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Conservative Explanations for Romney's Loss | The Nation

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Ben Adler

Ben Adler

 The 2012 election, Republican politics and conservative media.

Conservative Explanations for Romney's Loss

The reality that America has re-elected Barack Obama has caused some conservative writers to ponder where they went wrong, and to debate if it is their candidates or their stance on immigration. But many of the more extreme conservative activists and pundits are unwilling to consider the possibility that it is the fault of the conservative movement. After all, conservatives can do no wrong. Therefore, it may be that Romney was not conservative enough, or it may be that the country has lost its mind. Most comforting of all for them is to think that they were not actually repudiated at all. Here is a handy guide with examples of who is making each of these arguments, or variations on them, and how.

Romney was too moderate.

Proponents: American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, Robert Walsh of National Review, Erick Erickson of Red State

Movement conservatives remain convinced that cutting Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to cut taxes for the wealthy would be popular among a majority of Americans, if only everyone knew that was their position. The obvious contradiction—that their policies would actually harm the many to help the few—seems simply not to occur to them. But whereas the intellectual elite of the conservative movement is capable of considering the possibility that their stances on social issues or illegal immigration may not serve their political interests, they are mostly unable to conceive such a possibility in economic matters. Fischer, an evangelical pastor, argues that a lack of conservative enthusiasm for Romney caused their turnout to fall short. But Fischer simultaneously says conservatives, especially social conservatives, have loyally accepted ideologically impure candidates such as Romney in order to win, and if they cannot even win, then they will turn their backs on the GOP.

Walsh:

When conservative principles are the focal point of the election, they win; when “electability” and “reaching across the aisle” are personified in a middling candidate at the presidential level, they lose.

Erickson, on November 12:

As I wrote would happen, Mitt Romney tried to blur lines with Barack Obama. He did not defend social conservatism, but let those attacks go unanswered. He did not articulate strong fiscal conservatism and he never repudiated Romneycare, thereby failing to make any credible attacks on Obamacare.

And on November 7:

Compare Romney to Scott Walker. Scott Walker took on the unions in Wisconsin and won big. Romney barely took on Barack Obama. He drew few lines in the sand, made those fungible, and did not stand on many principles. Americans wanted to assess a contrast between the candidates and got blurred lines instead. They went with the politician they knew instead of the one who was different depending on the election season, constituency, and time of day.

Fischer:

“I said this to some reporters at the Values Voters Summit: that if Mitt Romney loses this election there is going to be a third party because conservatives that make up the heart and soul of the Republican Party, that actually believe in the values that are enshrined in the Republican Party platform, those voters—they’re the ones that knock on doors, they give the small donations, they make the phone calls, they get out the vote—and they’re tired of being ignored by the Republican Party elites and dissed and having their values trampled into the ground. And there’s only so much that they’re going to be able to take.”

The American people are a bunch of lazy, stupid mooching jerks. (Also, too many of them are not white.)

Proponents: Robert Laurie, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Judge of the Daily Caller, Walsh again

Laurie, a columnist for Herman Cain’s website, writes that Democrats have built a majority of people who have no interest in assimilating or any desire to be independent. Also, he refers to President Obama, who is 51 years old, using the racist epithet “boy.”

Give a man a free phone, promise him a cradle-to-grave nanny state, and he’s a Democrat for life….

It’s easy to see that our society is degenerating. An off shoot [sic] of class warfare, the cultural entropy that the United States has undergone cannot be overstated.  Previously, many feared that immigrants were unwilling to assimilate into the American mosaic, but the truth is far worse.

Roughly half of our citizens—immigrant or otherwise—have no interest in doing so either. Instead, the fabric of the country is being shredded, divided into easily categorized segments, mostly along racial lines. An out of control federal government then corrals these groups with the promise of handouts, or the threat of penalty.  Last night, we watched it in action and it was frighteningly effective.

The boy king didn’t just win because he achieved a second term.  Certainly, he’s happy that he gets to stay in office, but that’s not really his crowning glory. In fact, that may be the least of his victories.

Obama’s real achievement is that the death of the melting pot, the expansion of class warfare, an end to individualism, and widespread dependence were his goals from day one. Not only has he managed to implement policy that would affect these changes, he’s sold his most ardent supporters on the outcome.

On election night, on Fox News, O’Reilly made the same argument much more concisely:

The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things? The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.

Judge:

The truth is that America is now a leftist country. It’s Rachel Maddow and Jeremiah Wright’s country. You know that divorced fortysomething female neighbor of yours? The one who’s not half as bright as she thinks she is, and doesn’t know much about Libya or the national debt, but watches Katie Couric’s new show and just kind of didn’t like Romney because she, well, just kind of didn’t like him? America is now her country. It’s Dingbatville.

America has chosen not to tolerate death and taxes, but to embrace them.

We need to stop confusing our country with our God, even as we stop denying that our fellow citizens can invite the devil into their souls….

The truth is, we may have to watch while our country becomes Greece, because a majority of Americans have decided that that is what they want. They care more about their racial identity and getting free stuff than they do about Benghazi—although if there is one bright spot in the election, it’s that race hustlers and professional victims have at last and forevermore lost the ability to blame their problems on “racist America.”

And here’s Walsh, contradicting his other argument:

Mitt lost because he and his team were incapable of grasping one simple, terrible fact: Far too many Americans today don’t want a job, they want—again, to use Obama’s term—revenge.

It was the media’s fault.

