Sometimes you get it wrong.
Last Tuesday, as I suspect many of you did, I got it wrong.
I did not believe that America, knowing who President Obama was, would re-elect the man. I considered America to be a center-right nation. One whose majority of people believed in self-reliance. Were suspicious of government. Disliking of authority. Patriotic to the point of resenting a President that conducted an apology tour of the Middle East. And fearful of the European-style socialism that the country seems headed toward.
Conservatives threw everything at President Obama. From Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America to Donald Trump’s relentless criticism to Congressman Joe Wilson yelling “You lie” to the Tea Party and countless other movements, we did everything we could. And it wasn’t enough.
To determine an answer to that question, I have immersed myself in reading these last five days. I have read article after article by liberal and conservative alike. Some say that Gov. Romney was not a natural conservative, and didn’t provide enough of a choice, and cite “Obamneycare”. Some blame the changed demographics of America and say the GOP alienated Hispanics and women. Others blame the campaign, and its focus purely on the economy and independents. Others say Romney picked the wrong running mate. Others make claims about Hurricane Sandy , Chris Christie, a poor Convention and an Obama negative ad blitzkrieg over the summer determined the election. And then there is the failure of ORCA and the brutal primary process that Gov. Romney was subjected to. Not to mention many claim Romney was fighting both President Obama and the shadow of President George W Bush. And a litany of other opinions.
It is hard to say. Gov. Romney may not have been a genuine conservative to begin with but he certainly ran conservative in the election. He was a fundamentally decent man with class, a great family, impeccable credentials and a record to match. He looked Presidential; he sounded Presidential. He wasn’t my pick during the primaries but as far as candidacy goes, he surprised me in his success as a candidate and as the election neared in early October, I bought into the frenzy. I was a Romney convert. I started seeing Reaganesque qualities in him. I thought he would make a great American President.
And he would have. But as Dick Morris and Bill O’Reilly pointed out, this is a different America. This is not the America that elected Reagan. It’s not the America that re-elected President George W. Bush in 2004. Consider this. As recently as that 2004 election, Karl Rove engineered anti-gay marriage amendments in several states, including crucial Ohio, to help mobilize the conservative and evangelical base for President Bush. In this 2012 election, two further states passed gay marriage and the first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin, from Wisconsin, will grace the chamber of the US Senate. It’s a different country. But, as I will explain later, it is only ever an event or one person away to being the country of old. Politics is inexplicable and unpredictable. Sometimes you lose when you deserve to win and sometimes you win when you deserved to lose.
What stunned me was that Gov. Romney could not stir as many Republican voters to cast a vote as Sen. McCain. I didn’t see that one coming. Why on earth did they stay at home in the face of the most ultra-liberal President America has had? For all the talk about demography (and yes, the Latino and African-American vote share did increase), this election was not really about a surge in non-white voters; it was about a large group of white voters that never showed up. Compared to 2008 numbers, there were about 3 million white voters that chose to stay home. At first many would be tempted to say it was due to conservative evangelicals rejecting Gov. Romney’s Mormonism. But the white voters that stayed home weren’t from the South, where those conservative evangelicals are in great numbers.
I cannot imagine that those that stayed home were supportive of President Obama. But clearly they didn’t like Gov. Romney either. Maybe this was a result of the attack ads of the Obama campaign or Romney’s comparative lack of charisma and energy to Obama. I will wait for further analysis of the data, county by county, to see if it is possible to identify a trend.
The most interesting analysis I have read are the parallels with the 2004 election. This was a time when the Democratic Party believed to at least compete in future elections, they would need to move to the right socially, economically and on matters of foreign policy. And then came the financial crisis, other world events, and the very liberal young Illinois Senator, Barack Obama. Who would have thought that the Democrats considering a lurch to the right would just four years later win the White House with a candidate who made John Kerry look somewhat conservative? The message is politics is cyclical, individuals with supreme political skills do make a difference and unforeseen world or national events change things in a heartbeat. The talk that the GOP should moderate and move to the left in its ideology is ridiculous.
Increasingly, there are becoming two distinct Americas; almost two different countries with two different cultures. This is a battle we must watch. America’s future depends on which one of these two cultures within America wins the most hearts and minds.
The Republican Party needs to remain committed to its values and principles. It needs to be the party of small government, free enterprise, the traditional family, strong national defense and secure borders. Elections come and go, and rarely is there rhyme or reason to their results. America may have been different on November 6, 2012 to what it was ten years or twenty years before that, but it is just as likely to return to those earlier eras of conservative political consensus.
Stay strong, and stay conservative.