As a staunch conservative, this election was a humbling experience. The results left me flat-out shell-shocked. I didn’t see that sort of victory by the Democrats coming, and despite what they might say, I think the results exceeded their expectations as well. By saying this was a “humbling” experience, I don’t mean to indicate I am having second thoughts about conservatism. I’m not. I, and many fellow conservatives, underestimated the opposition, and apparently took a lot of things for granted. That is what I mean when I say that it was humbling. So what did conservatives take for granted, and how can we avoid a similar outcome in the future?
There’s a lot of talk about the need for Republicans to do more outreach to minorities, particularly Hispanics. While I agree, there is WAY too much emphasis being placed on this as the culprit for the loss. It was a factor, but why it is being elevated as the primary factor is beyond me, and it shows that Republicans are still in a little bit in panic mode. The number one thing Republicans can do as outreach to Hispanics, starting TODAY, is to tread a whole lot more lightly than they have been on the subject of illegal immigration. This is not to say they have to change their position and endorse amnesty. Republicans are never going to outdo liberals on the issue. It does mean Republicans need to start treating the subject much more personally and less abstractly.
Many Hispanics new to this country are reliant on programs pushed by Democrats and demonized by Republicans. But in what way does calling Hispanic people who are reliant on the government in the “makers” vs. “takers” argument benefit Republicans? What it does is to demonize them, as is the case when that argument is made about the rest of the population. It may be true that there is a growing divide between the makers and takers, but why point that out? Why demonize Hispanics like that? The whole “makers” v.s “takers” argument went over well with the Republican base, but did it go over well with independents? I don’t think so. Such a points are political analysis’s, they shouldn’t be campaign speeches. That is just one small example. In short, Republicans need to stop coming off as so heartless on the subject of immigration. Whether they are or not is another matter; Perception is everything. The extent to which Republicans are using politically incorrect labels and arguments, unprompted, is not helping them.
The bigger reason Republicans lost this election, and I don’t have empirical data to back up my opinion, but it nonetheless seems to make the most sense, is even though independents deserted Obama, for some reason or another, they DIDN’T find enough of a reason to come out and vote for Mitt Romney. My reason for this analysis is simple. Mitt Romney received roughly 1.5 million LESS votes than did John McCain in 2008. Now who saw THAT coming? I don’t for a second believe that the Republican base didn’t come out for this election. They came out. So who didn’t come out? It makes the most sense to me that while independents deserted Obama over the issues of deficit, Obamacare, and partisanship, they just didn’t come out for Romney, for one reason or another. Republicans took the alliance of conservatives and independents who were fleeing Obama for granted, and it didn’t pan out.
So why didn’t the independents come out? For one thing, I think Mitt was preaching to the choir. His rhetoric sounded great to me as a conservative, and maybe that was one of the reasons I was so shell-shocked at the election results, but how did his rhetoric come off to independents? In retrospect, I’m not sure Mitt’s message of limited government went quite far enough so as to explain to people exactly why it is big government is so destructive and why they had to vote for him as such for their own self-preservation. While Obama gave independents plenty of reason to not vote for him, Mitt just wasn’t the right guy for them as an alternative to Obama both in message and in personality.
Maybe he was too rich…too not like them. Maybe the perception Democrats painted of him as a heartless corporate raider went deeper than conservatives thought. A huge failing was undoubtedly the fact that Mitt couldn’t bring himself to talk about Obamacare because of his own record on healthcare, when Obamacare was something independents cared immensely about and was in fact one of the biggest reasons for their desertion from Obama. It all added up more than conservatives thought. Mitt was the best in the field of Republicans this year that ran. I don’t doubt that. He did just about as well as he could have, but he just wasn’t the right guy for the job. Despite being a moderate…someone who once was pro-choice, a guy from Massachusetts, a guy who passed a similar healthcare plan to Obama’s, he wasn’t the right guy for independents, who in large part are moderates themselves.
Republicans are still in panic mode, but they have to look at the raw numbers to get the truth about this loss. The numbers show us 7.5 million LESS people voted for Obama than in 2008. 1.5 million LESS people voted for Romney than did for McCain. That’s a huge portion of people who decided not to come out for Obama, but those same people who didn’t vote again for Obama, surprisingly just didn’t make it to the polling booth for the Republicans. Those people who voted for Obama in 2008 but not in 2012 are up for grabs. Republicans thought they had them. They were wrong, and the numbers tell the story.
I think Mitt Romney, of all people, showed that you don’t have to BE a moderate to appeal to moderates, otherwise, Mitt would be the president elect, but he’s not. Ronald Reagan was not a moderate, despite what Democrats say about him. Listen to his “A Time For Choosing” speech, or his talk on socialized medicine. He was severely conservative on every level, but he knew how to appeal to people across the board. He spoke directly to people and cut to the heart of what conservatism is, and he had people the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman who had his back. Conservatives need more pundits who are conservative philosophers and not political hacks with talking points. Liberals are out-messaging conservatives today on every level. Conservatives need to find their messaging stride once again, and make that appeal. If they do, moderates will once again join their ranks.