Proponents: Rick Noyes of the Media Research Center, Walsh again, Herman Cain

Conservatives are constitutionally incapable of not blaming the mainstream for reality’s liberal bias, so it comes as no surprise that they are doing so. There are two remarkable elements to Walsh’s screed, though. First, he asserts without any evidence that mainstream media bias accounts for 15 to 20 points of the Democrats’ vote share. It is totally unclear where he came up with that number. Second, he blathers on about the need to create an alternative conservative media universe as if one did not already exist.

Walsh in National Review:

The Republicans should never again agree to any debate moderated by any member of the MSM [mainstream media], most especially including former Democratic apparatchiks like [George] Stephanopoulos. What used to be the American journalistic establishment—and I spent 25 years in it—is now out and proud and fully committed to the Obama Way. For them, this was the moment they’d been waiting for since the 1960s, their chance to (as they see it) change the course of American history, to be participants instead of just observers and stenographers, and if they had to first compromise, and then abandon, their stated principles of objectivity and neutrality, so what? The game was worth the candle. They will go to their graves feeling good about themselves.

So whoever emerges as the party’s new leaders in the wake of this disaster must be adamant about this. Four years from now the attenuation of the MSM will be even farther advanced than it is today, which means that the Republicans should immediately begin constructing their own media operation, one that exists independently of the series of the teetering black monoliths that line Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue near Rockefeller Center. And that means that the big GOP money should henceforth divert at least a tiny fraction of the dough it poured into Karl Rove’s useless American Crossroads super PAC and its ilk and establish its own, alternative media (not Fox News) that functions both as a sword and shield against the decaying, corrupt journalistic establishment. After all, the Republicans lost with the super PACS, and they can just as easily lose without them, and at a fraction of the cost. But they can’t win without a media operation that can neutralize the 15 to 20 points that MSM advocacy regularly contributes to the Democrats. The only way to beat the media is to replace the media—and if you don’t think the media won this election for Obama, you’re delusional.

Cain:

I don’t believe the Republican Party has the ability to rebrand itself against the mainstream media machine that blatantly works to support this president and other liberals as well as the Democrats and works blatantly to try and tarnish the brand of what the Republican Party stands for.

Noyes, writing on FoxNews.com:

If, in celebrating his victory Obama wanted to give credit where credit is due, he might want to think about calling some of America’s top journalists, since their favorable approach almost certainly made the difference between victory and defeat.

We didn’t really lose.

Proponents: Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, Karl  Rove 

This argument has three components: Obama did not win by that much, House Republicans kept their majority and Obama won by demonizing Romney so Obama’s agenda was never ratified. There is actually a grain of truth to the last point, but the first two are just silly. The Republican talking point that Obama’s margin of victory is smaller than in 2008 has nothing to do with anything. Obama won in a landslide last time. If Obama had won in a squeaker in 2008 and won by the same amount this time, would that mean his policies are more popular, or Republicans’ less so, than under the current circumstances? As for the House of Representatives, Democratic House candidates actually won more votes than Republican House candidates. Only extreme and often racially discriminatory gerrymandering allowed Republicans to retain their House majority.

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As for Obama’s negative campaigning: it’s true, but Rove has no standing to complain about it. In 2004 Rove perfected the template of an incumbent holding office by making his opponent seem unacceptable. And whereas Obama’s negativity consisted of truths about Romney’s record and proposals, Rove and his allies smeared a war hero as unpatriotic in their effort to re-elect a draft dodger.

Norquist wrote in National Review on election night:

Obama won a smaller percentage of American votes in his reelection than in his win in 2008.

America gave him less support after watching him govern for four years than when he ran promising hope and change. Normally a reelected president expands his margin of support.

The Republican majority in the House was reelected after spending two years opposing Obamacare, Obama’s taxes, and Obama’s spending. This president spent his campaign attacking Mitt Romney as a person.

On CBS on Monday morning Norquist put it even more eloquently:

The House of Representatives was elected committed to keeping taxes low and the President was elected on the basis that he was not Romney and that Romney was a poopyhead and you should vote against Romney. And he won by two points. But he didn’t make the case that we should have higher taxes and higher spending.

Rove:

He ran a campaign utterly devoid of a governing vision because he offered little in the way of a prospective agenda. And because his campaign was unprecedented in its negativity and ugliness, it will be doubly hard for him to reach across the aisle.

We only lost because of Hurricane Sandy.

Proponents: former RNC Chair and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Rove again

This is essentially a variation on the claim that the public didn’t really choose Obama’s agenda over Romney’s. If a freak occurrence caused the American people to suddenly vote for their incumbent, then it does not prove they prefer his policies. But how would Pat Robertson, who says that hurricanes and other natural disasters are divine retribution for social and political acceptance of homosexuality, interpret that? If hurricanes are an act of God, and Hurricane Sandy helped Obama, does that mean God is a Democrat?

Barbour:

Hurricane Sandy saved Barack Obama’s presidency. It broke the momentum that Romney had coming in to the end of October.

Rove:

The president was also lucky. This time, the October surprise was not a dirty trick but an act of God. Hurricane Sandy interrupted Mr. Romney’s momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan.

Barbour and Rove are sharp political operators, and their theory is the most plausible of the ones presented. But even they are being churlish and lack self-awareness. Obama looked presidential in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy because he behaved like a president. His competence, maturity, humanity and seriousness were quite a contrast from President Bush’s callous behavior under similar circumstances. It would be nice if Republicans recognized that competent execution of widely shared national priorities—disaster relief, killing Osama bin Laden, preventing global economic meltdown—leads to electoral success. Perhaps then they would take effective governance seriously when they are in office.

A real reason for Romney's loss was his complete alienation of minority voters. Check out Chris Hayes's take here

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