Conservatives Rejoice: We Are Winning the War

Greetings all. Well, of course I’m disappointed about the election, but I think that some of the apocalyptic comments on the site and even the Editors’ podcast (Rob…) are missing the forest for trees. Here’s my take:

  1. It Wasn’t a Blowout. Although Obama had a strong finish in the Electoral College, he won the popular vote by a mere 2 percent, the first president to be re-elected with a smaller margin than his initial election since 1916. Hardly a blowout — despite an adoring media chorus, a phalanx of union organizers, and a multi-million dollar effort to terrify voters about Romney.

  2. Obama’s Re-election Does Not Prove That We’ve Become a “Center-Left” Nation. The presidential election wasn’t about ideas, period. To the extent Obama mentioned issues, he campaigned on the claim that he is a tax-cutter, by taking credit for private oil and gas exploration, and by endlessly spiking the football on Bin Laden. Nor did Romney end up articulating conservative principles. His selection of Paul Ryan gave us hope that he would, but in the end, Ryan’s ideas were sidelined. Obama won by negative campaigning and tawdry “identity politics.” No question, this is a wake-up call for the GOP to rethink its electoral strategy at the national level, but it does not mean that a majority of Americans have actually decided “oh yes, I’d like to be European, thank you.”
  3. The GOP is Not a Damaged Brand. Republicans held on to the House with nearly the same majority as 2010′s historic election. The GOP picked up a governorship, now holding 30 governor’s mansions. The GOP fully controls 27 state legislatures, as compared to 19 where the Democrats control both houses.
  4. Conservative Ideas are Still Winning. As I said, Obama didn’t win re-election by advocating transformational left-wing change. He pretended to be a centrist. He defended ObamaCare, but with the usual blather about how the law will actually cut the deficit. Unions lost ballot measures in Michigan and Washington State. The Wisconsin GOP took both houses, despite the demonizing of Scott Walker. Gay marriage? So a couple of blue states voted for gay marriage. That’s after 32 defeats at the ballot box, and most states are nowhere close to legalizing it. But even if there is a trend toward gay marriage, it doesn’t matter at the national level. At the national level, the principled conservative response is: this is a state issue. If a state wants to legalize same-sex marriage, so be it. The federal government won’t interfere. Which reminds me: under Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party doubled its vote from four years ago (I wouldn’t vote Libertarian for tactical reasons, but again, I don’t accept the idea that this election proves that Americans are embracing European-style social democracy).

So be of good cheer, conservatives. We lost an election — a big one, to be sure — but Americans have not turned their back on the Constitution, conservatism, or the GOP. The Republican Party has some serious tactical work ahead of it, but with relatively modest inroads among Hispanics, blacks, and single women, it can recapture the White House and Senate. 

  1. Xennady

    No, Republicans are not winning the war. In fact I’d say the left is beating the GOP like that proverbial rented mule. Let’s discuss.

    1) Todd Aikin. The Missouri GOP was so feeble and incompetent that this third rate loser was able to become the GOP senate nominee in a three way split. Quite likely this came about because the democrats spent some chump change running ads against him.

    This is not success.

    2) Vote fraud, and voter ID. Polls indicate something like 70% of the public supports this, yet the GOP manages to lose even on this issue. I expect the party will give up on fighting vote fraud in the future, because that’s just how the GOP rolls. George Bush should have taken action on this front, except he was George Bush.

    Again- not success.

    3) Benghazi. Do I really need to say more about this?  And Mitt Romney actually managed to lose the foreign policy debate, despite the disastrous Obama “foreign policy”. Incredible.

    Stop kidding yourselves, folks. The GOP is losing, badly. Not usually because of faulty principles, but because the GOP is politically incompetent.

    They just can’t play the (expletive) game.


  2. William McClain

    I agree that there’s no reason for hopelessness and that conservatism, as a “an attitude, a constant force” remains a fundamental component of human society. Still, there are some failures. 

    The GOP brand isn’t damaged, but its not in control of its own definition. Yes, this has to do with the media, but it also has to do with all its “brand awareness” going towards its entrenched buyers. Fox News may be popular among conservatives, but it does no favors in broadening the brand of conservatism.

    To the extent that ideas, rather than finished ideals, play a role in elections, I would argue that “Justice” is winning – and progressives have seized control of it. Of course, just about any section of Plato’s Republic could dismantle the left’s oversimplification of justice, but who is making it? Who is making it in places like NPR, the NY Times, and town hall debates? How has a brilliant thinker like Justice Scalia been demonized into a partisan hack? We can’t simply dismiss legitimate paths for communication.

    We can moan about “they want free stuff,” but how is that helping?

  3. William McClain

    To quote Schopenhauer:

    The only safe rule, therefore, is that which Aristotle mentions in the last chapter of his Topica: not to dispute with the first person you meet, but only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to cherish truth, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong, should truth lie with him. From this it follows that scarcely one man in a hundred is worth your disputing with him. You may let the remainder say what they please, for every one is at liberty to be a fool —desipere est jus gentium. Remember what Voltaire says: La paix vaut encore mieux que la vérité. Remember also an Arabian proverb which tells us that on the tree of silence there hangs its fruit, which is peace.

