romney’s previously stated positions on issues (immigration, tax policy, reproductive rights, health care, etc.) were far too extreme for the general electorate.
(#4) Why?  Because these positions were necessary to out-flank opponents during the GOP primary process.
(#5) Why?  Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.

Fascinating!

Maybe it wasn’t his fault at all though, right?

PROBLEM: Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election.  

(#1) Why?  Because Hurricane Sandy and Chris Christie interrupted his momentum.
(#2) Why?  Because any Republican official offering any praise whatsoever to the President – even in the midst of a natural disaster – was seen as breaking ranks.
(#3) Why?  Because few other Republicans ever offer the President any praise – even when he bends over backwards to accommodate their proposals, adopts their ideas, implements their policies or compromises with them.
(#4) Why?  Because if they do they know they’ll be primaried.
(#5) Why?  Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.

It works for every excuse!
PROBLEM: Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election.  

(#1) Why?  Because Obama’s “47%” coalition just voted for him because they “want stuff.”
(#2) Why?  Because after a deep recession brought about by a decades of conservative fiscal policies, the income gap is massive and the safety net is more important than ever to millions.
(#3) Why?  Because an intransigent Republican Congress has slowed the recovery at every turn.
(#4) Why?  Because they all signed pledges to Grover Norquist to please their constituents.
(#5) Why?  Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.

But this won't be like 2008, right?
PROBLEM: Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election.  

(#1) Why?  Because the electorate was too favorable to Democrats.
(#2) Why?  Because not enough white, wealthy, aged members of “traditional America” voted Republican to offset the growing numbers of brown people voting Democrat.
(#3) Why?  Because the Republican party has for years opposed everything ethnically diverse constituencies care about.
(#4) Why?  Because their base is either scared of brown people, blames them for all the country’s problems, or refuses to recognize that we are a nation of immigrants, the vast majority of whom are here legally.
(#5) Why?  Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.

But that effeminate guy made us feel bad!
PROBLEM: Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election.  

(#1) Why?  Because of Nate Silver’s damned dirty polls.
(#2) Why?  Because he skewed them or something.
(#3) Why?  Because his numbers hate conservatism.
(#4) Why?  Because they all add up, behave rationally, are based on sound scientific principles, and thus are totally out-of-step with today’s Republican party.
(#5) Why?  Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.

So, in summary, I bring you back to where we started.  It may be counter-intuitive, but when you get past the various scapegoats, symptoms and other red herrings, using the “five whys” technique allows you to cut right to the root of the problem.

So:

Why did Mitt Romney lose the 2012 Presidential election?  
Because today’s Republican party is made up mostly of far-right wackos.
You don't need the rest.  You can get from A to B in one step.  
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