November 7, 2012

America Postmortem

Hatched by Dafydd

All right, a bit over the top; America isn't dead yet, nor is it likely that Barack Obama can kill us... not in a scant four years, and with the House still firmly in the hands of Republicans. But he still can (and will!) do a lot more damage.

Time to put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Now is the time to fight for what we believe, not retreat into recriminations and despair. (Isn't despair a mortal sin?)

Charles Krauthammer had the most profound explanation of last night's disaster (I'm paraphrasing): He doesn't think (and neither do I) that the message was to blame; exit polling still shows Americans prefer small government, and they associate it with the Republican Party. Rather, it was the messenger they found lacking.

I still believe, even in hindsight, that Mitt Romney was the best possible nominee among all the candidates who actually stepped up to run against Obama; nevertheless, Romney just wasn't strong enough.

  • Marco Rubio might have had a better run, might even have defeated Obama, especially as he would have taken a significantly greater chunk of the Hispanic vote; this year, Obama took 69% (!) of it, actually increasing his advantage among that voting bloc.
  • Jeb Bush might also have been a stronger advocate for the contemporary conservative position: smaller government, emphasis on small business, individual liberty, all without government picking winners and losers, whether in business (no more Solyndras!) or radical transformations of the United States into Something Else (Obamunism).
  • Maybe Paul Ryan running for president could have been a more inspiring advocate.
  • Somebody like Bobby Jindal could have become "the next new thing," capturing the novelty vote.
  • Even Chris Christie might have done better; for one point, he would have gained the same stature during Hurricane Sandy as Obama did, nullifying the latter's advantage.

But none of those gentlemen ran for president in 2012.

Paul Mirengoff on Power Line said early on that ours was a very weak field of candidates; I disagreed then, but in hindsight, I think the Deacon was right. Mitt Romney was the best of a lackluster lot; I doubt that Pawlenty or Bachman or Perry could have done even as well as Romney did. But our best wasn't good enough.

Clearly, the Republican electorate simply did not accept Romney as the personification of small government, small business, and individual liberty. Prior to this election -- actually, the last part of this election -- when did Romney ever campaign on those themes? I don't recall him even mentioning much of this back in 2008; and in the interim, what did he do to champion the core beliefs of tea-partiers and mainline conservatives, whose economic beliefs happen to be shared by a strong majority of Americans?

He simply wasn't believable as the savior sought by traditional Americans. I believed in him, and I still do; I believe he would have been an excellent president, particularly with Paul Ryan nudzhing him along. But most GOP voters do not follow politics the way we in the shattering glass chattering class do. From their point of view, Romney simply parachuted into the campaign for the first debate, performed brilliantly -- then settled back and did nothing else remarkable.

(Hurricane Sandy was perfectly timed for Obama's flagging campaign; somebody down there liked him. For four days just before the election, the Romney campaign was totally shut out of the conversation; and all voters saw were heroic pictures of Obama looking tall and presidential. Had the hurricane come along a couple of weeks earlier, Romney could have recovered; but he simply had no time.)

Too, Barack Obama has the disturbing facility to maintain his "likeability," even while being nakedly mean, vengeful, peevish, arrogant, blame-shifting, and whiny. Particularly likeable to women -- an abusive lover who mesmerizes his victims. Until the very end of the campaign, Romney struggled to appear likeable; and even in the last few days, he must still have seemed wooden enough to inspire little confidence that he could actually do what he said he could.

I suspect that when all the numbers are crunched, we'll find that Republicans simply didn't show up, not the way we expected them to. I doubt Obama made any great inroads into any of the groups he carried in 2008, nor picked up new supporters, nor galvanized more of them to vote than last time. Rather, GOP voters did the same thing they did when John McCain ran against Obama: They stayed home in droves.

It takes an awful lot to defeat an incumbent president: The Left failed to defeat Nixon (1972), Reagan (1984) or Bush-43 (2004); the Right couldn't vote out Clinton (1996) or Obama (2012). From the end of World War II, only two elected presidents tried and failed to be reelected: Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

(Gerald Ford failed in his reelection bid, but he was never elected as either president or vice president in the first place... he's the exception that tests the rule.) During that same time, eight presidents, four of each, were reelected to a second term (Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush-43, and Obama).