  4. GreenCarder

    If this is what constitutes ‘Winning the War’, I’d hate to see what losing looks like.

  5. Chris Campion

    You don’t win when you lose, and we lost.  Counting up the smaller battles we won on the way to the war we lost is not a silver lining.

    But the larger point that what must be overcome are media messaging, perceptions, etc., is true.  I’ve had discussions over facts batted away with such clever arguments as “Romney hates poor people”.  When we talk about our own echo chamber, the left has theirs, too, but they won the election.  Talk about positive self-reinforcement.  Everything they think is wrong with conservatism was reinforced, and everything they thought was right with Obama was reinforced, because they won.

    I suggest that there’s a broad swath of Americans of all stripes that could never understand a chart showing our imminent financial collapse, and yet are still willingly voting for more of the same, every time, and will continue to do so until they die.

    Behavior rarely changes unless acted upon by an outside force.  Welfare reform in the 1990′s seemed to demonstrate this reality pretty clearly with its work requirement, so what did Barry do?  Got rid of it, with the stroke of a pen.  Problem solved.

  6. Al Kennedy

    I agree with both Adam and dittoheadadt.  We lost the election, but not the war; and we need to significantly change the quality and effectiveness of our communication.  I think we should be concentrating on identifying the major problems, collecting the facts and creating strategic and tactical plans to correct the problems we identify.  Two tactical candidates should surely be how we get out the vote, and how we select senatorial candidates.  We also forget or don’t want to admit that the media is against us.  Accept it and counteract it.  Fox News and conservative Talk Radio is entertainment that is preaching to the choir.  It makes few converts.  Our argument is primarily logical, but we sometimes forget that people have both a heart and a mind that is constantly at war with each other, and we don’t acknowledge the heart aspect and tailor our arguments accordingly. Frequently, our arguments don’t conveniently fit into a 30 second sound bite.  We have to be better communicators. 

    (dittoheadadt , Governor Fortuña’s defeat in Puerto Rico was a major loss.  He is a great communicator, and he implemented our program.)

  7. Fat Dave

    To refute, I’ll reiterate a point I brought up on my rage-against-the-people post:

    That does not look like a chart where conservative ideas are winning.  It looks like one where they are barely hanging on after seeing the nation discard conservatism.

    What about the issues?  Well, class warfare is alive and thriving:

    And apparently our economy needs to be “more fair” as well:

    Social issues?  Abortion, the social issue that should be easiest to win, where conservatives have been making the argument for 40+ years, where we have a strong, ideologically consistent case, with a built-in constituent base among the Christian faiths… seems a lost cause:

    Sorry Adam, while I see the case for “it’s not a blowout”, I’m just not seeing the case for optimism.  

    Exits polls are only an anecdotal metric of those who voted.  They do not represent those who voted accurately, much less the rest of American society.  We need to get the people who didn’t go to the polls registered and voting next time.

  8. Man With the Axe

    The difference is, the Dems had/have the MSM to run interference for them and to advocate for them….Secondly, the Dems already made things worse…

    True, but how to explain that Bush beat Gore in 2000?  Gore had the MSM on his side, and things were looking up in the economy.  A recession was in progress but no one knew it.  In 2004 things were looking bleak (Iraq and all that) and Bush still won, even though the MSM did everything possible to defeat him, including the “fake but accurate” National Guard docs.

    I agree with you that the Dems have made things immeasurably worse, but Dem voters don’t see it yet, or if they do, they still blame Bush.  I believe more of them will see it in 4 more years.

  9. Commodore BTC

    The MSM is a huge barrier to changing the perceptions low information voters have of the GOP.

    GOP leaders need to bypass MSM and go straight to these groups. I want to see Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Nicky Haley, Scott Walker, all doing townhall style events at colleges, black and hispanic churches, Univision, wherever groups of non-GOP voters congregate. Don’t expect the media to allow you to get your message out. 

  10. Yes! Thank You! Many here seem ready to throw themselves off a cliff; we need all the help we can get to talk them back from the ledge. :)

  11. dittoheadadt


    The difference is, the Dems had/have the MSM to run interference for them and to advocate for them….Secondly, the Dems already made things worse…

    True, but how to explain that Bush beat Gore in 2000?  Gore had the MSM on his side, and things were looking up in the economy.  A recession was in progress but no one knew it.  In 2004 things were looking bleak (Iraq and all that) and Bush still won, even though the MSM did everything possible to defeat him, including the “fake but accurate” National Guard docs.

    Gore was a pretty bad candidate, and he inherited the scandal stink of Clinton.  In 2004 the economy was still good, and switching POTUSes in mid-war hadn’t happened before.  More importantly, the media have gotten progressively worse since then.  Now, they openly advocate for the Left, and deliberately and baldly lie when they report the “news.”  Furthermore, Bush would’ve beaten Gore in the popular vote had the media not intentionally called Florida prematurely and knowingly incorrectly for Gore, depressing GOP turnout in the Panhandle and in strong GOP non-Eastern time zone states.  So they already were trying to manipulate elections.

