The nice thing about losing as badly as the GOP did last night is that the Republicans now have at least two years, and probably four, to think back over the mistakes they made this year and also in 2008 — and to ponder the real lesson of 2010, when there was no national candidate on the ballot. And that lesson is simple: 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.
Starting on the day he was elected four years ago, Barack Obama immediately began running for reelection, instituting the imaginary “Office of the President-Elect” before his inauguration, and then taking the Clintonian notion of the Permanent Campaign to the next level. For four years, he rolled off the actual duties of the Oval Office job to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Kathleen Sebelius and a host of other czars and surrogates while he played “the president” on television, speechifying, golfing, partying and never missing an opportunity to attack and humiliate his political “enemies” (to use his term) — who mostly just smiled and took it, instead of calling him on his bad manners. Paul Ryan, famously, was on the receiving end of his churlishness, as were the members of the Supreme Court. And yet Obama did it, confident there would be no adverse consequences. He was right; when his president needed him to uphold Obamacare, John Roberts rolled right over, assuring his place in legal infamy forever.
Forget the popular vote totals; it wasn’t that close. Sure, a relatively small number of votes might have swung a number of states, but so what? In a baseball game, the losing team doesn’t console itself with the fact that it lost every inning, but narrowly. It’s the final score that counts. And the final score last night includes at least two needless losses in the Senate, by the foot-in-mouth twins, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both of whom blew up their own candidacies by foolishly wandering into the social-issue minefields and detonating on contact with the very issue former Clinton hack turned “newsman” George Stephanopoulos so skillfully planted early in the Republican debates: sex. What had seemed like a left-field query about contraception turned out to be the seed, so to speak, of the GOP’s destruction. From which we can derive two important lessons.
First, the Republicans should never again agree to any debate moderated by any member of the MSM, most especially including former Democratic apparatchiks like 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.
Second, lay off the social issues. Let me be blunt: Conservatives have lost that war, and last night’s defeats are just the beginning. As with Griswold and Roe, the times they are a’changing when it comes to sex. Furthermore: It doesn’t matter. True, the eternal verities remain, well, eternal verities, but quoting random passages from the Old Testament to justify contemporary American mores is just nuts; better for the dwindling Christian majority to embrace the message of the New Testament and let God’s love wash over all His children. Salvation is neither a board game nor a checklist. So do what the Democrats do: accept changing circumstances and then co-opt them.
Tammany Hall, for example, bitterly opposed the creation of the civil service, and ferociously defended the old spoils system until the Republican Goo-goos forced it upon them; today, the civil-service unions are one of the Democrats’ most reliable voting blocs, merrily voting themselves public treasury swag while “serving” the public as prison guards, DMV drones, and EPA regulators.
As it turned out, the polls were right all along, and the prolonged delusion that they were somehow “skewed” turned out to be a disastrous bedtime story. As John Hinderaker has pointed out, last night destroyed the comforting notion that we’re a center-right country, and we aren’t likely to be for the foreseeable future. The forces set in motion by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 have now reached their majority. The polls were not, in fact, skewed; as it turns out, the widely derided Marist polls were pretty darn accurate. I confess myself to having succumbed to the drumbeat of assurances that the polls did not reflect reality, and that the conditions and results of 2010 were more likely to obtain than those of 2008. Not so, Boston.
Finally, as for Romney, whose political career is now over, I have mixed feelings. Like John McCain, he never really took the fight to Obama and, more important, Obamaism; he spectacularly refused to engage the Democrats on an ideological level, to explain why conservative principles are better than the chimera of “progressivism,” and to go straight at the machine tactics of the Chicago gang, the way the Republican reformers did during their battles with Tammany. And with the intelligence community leaking damaging details about Benghazi on a near-daily basis, he inexplicably took the entire issue off the table. He’s a good man, but a bad candidate, albeit the “most electable” of an unelectable lot.
In the end, though, 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.
They just got it.