Most of us thought we had enough, what with the lousy economy, catastrophic foreign policy, and general cluelessness. Alas, even that was insufficient. Evidently, voters need something in addition, something the media cannot or will not cover up: the Iranian hostage crisis in Carter's case; or for George H.W. Bush, a job approval that plummets from 89% in February 1991 to 34% in October 1992. In addition to general incompetence, voters demand a juicy scandal or a complete collapse of confidence; otherwise, the president will likely be reelected.

That said, Romney did much better than McCain. Obama's vote margin over McCain was more than 9.5 million, 7.4% of the vote (not counting third-party nominees). Obama took 365 electoral votes, compared to 173 for McCain.

This year, Obama's margin over Romney was less than two million, about 1.7%. We still don't know how Florida will fall; but if Obama gets it, the electoral-vote totals will be Obama 332, Romney 206; and if it goes to Romney, it will be Obama 303, Romney 235. (Romney flipped two states from Democrat to Republican, Indiana and North Carolina -- and possibly a third, in the unlikely event that Florida ends up in the GOP column.)

I looked at thirteen swing states, comparing the 2008 and 2012 results. The states were Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Every single one of these states was more Republican this time than last; the average movement was 5.4% towards the GOP side.

As a woulda-coulda-shoulda, Florida was almost dead even; Ohio was only 2 points away; Virginia was 3 points; and Colorado was 3 points distant. Shifting those four (or three, depending which way Florida goes) states would have flipped the election. By contrast, even if McCain had managed to win every state where Obama's margin was 9 points or less, Obama still would have won. McCain would have had to win either Colorado or Iowa, each of which went to Obama by 9.5%.

We almost won; it only seems like a horrible loss because so many of us, myself included, thought we were going to win for sure.

So I agree with Krauthammer that we don't need to "reinvent" the Republican Party or even change our message:

  • In 2016, Obama won't be running, removing the fascination of the first black president.
  • We won't have an incumbent president, with all the electoral advantage that entails.
  • We'll likely have better candidates who will be better known, and better known as small-government, small-business conservatives.
  • We might even have a Hispanic candidate (Rubio) or a candidate who is not Hispanic but nevertheless gets heavy Hispanic support (Jeb Bush).
  • We probably won't have a perfectly timed, handy hurricane to make the incumbent look presidential (and the incumbent isn't running anyway).
  • And almost certainly, the economic situation will have gotten even worse than it is now, making it brutally clear that Obamunism doesn't work.

So let's stick to our principles and focus instead on recruiting better candidates... candidates who can be more believable and inspiring than Mitt Romney (or any of his competitors this election) when making the case against big government and big corporate, and for entrepeneurism, individual liberty, a muscular, pro-America foreign policy, and fiscal sanity.

It's still a winning platform; it just didn't win in this exceptional case.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2012, at the time of 3:09 AM

Comments

The following hissed in response by: White Fang


I have to disagree, at least in part, with your optimistic take that the Republican Party needn't reinvent itself, or that our message is still well respected in the electorate. Although, as I will explain, I'm not suggesting that we become liberals or give up entirely.

We must accept that this is no longer a center-right nation. That does not mean that we are truly "liberal" in a deep-rooted way. We are, however, FUNDAMENTALLY unserious. The electorate may pay lip service to notions of "smaller government" "freedom" and so on (and they likely will forever), but I don't see this as much more than a remnant of the way we've spoken about politics traditionally. What’s important is that the average American voter has no sense of what "freedom" means—NOT the fact that he uses the word.

This is a problem, primarily, of culture—with especially the degradation of education (as well as the destructive power of Hollywood and mainstream press) to blame.

Allow to me to be anecdotal: I’m a (relatively) young person. I know a lot of young people, and I understand pretty well how they operate politically. Let me be clear—I’m not just talking about self-identified liberals; I’m talking about the mainstream. These people are culturally backwards. They don’t know anything about the way this country was founded. They are unable to apply what they do know to the real world. They have little developed their capacities for critical thinking. They spend most of their time immersed in popular culture rather than pay attention to actual world events—and when they DO pay attention their news is filtered through the Left’s echo chambers. Liberals don’t simply own the airwaves, they own the streets; the make it a habit to (smugly) dominate conversations and frighten opponents into silence. These things being so, today’s voters say one thing, then another, then still another, and then fall in with the liberal tide. They are ideologically untethered. When you believe in almost nothing, you will fall victim to the siren call of Clichés, and Marketing, and The Gravy Train. So who ends up winning?