  12. Keith Keystone

    Great post. Another reason to be optimistic is we have a GREAT group of potential candidates for 2016: Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Paul Ryan, Brian Sandoval and others. Cheer up!!

  13. Adam Freedman
    Adam Koslin:   The Brand Needs Work. · 11 hours ago

    We need to counter Democratic scare tactics, but if the brand was so bad, we wouldn’t have retained the House.  And in fact, gerrymandering didn’t always help us, as Michael Barone points out:

    And [the GOP] achieved this despite losing five seats because of partisan redistricting in Illinois and another five in California thanks to a supposedly nonpartisan redistricting commission that the Democrats successfully gamed.

  14. Adam Freedman
    Keith Keystone: Great post. Another reason to be optimistic is we have a GREAT group of potential candidates for 2016: Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Paul Ryan, Brian Sandoval and others. Cheer up!! · 1 minute ago

    Good point – a deep bench of talent and, significantly, a “multi-cultural” bench.

  15. dittoheadadt

    “It wasn’t a blowout?”  Really??  We should take comfort in that fact?  It should have been a blowout…for the GOP!!!  Center-left or -right, damaged brand, winning ideas – the fact that these are the points you raise tells me that we still cannot see the forest for the trees.  It doesn’t matter where the center is, it doesn’t matter what the brand issues are, it doesn’t matter what ideas we have – if we can’t communicate directly with the American people, nothing else matters!

    When has the Republican Party ever demonstrated the ability to execute “serious tactical work?”  2010 was thanks to the Tea Party, NOT the GOP. The Republican Party’s tactics gave us Dole in 1996, the ignominy of 2006, McCain in 2008, and though I admire and respect Mitt, he is not a conservative and thus was not the best Republican to advocate for conservatism in articulate and convincing terms.

    So yeah, there’s tactical work ahead for the GOP.  That’s why it’s over.  Because they’ll ignore the most important tactic of all – changing the communication and media paradigm.

  16. Adam Freedman
    Keith Doherty: Adam, in light of your optimism and your legal acumen, I’m curious what you think will happen to the Supreme Court these next four years, and what we might do about limiting (or repairing) the damage the Obama administration will inflict upon it. · 9 hours ago

    This is what concerns me most – as you’ll know if you followed my pre-election posts.   If Ginsburg and/or Breyer leave the Court, there’s no net change.  Scalia will, I think, continue to sit on the bench until a Republican arrives if he possibly can.   Kennedy might throw in the towel, and that is the real danger.  It will be a battle royale in the Senate, but ultimately Obama will get to appoint someone of his liking.   I am very concerned about a solid 5-vote liberal majority on the Court, but such a Court would, like the Warren Court, fuel a conservative backlash.

  17. dittoheadadt
    Al Kennedy: (dittoheadadt , Governor Fortuña’s defeat in Puerto Rico was a major loss.  He is a great communicator, and he implemented our program.)

    I agree it was a major loss, but only because Garcia Padilla is an unproven, unaccomplished neophyte (gee, nothing can go wrong there, right??!!).

    Otherwise (from what I understand), Fortuño is a pro-Statehood Republican in a territory that (from what I’ve heard) is 80% Democrat. I think the last thing America needs is 2 more Democrat Senators and 4 (of 5) more Democrat Representatives.  Also, there’s a heavy violent crime wave here, has been for a while, and the police department is alleged to be pretty corrupt.  Transportation infrastructure is 2nd-world quality.  Fortuño did slash gov’t workers and in that regard cut spending, but there’s been little tax relief and zero progress fixing the circumstances that have led to an unbearably high cost of electricity.

    Those here who want Statehood want it for PR and their own economic reasons, which is understandable.  But PR Statehood, IMHO, is not a benefit to America and almost certainly would be a disaster for the GOP.

  18. dittoheadadt

    What the hell does it matter who’s on our bench??  Who gives a flying how multicultural we are?  We already ARE deep and multicultural.  The GOP has a long, long history of breaking barriers before the Democrat Party.  But who knows this?  NO ONE!  And so the media will decide how that bench is presented to the voting public.  Doesn’t anyone anywhere get it???  “Potter isn’t selling – he’s buying!!”

    Until and unless WE control OUR message and disseminate it directly to the American people,nothing else matters.

  19. Sabrdance

    While I too think it should have been a blowout for the GOP, I think it appropriate to remember that, as John Pitney, Jr. pointed out in September, it was always a slight advantage Obama.  And lo and behold, it was a slight win Obama.  We ran Generic Republican, we got Generic Republican results.

  20. Daniel Jeyn

    If Republicans are not ready to admit that there is a problem with the ‘brand,’ it’s only going to get worse.

    I meet people all the time who will “never” vote republican.  And they cannot even articulate why.  This is part of that demographic problem.

    The good news is that the reaction is so content-free, more of these people may be persuadable purely on principles.  But conservatives are starting with a huge handicap.

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