07 Nov The Future of the Republic: What the Election Does and Does Not Mean
I have been inundated with emails, tweets, texts, messages, and inquiries over the last 24 hours wondering how I am doing. I am deeply appreciative of the concern. I was highly vested in the Presidential election and I was both surprised and disappointed at the results. However, I am not a danger to myself or others, and in fact, feel a remarkable sense of calm and determination this evening. I felt it important to offer a few observations and comments about the election, and in doing so hopefully give some perspective that will be useful in understanding the landscape we find ourselves in and the challenges we face ahead.
Before I begin, I want to explain something that I suspect has not been clear over the last few months: People like me are not who I am most concerned about when it comes to my fears for America and my distrust of the Obama administration. I want readers to get a better feel for my heart on these matters – I am going to be just fine; in fact, all sorts of people (and they have certain strands that bind them together) who vehemently opposed an Obama re-election are going to be just fine. When I fear what this man’s second term will represent, and when I fear what is happening to America, it is not my lifestyle or dreams that feel even remotely threatened. This guy can tax me and talk bad about people like me all he wants; I have an impenetrable desire to accomplish certain things in my life that no politician could ever, ever impede. I suspect a lot of you do too. You know what I did today? I woke up very early, like I do every day of my life. I put on a suit, like I do every day of my life. I kissed my family and I went to work. I will do the same thing tomorrow. The idea that this election was ever going to change my lifestyle or ambition or spirit is absurd. The reason for my angst and passion in this subject is that we stand on a cultural precipice wherein millions of people will never get to utter a thought or sentence like the one I just did, because they will enter adulthood without the belief that such a life or mentality is even possible, let alone desirable. I swear from the bottom of my heart that it is the dignity of mankind that I care most about in articulating and defending my political and cultural worldview. My own tax rates matter, and I certainly care deeply about the nation my own children grow up in, but there is no bigger concern to me than the freedoms and opportunities that our nation was founded for (not just on, but for). The passion I have poured into this election has been ideological, not personal. And the passion I feel for the issues surrounding this election will remain such tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.
So what does Barack Obama’s narrow victory in his re-election bid mean? What does it not mean? What can we learn as conservatives about Mitt Romney’s inability to fully close this deal? To make this piece easier to read I am dividing it up into two lists.
What the Results of the Election Do Not Mean
(1) The blogosphere and twittersphere and Facebooksphere and water cooler chatter is already inundated with the familiar lament whenever one’s candidate loses: “Mitt Romney was just not the right candidate” … And I suppose there is a sense in which that is obviously true – he did lose. But let’s get’s a couple things straight here: The only person who could have beaten Obama would be a person who was running for President, and of all the people who ran for President, none was a more qualified contender to beat Obama than Gov. Romney. The Republican pool of candidates for the 2012 election was a walking Saturday Night Live skit, and if anyone believes that Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, or Rick Perry would have defeated Barack Obama, they likely are someone you would want to negotiate with in a business deal, if you catch my drift (as a sidebar, I do wonder if Tim Pawlenty could have given a stronger run against Obama, as he certainly lacked the baggage the other candidates had, and possessed relatable and genuine characteristics that Romney lacked, but Pawlenty still would have suffered from charisma deficiencies, and ultimately he didn’t have the marbles to outlast Michelle Bachman in the primary). Mitt Romney is a stellar human being, and has accomplished more in his life than 99.99% of all people will ever accomplish in their dreams. He is a kind man, a family man, a successful man, and he ran a very skilled campaign. He had flaws as a candidate – the major one being that he is just so damn rich – but there was a time that we actually admired that kind of thing in this country. People will understandably criticize parts of his campaign strategy for years to come (he should have demanded college transcripts, he should have gone after Obama on Benghazi, he should have fought back on Bain Capital, etc.), but I will boldly say that such declarations are probably coming from an unwillingess to accept the naked reality of what happened: We have a majority of voters in this country (the margin of which numbers somewhere between 0.1% and 2.0%) that vote with no consideration of principle whatsoever. More on that later. There are Monday Morning Quarterback possibilities here, but I think they are conjecture at best, and fallacious to the core at worst. Some things I might be sensitive to: Why didn’t his people get WAY in front of the tax return issue (like two years ago)? Obviously there is some reason he did not release them (and that reason is very different than people think), and he is fortunate the issue died the way it did, but his team was caught off guard with this, and that strikes me as inexplicable. His responses to the Bain Capital attacks did not bother me. First of all, the attacks originated under the direction of rhetoric of those pure conservative icons, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich (the former being the guy who couldn’t get a sentence out of his mouth, and the latter being the guy who didn’t mean a sentence that came out of his mouth, especially if it began, “I take this woman as my wife …”). Romney’s response to the Obama Bain attacks was colored by the fact that Newt had launched the assault first, taking off the table the easiest response for him to use (which would have been, “this is a typical leftist assault on the free market”). If you think you are mad at Romney for not being meaner to Obama about Benghazi, get a few Red Bulls in me and find out what I think about Newt’s Bain Capital attack. But regardless, Romney and his team had a disciplined philosophy in their campaign, and it was mostly executed well. He was not an ideal candidate, but our loss Tuesday night was not because the nation was begging for Herman Cain.