With young people especially, I don’t think most on our side understand how utterly TOXIC it is to be Republican. We are at best given little consideration, and at worst complete laughingstocks. To vote against a Republican is the definition of intelligence. That we are stupidevil is something that everyone knows; it is priced into our brand. We are seen as a hodgepodge of theocratic, misogynistic, unscientific hicks and wooden Wall Street overlords. Republicans “don’t care about people like me” while Obama surely does. Rational arguments cannot turn the tide because young people are unused to using reason, and are in fact programmed to shut down immediately upon hearing them:

The word “opportunity” (as well as the phrase “work ethic”) is just a B.S. word trotted out by rich old white people who have everything. Talking about opportunity doesn’t resonate because no one believes in it anymore. This is perhaps the most frightening trend. It used to be that “anyone’s kid could be President” but NOBODY buys that. Entrepreneurism, meanwhile, is an exotic way of thinking. Everywhere I go I see “social-mobility atheism.” You are locked in. Don’t waste your time. Secure what you have. Go to college. Get a job. Get by (welfare can always help).

The word “freedom” when spoken by Republicans, is hysterical anti-Obama rhetoric animated by racist paranoia (related: minority Republicans are merely props in fact proving this racism). Or alternately, it is code for not wanting to be responsible to the government, or to pay taxes.

Talking about “morality” or especially God betrays creationist radicalism, sexual repression war-on-women-behind-the-times-ness. Voters drift off, they think “oh the Republicans are spouting off about values again” and they either ignore us or roll their eyes. There is no religious middle anymore. There is no longer an “ethical monotheism” foundation to our thinking. Multiculturalism and secularism have given way to effective moral relativism, as day-to-day morals are reduced to sitcom levels of seriousness. “Let’s all just accept each other and get along.”

Liberals will react to these words with hostility and come back with talking points. But even mainstream voters have been conditioned to ignore them, because they have forgotten their true meaning. It’s all background noise.

The Republican Party will rarely win again, short of a complete personality shift on the part of the voters. This is because we have LOST the culture war. In everyday life we barely have a culture. We barely believe in anything. Ours is a relativistic, bland, and cliché-ridden world.

The good news is that a new culture war starts today. But we are no longer “conservatives” (although I know that you don’t technically identify as conservative, Dafydd). We are not the establishment. It is ours to deal with a nation of children, to somehow miraculously usher them into adulthood.

This is a huge and FUNDAMENTAL problem. We have no choice but to figure out how to fix it. One thing I know, it’s not good enough to say “the message is fine” “wait four years.” The message doesn’t mean anything to almost anyone anymore.

The above hissed in response by: White Fang [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2012 9:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

sigh.

SIGH.

The problem with the above is that, just a scant 2 years ago, we won. We turned the house, we picked up seats in the senate. We were on a rooollll baby. How did we do that?

Spending. We focused on the budget, and nothing else. That is the secret sauce.

What has changed?

1) The press is in the bag for Obama. Completely. Utterly. Fox news and talk radio? Whata joke! Compare that to every major newspaper, every other possible news outlet. Even Fox is wobbly. The problem is we figured out that the news didn't have to be (and wasn't) nuetral. We then used talk radio to make inroads. The left responded by taking every single other source of information and slanting it from moderately left to HARD left. They are destroying jounalism as we know it, but when has the left cared one whit about destroying anything? That's the way forward, you squares!

2) Values. I think the problem is we need to ditch the values canidates. No religon. None. Seriously - Republicans need to drop abortion as an issue now and forever. Defund it while in office, but otherwise forget about it. Abortion has never won an election for the Rs and has certainly lost a few. We lost the culture war 10 years ago, but we can still win the dollar war.

3) Seriously Obama was a lock for New York, Illinois, Hawaii, and California. 108 electroial votes. He's half way there without even trying hard. We need to get competitive on their home ground, or get used to losing.

4) Money. Obama got loads of illegal contributions from overseas. Close the loophole chumps! Sheesh, you'd think they would be all over this.

5) Many people can't bear the thought that Obama sucks. Literally can't stand it. The first black president and he stinks at his job? This beautiful, historic moment, befouled? They might admit it to themselves in private, but no way they will drum him out of office. How do we win? Run a very well qualified woman or hispanic next time. President/precedent. And NOT Bachman or Sarah!

