For the past few years, the salient thing about the GOP is that it has been almost entirely inwardly directed. Republicans have fixated on a handful of parochial issues—debt, deficits, the burdens of the entrepreneur, and the looming menace of Obamacare—to the exclusion of almost everything else. When something else did intrude, it was shoehorned to fit this narrow set of concerns. That’s how the theme of the GOP convention wound up being noisy grievance over Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment, and why the Romney campaign’s minority-voter strategy was insisting to reporters that blacks and Hispanics cared about debt and deficits, too, and were in fact faring worse in the recession than whites.
This wasn’t an effective strategy. But neither was it actively destructive. Often, the combination of passivity and pro forma opposition to the Obama agenda made Republicans seem like bystanders to national affairs.