This was a historic election, and few thought the 2012 election would be as serious of a blow-out for the Republican presidential nominee as it was for Sen. John McCain in 2008. Now that a full day has passed since the election, I have had time to collect my thoughts about what went wrong, what went right, and what the future holds.
1) Money can not buy elections. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Linda McMahon, Sheldon Adelson, and Citizens United changed the political landscape. Adelson alone spent $53 million, and only 1 of his congressional candidates won. While I don’t live in a swing-state, I saw the endless attack ads on Virgina television channels. My family in Ohio was so tired of it that they largely kept the TV off or watched Netflix. Cookie-cutter Super PAC ads, especially in the era of DVRs, do not move numbers for Presidential candidates.
You can have all the fuel in the world, but it doesn’t matter if no one likes the car. Money is not inherently corrupting, nor do people automatically believe any piece of literature sent to their door. Anyone who disagrees is a Democrat trying to give unfair advantage to labor unions and other left-leaning groups which had the freedom to advocate for candidates long before Citizens United.
2) The Tea Party & limited government conservatism won last night. As my friend Phil Klein notes, exit polls show that a larger number of voters believe government is doing too many things. Conservative Senate candidates lost only because they said foolish things. And even after endless scare tactics, a majority of independents and seniors broke for Romney/Ryan. There were simply more Democrat voters than Republicans.
And, don’t forget, Ted Cruz is now in the U.S. Senate!
Also, as my friend Prof. Brad Smith, former FEC Chairman, notes, ballot issues largely broke for conservative/libertarians:
In Maine, 52.8% approved a measure allowing the state to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. In Maryland, a similar measure passed with 52.1%. In Minnesota the vote was 52.1% against a measure banning same sex marriage. And Washington state ended the day by voting 52-48% to allow same sex marriage. Coupled with the survival of Iowa Supreme Court Justice Wiggins, targeted for his vote on gay marriage in the state, it was a big day for same-sex marriage supporters.
Florida defeated an amendment to prohibit state government from paying for abortions. In Montana, 70% voted for a parental notification law.
Obamacare trounced: Some exit polls showed that the electorate actually approved of Obamacare. But several states passed state constitutional amendments to bar participation in the system’s “exchanges,” or to express their desire to opt out generally.
In Missouri, 62% voted to prevent the establishment of the state health exchanges required by Obamacare.
Alabama amended its state constitution to prohibit any person, employer, or insurer from being forced to participate in an insurance system. The measure passed 59% to 41%. In Montana, it was an even more resounding 67% percent vote against Obamacare. And in Wyoming, it was an even more resounding 77%.
Florida, however, was a party pooper, defeating an Alabama-type measure, 51.5% to 48.5%.
Ouch for Big Labor: In one of the most important but overlooked measures of the night, Michigan voters defeated, by a solid 58-42% margin, a union measure that sought to enshrine public sector collective bargaining in the state constitution, using broad language that would have brought every privatization effort into question. This was a big loss for Big Labor in one of its home states. Voters also defeated a measure that would have unionized home care workers, affirming the repeal of a failed union power grab from the Governor Granholm era.
3) Mitt Romney was not a conservative. He hasn’t been in the trenches fighting for limited government for decades before running. He was a businessman, and seemed to run his campaign like a cautious business marketing strategy. For the toughest issues, such as attacks against Bain Capital, the first responses came from conservative pundits or outside groups like Crossroads GPS. Not only was he not prepared for the incredible data-driven efforts of the Obama campaign, he did not excite core Republican voters.
Romney’s father was an anti-Goldwater, pro-Rockefeller Republican. And I’m not sure anyone could list what Mitt Romney’s views truly are. He brought the art of flip-flopping to a never-before-seen level.
4) The Libertarian Party is hilarious. Though I didn’t write about it, I was exposed to true believers of the Libertarian party this cycle with the campaign for Gov. Gary Johnson. His performance on internet-only 3rd party debates (which no one watched) was embarassing. Also, the campaign was surrounded by super-fringe kooky Republican operatives, some of which are involved with the Minuteman movement or militias. While Johnson had no meaningful impact on the election,but I cannot stop laughing at my friends who are all about Austian economics and purity while teaming up with shady nuts.
5) The Republican Party needs to reform. And no, I don’t mean the advice given by MSNBC contributors for the Republican party to moderate. They simply need to modernize.
I would be very hesitant to have the Republican party become socially liberal, and esentially become “Democrat Lite.”
To casusally assume that all young people are even more liberal than their babyboomer parents is a mistake. As young people increasingly are unable to find employment after college, they are feeling the problems caused by a heavy handed government.
On the social sides, polling shows younger people are more pro-life than ever. And while traditional marriage ballot issues are no longer popular as they once were, it is a form of political suicide to discard this traditional belief. Maybe shift to a Federalism or “marriage is only an issue for the Church” position would be reasonable.
But when a a party disregards religiosity, the case for liberty is much harder, if not impossible, to make.
This is because the realm of liberty is not merely fiscal but moral and cultural as well; the conservative aim of limited government can only be furthered when the close connection between moral culture, religious freedom, and economic development is recognized. Individuals and markets must be liberated in tandem. To safeguard the right of the individual to determine the way in which he or she works, procures wages, and sustains his or her existence is to defend the sanctity of human life, while policies that support the traditional family, protect innocent life, and encourage personal responsibility provide for a culture conducive to self-government.
If the Republican party had embassadors who could make this case, perhaps the party would be closer to bringing together conservatives and Republicans, like George Scoville hopes.
Also, with polls showing Republicans look like the “party of the rich,” the GOP has a serious middle class problem. In addition to a minority problem. And a woman problem. There has to be a way to present pocket-book arguments in a way that is loving and personal… And not crassly ideological. If abortion has to be discuss, understand the challenges faced in a society where an increasingly larger number of children are born to single mothers, instead of a harsh and disconnected conversation about theology.
And as Matt Lewis believes, Republicans have to appeal to the educated. No longer can right-of-center, educated adults be embarassed to vote Republican.
So the Republican Party must start the process by refusing to raise taxes for any reason. Make the case that they are the party of fiscal responsibility, and start to reflect on the larger issues.
6) The right needs serious opposition research. This is where my interests are, as I’ve seen first hand how lacking investigations are. The right is headed in the correct direction with the Free Beacon, Media Trackers, Franklin Center, etc.
What is needed are more stories which can dominate the news cycle, and the left-leaning major media outlets cannot ignore. Sites like Politico and Buzzfeed hit issues in such clever ways that issues which hurt right-leaning candidates will last for days at at time. The left dominates the culture, and the only way to change that is to meet them on the same landscape and beat them at this game.
Major Super PAC donors should stop buying so many ads, and instead focus on ways to investigate the hell out of the inherent corruption of big government.
7) Polling is correct. The right-wing echo chamber and “un-skewed” efforts were incredibly wrong. And as Jason Pye notes, Nate Silver was absolutely correct.
We must find better candidates and change the culture, not the polling methods.