6) Does anyone think anything will be btter in 4 years? Will Obama learn and grow? Right. Thought so. We will definately have a chance to build up the big 'mo.

7) Change the canidate selection system. 2 sinking years? 2 Years? 2 YEARS. Republican canidates duke it out with each outher, make embarassing flubs, call each other names for 2 years prior to the election. Suck on that bring back the smoke-filled rooms!

Have the convention early, 2 years early. All the elcted Republicans get together and discuss things. A series of votes. Then pick a damn canidate, unit, and conquer!

anywho, my short list

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2012 6:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

Dafydd-

And almost certainly, the economic situation will have gotten even worse than it is now, making it brutally clear that Obamunism doesn't work.

I was with you right up until there, Dafydd. You are, of course, correct that the economic policies of Obama (peas be upon him) are a disaster that cruelly delayed and constricted our -- and the world’s -- recovery from the “Great Recession.”

But I am a great believer in the durability and resiliency of our economy. I predict that there will be real signs of a recovering, though not flourishing, economy well before the 2016 elections.

And guess who’s going to take credit for it.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2012 11:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH

When my son was eight or nine he came home one afternoon purpling from several new bruises and oozing from multiple scrapes and scuffs. As we got him cleaned and applied minor first aid to his injuries we quizzed him about how he had gotten them. It turns out he had fallen out of a tree. He was quite a way up when a branch gave way and he fell. The tree had many lower branches that he hit on the way down. They scraped and buffeted him but they broke his fall without breaking his bones.

From my point of view it was perfect. It was the best of all possible ways for him to learn a respect for gravity and the desirability of caution. He had fallen out of exactly the right tree, resulting in lasting education without lasting injury. A quarter-century later he is a better, more prudent man for falling out of that tree when he was a kid.

The best we can hope for with our unserious electorate is that when our wobbly fiscal mess goes smash (as seems inevitable) that it is bad enough to teach them the virtues of restraint without doing so much damage that they have no useful way to apply the knowledge.

The challenge for the Republicans as the grown up party is to remember that these young naifs are the future, for better or worse, and that, even after the coming "learning opportunity" they will still not listen to the old grouch who has been yelling at them from his porch for so long.

The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 8, 2012 8:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bart Johnson

The way I see it, part of the problem is with the Republican Party.

I don't know the identities of the 'Elites' who seem to be running
things while maintaining their invisibility.
The elites chose Romney from the beginning; they controlled the
primaries by feeding money, behind the scenes, to Romney so he could
knock off the others. SuperPacs killed the others, one by one, until
Romney was the only 'electable' candidate left. Someone who was
manageable, not too aggressive, a real nice guy who looked like a real
winner, but who didn't like to play hardball. Someone who would be
hard to impugn, had a nice family, even the MSM couldn't paint too
darkly. Ann's horses? Medicinal and not nice of you to make a big
deal about. Shame.
Meanwhile, the Democrat machines called the Governor all manner of
things. The fact that there was no basis in fact had nothing to do
with anything. "Felon!" "Tax Cheat!" Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,
as the King of Siam would say. None of those charges were aggressively
challenged.
Obama Phones. Free Medical Insurance. Obama's stash. No big
deal if he didn't actually deliver, he was trying and that damned
House jerk Boehner was why the President couldn't get the DREAM
act passed.

So, where do we go from here?

Step one, I think, is to find out who is pulling the strings.
Step two is to cut the strings.
Step three is to take charge of the 2014 midterms to take
control of the Senate.
Step four is to find a candidate for 2016 who truly wants to win.
I know a lot of you don't like her, but my vote is for Sarah Palin.
She would have kicked Obama's ass all the way back to Chicago and
then stomped on him. IMO, that is reason enough.

I was getting a lot of EMails from "Tea Parties" asking for money.
I'm pretty sure that some of them had nothing to do with tea parties.
I asked a local person I knew was in the tea party management for
a list of real organizations. He told me to just donate to the
GOP and let them help the candidates.
BS! They are part of the problem, not the solution. I just sent
small amounts to individual candidates, but I would like to get a
list of validated Tea Parties. I have more faith in them than I
do in the national GOP.

I await your suggestions to improve the plan, and, more importantly,
to implement it.


The above hissed in response by: Bart Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 8, 2012 6:25 PM

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