What went wrong
Has the nation gone irreversibly blue? Did intraparty disunity sabotage Mitt Romney’s presidential quest? Or is there some other explanation for the nation’s re-election of a president with the worst record in decades?
I received an email from a brilliant conservative friend who wonders whether Republicans can ever win another election and thus whether the nation is forever lost. I ran into a college student at church the Sunday before the election, and despite his strong conservatism and high intelligence, he admitted confusion about the candidates’ respective positions after the presidential debates.
My first reaction after the election verdict was to fear both that America’s financial collapse is now inevitable and imminent and that America’s implosion is inevitable because the election seemed to reveal that the majority of Americans no longer embrace America’s founding principles.
Even with such fatalistic fears, I was exhorting my fellow conservatives on Twitter not to give up; no matter how bad things seem, we can reverse this. We must quit feeling sorry for ourselves; we must not accept this death sentence; and we must fight on.
After sifting through the evidence and reading everyone’s ideas, I am feeling somewhat more optimistic but nevertheless recognize that the task before us is enormous.
I think we can break conservative post-mortem opinion into roughly three camps. The first is composed of the defeatists, who believe we have passed the tipping point because America now has more takers than producers. European socialism is here to stay.
The second is convinced that mostly demographic changes did us in but we can adapt. Minority groups are voting in greater percentages, and the Democratic Party is getting most of their votes. We have to alter our approach to immigration and develop other strategies to reach the Hispanic and African-American communities.
I worry that “outreach” could be a euphemism for pandering to identity politics instead of figuring out ways to convince all people, including minorities, of the superiority of conservative ideas. Unless we do that, we will have won the battle and lost the war.
The third group is conservatives who believe that Romney and the GOP didn’t do a good enough job making the conservative case and rallying the base.
The second and third groups, at least, are not defeatist; they haven’t given up on the party or, more importantly, on the country. They disagree in their diagnoses and thus in their solutions, but at least they see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Exit polls reveal that millions of Republicans stayed home, with the GOP having garnered fewer votes than John McCain in 2008. This is why the pollsters turned out to be correct. They were basing their models on a weak Republican turnout.
There was also a significant number of Republicans who weren’t adequately informed about Obama’s record or convinced that his second term would be as disastrous as many of us expect it will be.
As many of us conservatives have preached for years, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the establishment, though you must woo independents, you must first secure and energize your base. Romney performed well with independents, and I had talked myself into believing that he was motivating the base, as well, but hindsight reveals that he didn’t quite close the sale with many of them, which is amazing considering Obama’s record.
There is no question demographics have changed significantly and will continue to change. There is no doubt that large percentages of people are on government assistance, which makes the Republicans’ future more challenging. But I reject the fatalistic conclusion that we can’t turn this around.
Conservative ideas — our founding principles — are still salable, but it will require more than empty rhetoric. We must faithfully adhere to them in practice. We just have to figure out how to make our case more effectively and to reach minorities and, yes, single women, without diluting our transcendent and universal principles. Outreach is fine, as long as it doesn’t mean becoming miniliberals, as we have seen with our forays into federal programs on education.
So let’s do a better job of walking the walk instead of merely talking the talk. Let’s have a sincere discussion within the conservative movement and the Republican Party and then choose the best course on which to proceed.
We must never give up. America is not over. David Limbaugh is the author of “The Great Destroyer”.