To the Extent that Conservatism Was on the Ballot, It Was Not Defeated
Well, the ballots have not been fully counted yet and the exit polling data is still preliminary, but Barack Obama has won another term, albeit by a narrow margin. The immediate ramification of the election for Republicans will be the acerbic civil war that we must confront within the party. Many Republican hacks are already blaming our loss on our lack of appeal to minorities and other demographics. They are missing the point.
The question that many of these politicos have not answered is this: how could we possibly be more moderate than we already are? We ran with Dole in 1996, and we lost; we ran with McCain in 2008, and we lost; we ran with Romney, and we lost. Romney took the issue of Obamacare off the table and barely attacked Obama directly for much of anything. There was no potent conservative philosophy that was offered to provide voters with a sharp distinction between the parties. The Republican convention was a pathetic Oprah show and the entire campaign was basically an advocacy of Obama’s policies, albeit with less enthusiasm. And let’s not blame the loss on Paul Ryan and Medicare reform; he outperformed Bush and McCain with seniors.
For all the talk of the need to moderate in order to win, Obama ran the most divisive, radical, and negative campaign, while Romney ran a relentlessly positive campaign with incessant promises to work with the other side. People are attracted to a show of strength, not a promise of bipartisanship, which smacks of insecurity in one’s own virtues and ideas.
Our detractors within the party will claim that it wasn’t Romney’s fault. He lost due to the detested conservatives in the House. They will argue that as long as the Republican Party…remains a Republican Party, we can no longer win national elections. There’s one problem, though. It is precisely that “detested” House majority that did the best last night. Republicans will, more or less, hold onto their solid majority in the House. Additionally, they added a number of new conservatives like Tom Massie, Keith Rothfus, Andy Barr, Mark Meadows, Kerry Bentivolio, Tom Cotton, Matt Salmon, Kevin Cramer, and Ron DeSantis. It’s the House where we will stop Obama’s agenda, and these additions will bolster our ranks.
So we established that Republican House members largely did well for themselves, despite this demographic juggernaut.
We must also remember that not all of the losses occurred in states with heavy minority populations. Romney lost Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. Moreover, Romney won the precious Independent vote, so our message obviously isn’t turning off too many people in the middle. The bottom line is that the dependency demographic has grown, and they will be dead-set against any Republican, as witnessed by Romney’s performance. Moderating our stance on one or two issues will not fundamentally alter the calculus of the youth vote. If they are inexorably against us because of social issues, that same culture that drives them to the dark side of morals will entrench them into an incorrigible sense of entitlement and dependency.
At some point, we must figure out that if we are destined to confront an unfavorable demographic trend, we as way as well stand on principle and for bold colors in the hopes of changing minds and hearts.
But there’s more to it than that. It takes more than just an inspirational conservative to win. That’s one piece of the puzzle. You also need money and ground game. Romney only had money, not a solid ground game, nor the intrepid conviction to inspire enough of a following. There’s a reason why Scott Walker performed so much better than Romney in Wisconsin. He had all three elements in place to crush the union machine. He directly confronted the unions and placed a line in the sad. He inspired the Tea Party ground game and produced results together with his fundraising prowess.
Ideology aside, ground game and the quality of the candidate matter. That’s why we see some conservatives win big in uphill congressional races, while others blow it. Akin and Mourdock blew it with career-killing gaffes, not with ideology. Also, moderates like Tommy Thompson and Rick Berg went down as well, in red-leaning states.
Folks, we need to recruit quality conservative candidates, and if that means starting from lower level offices – which we tend to have a higher degree of success – then so be it.
Let’s remember that we all predicted (myself included) that there would be a wave of GOP enthusiasm for Romney. We mistakenly thought that you could ultimately win merely by harnessing negative energy against Obama. Well, it turns out that Romney will wind up with fewer votes than John McCain in 2008. Yes, we must confront the demographic challenge, but we will never win unless we match their prowess in turning out the base. Romney could have won by merely turning out the McCain vote of 2008.
Meanwhile, we have a heck of a fight on our hands in Congress with the lame duck session. Personally, I will not rest until we have a solid conservative House that offers the American people a bold contrast from the Obama agenda. We have no other choice. Remember that most of these fights coming up – in fact, all of them – pertain to fiscal issues, not social issues. So if we were to take the advice of Republican moderates, we would have to abjure our entire ideology in order to pick up those growing demographics. And at that point, what is the purpose of seeking power, if we must stand for growing government and increasing taxes on those who already pay 37% of taxes in order to with the youth vote?
Our only choice is to stand for bold colors and work on changing hearts and minds. Short of giving up and becoming Democrats, we have no choice. The moderate Republican Party is as bankrupt as America will be after Obama’s second term. They are out of ideas, out of luck, and out of time. It’s time for real change within the Republican Party.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project