(2) The election results also do not mean that we will never win a Presidential election again. To refresh our memories on the last 32 years of Presidential politics (which will be 36 years by the time Obama leaves office), we have had a grand total of ONE incumbent President not get re-elected (Bush Sr. in 1992). The partisan switches have been 12 years GOP, 8 years Dems, 8 years GOP, now 8 years Dems. We have not had a single period of just four years for one party in the White House. The challenges in defeating an incumbent are huge, and they are real. It is a flawed understanding of both politics and history to assert that we can not and will not win again. We will.
(3) The election results do not mean that all those predicting a Romney victory were lying or were stupid. Now, I will leave Dick Morris out of this, as he is seriously dumber than a rock, but George Will, Michael Barone, Peggy Noonan, and countless others are serious, credible, and trustworthy contributors to the national political dialogue. Their arguments (ones I bought into) were that the country was just not likely to turn out in the way it did in 2008. The 2010 results supported that. I can assure you that every bit of my analysis forecasting a Romney win was sincere and rooted in data. The data was just wrong, or at least the assumptions surrounding the data were. The Dems boldly proclaimed in 2010 that they were not going to lose the House, and they ended up losing it in a more shocking way than any Republican optimist could have speculated. It happens. In 2012, the Republican optimists just did not have their day.
(4) This election most certainly does not mean that Barack Obama has a political mandate, or has been given restored status as an American savior. He received 10 million less votes this year than he did four years ago. Think about what I just said. He received 10 million less votes in 2012 than he did in 2008. That is not something you can say about a President with a clear mandate. He is a 50.1% President, and he remains one of the most divisive and polarizing figures in the history of American politics.
What the Results of the Election Do Mean
(1) Sadly, there is a particular commentary that comes through loud and clear in this election, and it is one that devastates me to have to grant: We have passed the tipping point of 50% in this country wherein more than half the people are allowed to vote on what less than half of the people who support them will be forced to pay (via taxation, regulation, representation, etc.). Romney made a mistake with the 47% comment caught on video, but apparently it wasn’t just a political mistake, but a mathematical mistake as well. It is now over 50% of the people voting who are voting with no skin in the game, no sense of civic responsibility, no awareness of the issues our nation faces, and no appreciation for the principles on which America was founded. A generation of indoctrination at the hands of leftist universities (and leftist high schools) has created a tiny majority in the voting populace who lack the mental or moral gravitas to deserve to vote. Yet these are the cards we are playing against. I see Republican victories here and there in the future, but I see no success in impeding the obvious drift towards statism that our society favors unless there is dramatic, comprehensive cultural change. Politics is a field in which the consequences of culture play out; it is not the field in which the culture itself is formed. My Republican friends can sit around until the cows come home trying to figure out how to win an election, but it means nothing until the culture itself changes. The 20-39 year old person in America ought to scare every person reading this article. If you are not taking seriously the utter catastrophe that is the American higher education system, you ought not worry yourself with election results, ever.
(2) The 2012 election DOES indeed mean that the demographics favor the left for the foreseeable future, and that is true without any consideration of African-Americans, young people, or gays. It is the Hispanic vote, above all else, that should cause you to believe that Republicans are in deep, deep trouble. Obama received 70% of the Hispanic vote in 2008 and 2012. John Kerry received just 55% in 2004. That 15% differential is the difference between a President Romney and a President Obama. This is not just a concern because of political realities; it is a concern because it is such an unforced error by the Right. We have alienated a massive part of the voting bloc (and the fastest-growing one) with a rhetoric, tone, and actual policy that is cartoonishly stupid. A softer and more intelligent perspective on immigration is going to be required, or we will be a permanent minority.
