Following the 2012 presidential election, many Republicans found themselves in a state of shock. To lose to a president whose policies had not only been controversial but had failed to stifle an enduring economic downturn seemed implausible. There were no doubt countless conservative voters who joined an incredulous Bill O’Reilly the next day asking, “What the heck happened last night?” In recent weeks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has provided an answer.
In the wake of his 13-hour filibuster and narrow victory in CPAC’s presidential straw poll last weekend, the freshmen senator has become an overnight sensation in American politics. Though much of the support for his dramatic defense of due process may have been partisan at first, it has generated a groundswell of soul-searching within the Republican Party.Conservatives have failed to provide a message that resonated with voters since the Bush administration and they have two failed presidential campaigns to show for it.
There is a battle raging for the heart and soul of the conservative movement. While there is a near constant discussion over fiscal issues, also emerging is a debate over the foreign policy direction the United States should take.
Despite his anti-war rhetoric on the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama has largely continued the expansive foreign policy views of his predecessor. In 2011, Obama authorized a bombing campaign in Libya, which was aimed at deposing the regime of the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
This campaign, which was waged without the consent of Congress, setoff a debate between the neo-conservatives and those who advocate a more restrained, constitutional foreign policy. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the non-interventionist views of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and others, smearing them as “isolationists.”
It’s Sen. Paul who has largely become the voice of reason in the foreign policy debate. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, suggested that he could, as president, authorize military action against Iran without congressional approval. Sen. Paul responded forcefully, explaining that the “Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president.”
As I’ve made clear before I was a fan of neither major party Presidential candidate. Both stood for big government, continued spending, interventionist foreign policy, and little respect for civil liberties. So as Election Day approached, I was excited to cast my vote for Gary Johnson. As far as actual policies go, he was the only candidate running who offered anything different than the status quo.
That being said, I won’t deny that, while I did not vote for him, I was pulling for Romney to win, simply because I don’t think Obama has the slightest clue how to handle the economy. This fact alone was enough to make me at least flirt with the idea of voting for Mitt as I stood in line to cast my vote. While I ended up voting Johnson, on Election Night I was quietly hoping that somehow Romney could pull it out.
But once it became clear that he would not, my focus shifted to various other races and ballot initiatives. And for the most part, these turned out just like I had hoped. Gay marriage was legalized in Maryland and Maine, and marijuana initiatives did very well. Not everything turned out great, but it was exciting to see evidence that attitudes are changing on both of these topics.
Furthermore, hard-core social conservatism had a very bad day, which is good for anyone who hopes that segment of the GOP can be reduced in influence. Michele Bachmann almost lost her election, and both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were defeated soundly after expressing extreme and offensive views on rape and abortion. It looks as if Allen West was defeated as well. All of these are good news if you want the GOP to jettison some of its more extreme members.
Mitt Romney had his clock cleaned on Tuesday night. There is no getting around it. People can talk about his campaign couldn’t have done any better. There isn’t much disagreement on this end. Many conservatives are understandably frustrated with how the election turned out.
Romney ran this race in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yet, he still lost. This didn’t happen because of a lack of GOTV efforts and phone-banking. Romney lost because he failed to run on big ideas that would have made the choice before voters more clear.
Republicans didn’t win because they nominated a guy who passed a law in Massachusetts that would later serve as a blueprint for ObamaCare. When he was on the campaign trail, Romney and his surrogates played up his “experience” on the issue. There was no real distinction.
Throughout the course of the campaign Romney said that that the United States is facing long-term economic problems. However, Romney never put forward a substantive plan that would actually get spending under control.
Obama won a large Electoral College victory, but he did not receive a mandate for his agenda
People more eloquent than I am (who probably had more coffee today than I did) have already made this point. I thought this tweet from left-of-center blogger Cory Doctorow summed things up pretty nicely:
Amazing to think that I’m relieved at the victory of the pro-wiretapping, pro-extrajudicial-assassination, anti-whistleblower candidate
— Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) November 7, 2012
When it’s a struggle for your most vocal supporters to root for you, that’s not a good sign about how effective you’ve been as a leader. To read more on how exactly Chicago pulled off this election, see thisTIME piece. That kind of attention to detail made the Obama reelection effort more nimble and better prepared to adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and it’s really no surprise (from an operative’s perspective) that they won.
How many of these post-mortem soundbites have you heard?
- Where was the Tea Party this time?
