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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.