For years it has been conventional wisdom that the GOP needs the votes of social conservatives to win elections. Defined loosely, a “social conservative” is someone who has very traditional, restrictionist views on so-called “social issues” like abortion and same-sex marriage. These voters are mostly white and evangelical Christians. They support strong restrictions on abortion and oppose any recognition of gay couples. In short, they are basically anti-libertarians. As such, the moderate wing of the party has always them as a necessary but disliked coalition partner.
In recent years, though, the tide has started to turn against this strategy. The portion of the electorate that votes strictly on social issues is shrinking. Attitudes are changing on gay rights and, while the country tends to lean pro-life, it’s fairly clear that most voters are repulsed by the extreme views held by some pro-life polticians. It’s clear, then, that the GOP can’t rely on anti-gay rhetoric and severe positions on abortion to win.
The call, then, naturally is coming from those who never even liked social conservatives to push this portion of the voting population to the wayside. Some, like my colleague Jeremy Kolassa, argue that the GOP should entirely ignore social conservatives. The thinking goes that moderating on abortion and gay rights will gather enough new votes to make it possible to live without hardline social cons.
After listening to ten days of hand wringing and doom saying from the usual suspects that Republicans must abandon our principles if we are to survive, we need a little of Mark Twain’s common sense. I suggest we all take it to heart.
He said, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it — and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
So it is in that spirit that I will begin with three incontrovertible truths about this election.
First, the same election that returned Barack Obama to the White House also returned the second largest House Republican majority since World War II - bigger than anything Newt Gingrich ever had.
Second, according to polls before, during and after this election, the American people agree with us fundamentally on issues involving the economy, Obamacare, government spending, bailouts - you name it.
Third, the American people are about to get a graduate level course in Obamanomics, and at the end of that course, they are going to be a lot sadder and a lot wiser.
That is not to say that there aren’t many lessons that we need to learn and to learn well from this election, particularly here in California. But capitulation is not one of them.
The 2012 election was a crushing blow to conservatives and Republicans across the board. Although they held onto the House, they still had losses there, and totally failed to take the Senate, and had a fairly disastrous presidential election. Yet there appears to be some hope on the horizon, because already the GOP soul-searching has begun, and already I am seeing some encouraging signs.
So I do have to ask: Did you idiots just wake up and crawl out from under a rock in Oklahoma, or what?
We’ve been saying here for months at United Liberty—and for me personally, elsewhere before then—that if the GOP didn’t tone down the social conservatism and stop with the anti-gay messages and the anti-science messages (Paul Broun, anyone?) and for once in their lives genuinely embrace limited government, they were going to lose a generation. It took a shellacking in the polls this year to shake Republicans out their idiotic stupor.
Look at this tweet:
We need economic solutions, but also need to confront the social rhetoric that has undermined our party. AFA/FRC, I’m looking at you.
— Luke Londo (@llondo) November 7, 2012
Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Republican from Ohio, had some strong language for his party on Thursday, saying that he wants Republicans “out of people’s bedrooms.”
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.
Many of my conversations with Republicans regarding the Presidential race and the fact that I intend to vote for Gary Johnson usually end up in one of two categories. First, there are the people who tell me that by voting for Johnson, I’m voting for President Obama. As I’ve noted before, this an absurd argument largely because it assumes that Mitt Romney is entitled to my vote as a libertarian, an argument which I don’t accept. The other argument I frequently hear is one that basically says that my vote is wasted because Gary Johnson isn’t going to have any impact on the race. I’ve always thought that the two arguments are mutually contradictory. After all, if my vote for Johnson is going to hurt Romney then it obviously will have some impact on the race, and if it isn’t going to have any impact on the race then it isn’t going to hurt Mitt Romney. You really can’t make both arguments at the same time.
I’ve always thought, though, that the best way to judge what people really think is to look at how they act, and based on their actions, Republicans really seem to be concerned about Gary Johnson’s potential impact on the Presidential race:
When he was running for the Republican presidential nomination last year, Gary Johnson, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, drew ridicule from mainstream party members as he advocated legalized marijuana and a 43 percent cut in military spending.
A bit of controversy has been going around lately with the so-called “Poll Denialists.” These are Republicans and conservatives who believe that Romney’s current poll numbers, lagging Obama’s, are somehow false, a scheme by pollsters to deliberately skew the election towards an Obama victory, and are trying to explain it away with…well, I’m not sure what.
Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard mostly sums it up with “the polls are oversampling Democrats.” Robert Stacy McCain of The American Spectator just thinks it’s beyond any reason to believe that Obama is leading. And there is an entire website called “unskewedpolls.com” dedicated to finding the “true numbers” behind the polls.
This is pretty much balderdash, based on bad assumptions of how polling works and just plain fantasy. Stephen L. Taylor of Outside the Beltway focuses on the latter when he says:
As the election approaches, backers of both major candidates are doing their best to round up any potential uncommitted voters. For the Republicans, one of these target blocs seems to be libertarians, many of whom are planning to not vote, or to support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (myself being the latter). However, as Jason expressed earlier this week, these attempts are often counterproductive because conservatives, by and large, do not understand how libertarians think, and thus conversion efforts fall flat.
Now, for my purposes I don’t particularly care who wins this year, because both candidates are frankly awful. As I expressed in my post last week the GOP has in many ways become a joke, dominated by people who add nothing to the intellectual marketplace, and in fact often dumb it down and polarize the country for their own gain. When Mitt Romney expressed his now infamous “47%” theory, he was regurgitating the sort of fact-free nonsense that is rampant on the right. However, there are also those who believe the party has some hope, and offers the best chance for libertarian voices to be heard. If that is the case, though, the party as a whole needs to understand some things about us crazy libertarians, and the current tactics used to convince us are in fact going to do the opposite.
One of the biggest questions many libertarians are dealing with is who to support for president this year. The Libertarian Party has nominated a somewhat credible candidate, at least by his resume alone, in former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Some others are trying to mount a nationwide write in campaign to try and get Ron Paul elected, even though his campaign is over.
While our conservative friends are trying to persuade us to support Mitt Romney. Kurt Schlichter has written one of the more persuasive pieces over on Breitbart’s Big Government:
There is no more time for games, no room for hurt feelings. Ron Paul fans, you need to choose, because not voting for Romney is a vote for Obama. It’s that simple. And you could make the difference.
Making no choice in this election is a choice –it’s a choice for a collectivist who will get two or three Supreme Court picks over a man who picked a guy, Paul Ryan, who understands capitalism and its unbreakable link to human freedom. Now, this is a two-way street. Romney and Ryan need to reach out to libertarians over their common ground. Fortunately, there is lots of common ground.
No, the Republican Party is not a libertarian party, but it is the only party with any libertarian element. It’s the only place you have any chance of being heard. And with guys like Rand Paul and the libertarian-friendly Tea Party elements, you can be in the GOP.
Most of that is true. The Republican Party of the two major parties is the one that has a genuine libertarian element. The Democratic Party as seen in its convention is generally hostile to individual liberty.
Sometimes a single statement can say everything. Often these statements come as off-hand remarks, or in a setting where the speaker does not believe he or she will be recorded. A recent example from the 2008 campaign was Barack Obama’s infamous “bitter clingers” comment, which is still repeated today by his critics to depict him as elitist and disdainful towards many Americans. And now the 2012 race has its counterpart.
In comments recorded secretly from a private event, Mitt Romney laid out his assessment of 47% of America, and it’s a doozy:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.