- All that campaigning from AFP and FreedomWorks wasn’t very effective.
- Romney lost because people want free stuff.
- Romney lost because people are uneducated.
- Romney lost because of voter fraud.
I don’t know why Romney lost. I will leave that to smarter people than me to figure out. I will say, though, that there’s some truth in a couple of those sound bites and none in others.
The analyst in me says those things only matter to the extent we use that knowledge to win hearts and minds (and elections) in the next four years.
We have a golden opportunity right now in the conservative and libertarian movements. Don’t get me wrong, I am afraid for my financial future and the future of civil liberties (1st, 2nd, 4th Amendments for starters) after last night. But it’s the perfect time to regroup and define what I’m going to term the Liberty movement.
Liberty is a winning philosophy. It’s what America is built on. The current GOP loses because they’ve embraced judgmental social policies and haven’t differentiated themselves enough from the Dems on financial and big government-principles. A younger generation, the Paul Ryan generation of conservatives, holds a much more Liberty minded philosophy. It’s time for them to take over leadership positions on the right and start a massive education and outreach movement aimed at the 15 to 45-year-old demographic (and start a preschool and elementary school program too).
Mitt Romney has lost. In a purely academic fashion, I can’t help but think about what the Republican Party will get out of last night’s results. After all, there is bound to be some kind of “after action” examination of the Romney campaign, at least by pundits.
Much of the results of those examinations will be that Romney wasn’t “conservative enough.” They figure that the problem wasn’t that he was a horrible candidate, but that he wasn’t far enough to the right.
This ignores the fact that more and more people are supporting issues like gay marriage and ending the War on Drugs. This isn’t indicative of an evangelical conservative stance as many Republicans tend to think most Americans really have. Instead, it seems to indicate a more libertarian stance on social issues. Will the conservative pundits understand that? It’s doubtful, but we will see.
Economics are another issue that played a major role in the election. It’s also one that some conservatives think they should modify their position on if they want to win in 2016. Romney talked a sort-of free market game, and it looks like it cost him because free markets scare a lot of people. Now, he wasn’t as free market as he liked to think he was, but what he put out seemed to scare enough voters in battle ground states that those people opted not to vote for him.
Personally, I can’t help but believe that foreign policy cost him. Obama’s supporters weren’t likely to change their vote on that issue apparently, but the undecided voters may have swung his way had there been more difference than “drone strikes and kill ‘em all” that we’ve seen for the last four years.
It’s election day. We’re finally here. This grueling, seemingly non-stop campaign ends today. President Barack Obama made his last campaign stops yesterday. Mitt Romney hopes to pickup what undecided voters remain during visits to Ohio and Pennsylvania today.
Despite public polls showing a close race in swing states, though Obama has a slight advantage, Romney’s campaign says that their internal polls show him leading in Ohio and tied in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Writing at National Review yesterday, Jim Geraghty saw reason to hope that Romney will pull off a win tonight. And Aaron Blake surmised that the early voting numbers suggest that the race will be tight. However, Blake points out that “[i]n basically every state, Democrats’ early vote edge is between four and eight points less than it was in 2008.” That could mean trouble for Obama, especially in Colorado, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.
I don’t like to make political endorsements and, on principle, I certainly don’t discuss my vote before an election (the protection a secret ballot offers me from harassment and intimidation only works if I keep my preference a secret). I was stunned to read in an email yesterday, “I had no idea high-information, intelligent undecided voters even existed!” You know, as if the choice between an underwhelming incumbent president, an underwhelming challenger, a list of names with no mathematical chance to win, and not voting at all is an easy one to make. If your only goal is to beat the incumbent, then your decision is easier than mine. I, however, don’t only want to beat the incumbent; I want to elect a president worthy of the exercise of one of my most sacred rights, the right to vote.
We’re coming down to the final hours of this electoral cycle. By late Tuesday night or perhaps even Wednesday morning, we’ll know whether voters will trust President Barack Obama with another term in office or if they’ll elect a different direction with Mitt Romney.
National polls are showing an incredibly close race, but those polls mean little when it comes down it. And though there are are many states considered to be part of the electoral battleground, those that will determine the election — Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia — were made clear weeks ago. Early voting is considered to be a key part of success either candidate hopes to have in these states. And while it appears that Obama has a lead over Romney in early voting, Molly Ball reports that Republicans are performing better at this aspect of the election than they did four years ago.