(3) These results do mean that the tea party effect is mostly dead, but that is not true because Obama won – it is true because the tea party refused to mature as a movement since its necessary ascendancy in 2009. Toomey and Rubio may be success stories of the tea party in 2010, but I will point out that these are mature, seasoned, poised, respectable men. Ted Cruz is such a man in this cycle. The Akins and Murdocks of 2012 join the O’Donnells and Angle’s of 2010 not in proving that the tea party ideals are invalid, but rather in proving that if you can not control your tongue, you do not deserve to be in public office. Establisment squishes have no place in our party either, but at this point the Akins of the world have done far more damage than the Lugars ever did. Any state that goes +10 Romney and then +10 McCaskill is a state that had an utter moron running for Senate. The real conservative wing of our party must take seriously the criteria of maturity and respectability in the candidates they nominate – period. This is the grown-up’s table now. (On the flipside, the Democrats now have to own Elizabeth Warren, who may be the most retarded Senator either party has ever elected to office. I am not concerned about her, but I do invite you all to sit back and watch as this walking airbag implodes in the years to come. She is their Akin, only Akin may be brighter than her. Okay, it’s a tie.)
(4) As an add-on to point #1 above, note the following from Marcus Tullius Cicero:
“Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of “the new, wonderful, good society” which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted to mean: more money, more ease, more security, more living fault at the expense of the industrious.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Elections have consequences. I dislike Obama as much as the next guy. But you can not, after two elections, blame Obama and not blame the people who voted for him. Understand the culprits in a free society. Class warfare is not just the sin of the one promoting it; it is the sin of the one believing it. Be disgusted, and be clear – the voters who cast a ballot for this man are responsible for what happened.
(5) The fiscal state of the country faces significant peril. Spending was 18.5% of GDP under Clinton. Tax revenues were 18.5% of GDP under Bush. The SPENDING of Clinton combined with the TAXES of Bush save the union from becoming Greece. We have now exceeded 24% of GDP in government spending. Obama voters do not disagree with this math; they just do not even know or care what I just said. They don’t care, because they don’t pay it anyways (besides the Jay-Z and Clooney types who, um, make a rather obvious exception). This is the problem with Obama’s re-election: He was not elected by people who understand the fiscal state of the country and decided that Obama had a better plan; he was elected by people who DO NOT CARE. By definition, the bigger the government is, the smaller the private sector is. This is self-attesting because the government, of course, has NO revenue that it did not get from the private sector. Any dollar they get CAME FROM the private sector. If you want a more robust private sector, you want a smaller government. The debate over the size of government in our society took a big step back on Tuesday. But it is imperative that we understand this: The government is not getting bigger because of what happened Tuesday; what happened Tuesday is because the people want a bigger government. The causes and effects must be understood. We right now are at a place where we are going to have to decide if we want to be the guy that gets clean and sober before he ruins his life, or the guy who gets clean and sober after he has ruined his life. But a rehab is coming one way or the other, for mathematics will have it no other way.
(6) I can not say strongly enough that the future of the conservative cause depends on our ability and willingness to accept the exhortation of Arthur Brooks: A defense of free markets and individual responsibility must be wholly rooted in what it means for the masses, and particularly the poor. The ideas of the limited government conservatives are right; the messaging is not. This is self-induced. Fix it, or be a permanent minority.
I believe that the Republicans are going to lose in 2016 if Marco Rubio is not our candidate for President. That is the premium I am placing on likeability, charisma, passion, and vision. It is also the premium I am placing on a different face for the Republican party. I suspect egomaniacs like Rick Santorum and Chris Christie will enter the fray again, and I suspect the GOP will be wholly incapable of dealing with it. I hope I am wrong. But as I said earlier, the need of the hour is not a re-vamped strategy for 2016: The need of the hour is a prayerful, humble, earnest realization that our culture is burning to the ground. The termites of liberalism, statism, and collectivism have rotted the very foundation of our home. We will not exterminate the problem in four years. But nor will we exterminate the problem by running to the sidelines. Hear me loud and clear on this: The professing Christians who sat out this election are shameful, and they ought not be taken seriously. A wild despair and negativity will not help either. The need of the hour is work. Down and dirty work. If you have decided that the battle is not winnable, I do not blame you. In that case, you ought to “get yours”. Protect your interests the best you can, and stay out of the fray. “But don’t call yourself my countryman” (thank you, Samuel Adams).
I do not know what the next steps of the battle will produce, but I do know this: Those who want to see America become a different America may or may not be successful, but if they are successful, it will be over my dead body. Tuesday night is just one night in a long and complicated battle for the soul of this nation. But we have a war to win, and ours is a war for the plight of the human race. For this cause, we ought to never lose energy or faith. Onward and forward we go.
“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.” – Robert E. Lee