First, a quote from Charles W. Cooke at National Review Online, who is fast becoming one of my most preferred political commentators:
“Conservative Americans are not systematically being denied their liberties. They are not facing the might of a British empire determined to crush them. There is no Declaratory Act. There are no unwanted foreign troops stationed in our cities. Instead, we are failing to win the argument. This is a considerable problem, but we have [an] advantage. And it is that our ideas are timeless and they are right. They will win again, whether it is by argument or economic gravity.”
Barack Obama and Democrats delivered to Romney and his supporters last week the stomach punch of a lifetime; a resounding victory for the left, and a demoralizing defeat for the right. Conservative author Ann Coulter wallowed Wednesday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show that “If Mitt Romney can’t win in this economy, we’ve reached the tipping point. There are more takers than makers, there is no hope. It’s over.” Indeed, given our dire straits and the implications, there’s not much to be said in the way of silver linings or post-storm rainbows.
Obama won every swing state save North Carolina, and this after the GOP and its surrogate organizations made hundreds of thousands more voter contacts than they managed for John McCain’s campaign. The president won 55% of women, 93% of blacks, 71% of Hispanics, and 50% of the religiously affiliated (including 75% of Hispanic Catholics). He won 60% of the youth vote, which grew a percentage point in 2012 to 19% of the total electorate compared to 18% in 2008. About the only major demographics Obama didn’t win are the two shrinking more with each cycle: white adult males and married women.
Obama won about nine million fewer votes in 2012 than he did just four years ago. While he bested Romney, it’s not unreasonable nor irrelevant to note that this was not some grand endorsement by the public at large of his results or, more importantly, his policies. Rather, this loss revealed great Republican organizational weakness and a thus far ignored necessity to bend its marketing toward a broader base, namely Hispanics and youth.
Romney closed the popular vote gap by 5% (losing 48% to 51%), a full 4.5% better than McCain managed.
To look at it another way, and while perhaps evermore frustrating, Mitt Romney and Republicans lost this election, more than Obama and Democrats won it. The GOP failed, and that is a good thing.
Good, in the face of the alternative (getting our tails kicked on ideological grounds, which isn’t what happened), for it presents opportunity to reach potential voters that are not necessarily taken in by the twirls and swirls of liberalism’s diatribe. If Obama had increased his turnout by nine million, conservatives would be better served to buy an island and start anew. But he didn’t. Republicans failed to convincingly market their candidate and positions in a trustworthy way, and in a manner that would persuade enough people that conservatism is best for all, not just the affluent. More than Obama’s likeability advantage, that is what impairedthem on election day. Improved messaging, especially in minority communities, and avoiding get-out-the-vote catastrophes like Project Orca (Ben Domenech quipped: “You’d at least think a Mormon would get door-to-door right”), and Mitt Romney is packing his bags for the White House.
In David Limbaugh’s recent column, he slashes into the naysayers and white flaggers:
“Never mind, you say. The electorate has irreversibly become a taker class, and conservative ideas of self-reliance, personal responsibility and individual liberties will never appeal to a majority again, especially with demographics working against the GOP. We must reject that, or we are as good as surrendering. To accept it, we are confessing our skepticism of the power of ideas, which itself is contrary to the conservative spirit.”
As Jim Geraghty notes, but for 407,000 votes in four swing states – less than 0.5% of all voters – Mitt would have won. We were really close. This is an opportunity.
Contrary to liberals’ cries of a principles and values-driven shellacking, America didn’t beat a resounding liberal drum last Tuesday (nine million fewer votes!). Instead, she bore a whole lot of frustrated and apathetic evangelicals, libertarians, and conservatives who didn’t like Romney.
The cause for optimism here is that Republican failings this cycle are not solution-less. It’s easier to make a case to those who simply didn’t like your candidate enough to vote against the other side, than it is convincing voters away from the other contender. Branding, messaging, organizing, and minority outreach (not pandering, there’s a difference; we have to better articulate why the conservative tide will raise all boats). Broaden the base. Very doable.
Yes, it’s thoroughly disgusting what the American people chose by electing Barack Obama again. Yes, it’s thoroughly disheartening that millions accepted him by default by staying home. Yes, there is work to be done – mountains and mole hills alike – for Republicans to take the Senate in 2014 and the Presidency in 2016. But this wasn’t a wave of liberalism flowing over the country brandishing a bullhorn to pronounce conservatism’s permanent death. 2012 was a staggering blow, but not necessarily a lethal one if we play our cards right. Down, but not out.
Ingraham concluded her segment by disagreeing with Coulter, saying that the country hasn’t had a national leader make an elegant and articulate case for conservatism in two decades. She’s right. If we’re able to revamp our messaging to the masses and convince them that it is conservatism, not liberalism, which most improves the maximum number of lives, then all is not yet lost.
Iron sharpens iron, and conservatives must work to ensure that their mill is bigger and more efficient in the very near future. We carry on the fight. No other option exists.Follow @Brady_Cremeens