Looking at some of the wailing and moaning coming from various Republican pundits and politicians, you would think the GOP's days are over.
Well, maybe they should be if this is how they respond to what happened Tuesday.But as someone who is a conservative (that is, a classic liberal in the true sense of the word) rather than a doctrinaire party man, I'm far more interested in victory than appeasement.
That victory is eminently doable, but it will take some real soul searching and an answer to the age old questions: what are you prepared to do? How bad do you want it? Because it's time to let the pretty, convenient lies die if you do want it.
I've already gone over a lot of the tactical reasons Mitt Romney lost, and some of the lessons learned from that I'll expand on here.
The first thing we need to do is tune out the media static and realize that this was a far closer election than we're being told.
Barack Obama is the only president in history to be re-elected with a smaller percentage of the popular vote than he won initially.. He won 53 percent to 46 percent in 2008 but his official numbers right now are 50.6 percent to 47.8 percent over Mitt Romney. The numbers might change slightly as the states finish their counts, but the president still won by a much smaller percentage than in 2008.As the National Review's Jim Geraghty observed, Had Romney won just another 407,000 or so additional votes total in the battle ground states of Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Florida, he'd be president.
The bottom line, when all's said and done is that about 3 million Republicans stayed home last Tuesday,mostly because they had no compelling reason to show up, and partly because, as we now know, the Romney campaign had an abysmal ground game. When you have only 6 campaign offices in a state like Ohio while your opponent has 130, you're asking for a beating.
Those voters who were supposedly willing to crawl over broken glass to vote against Obama existed, but 3 million others simply took a pass. If even half of them had showed up, we'd have a different story to tell today.So the key to our little puzzle is not only figuring out why they didn't show up, but why a relatively unpopular incumbent battling huge deficits, record food and energy costs and an 8% unemployment rate managed to prevail because enough of his people did.Again, not nearly as many as showed up in 2008,(which ought to tell you something about that so-called 'decisive victory') but enough to win.
In order to see how this works, it's first necessary to realize a few things.
Republicans have always told themselves that this is a center right nation. It still is, but it's moving in the opposite direction..Here's why.
Since the 1970's, when the unions took over, the left has gradually assumed almost total control of public education, and in K-12, not just the universities. Ever wonder why so many radicals found a home in academia, and why radicals like Bill Ayers became so interested and influential in public education, particularly of young children?
The results are obvious. Today, half the children produced out of this dysfunctional system may have trouble reading and writing, they may be ignorant of their culture and history, but boy are a lot of them proficient in repeating the leftist talking points they've been indoctrinated with for years!
As an added bonus, the teachers unions, like the other public employee unions are a major component of the Ponzi scheme that funds the Democratic Party at the taxpayer's expense.
The good news is that this is very slowly starting to change in some parts of America simply because it's financially unsustainable, but for now, especially in deep blue states like California and Massachusetts, that's simply how it is.
So the first major requirement of winning the White House is a candidate capable of educating voters on conservative principles in terms they can easily understand, why they work, and why leftist statism merely produces equal misery.
The last presidential candidate the Republicans had whom could do this was Ronald Reagan, Ronaldus Maximus. He wasn't known as the Great Communicator for nothing.Since Reagan, the only one who's even come close is Sarah Palin, and at this point, considering the way she was shafted by her own campaign and the GOP establishment, she might very well have been better off turning John McCain down in 2008, serving out her term as governor and running for the top of the ticket in 2012 or 2016.
One of the reasons Sarah Palin was so effective at it was that she promised a change in the very climate of Washington...which is exactly how Ronald Reagan approached it.That's something people turn out for.
Mitt Romney, for all his sincerity and obvious fitness for office never promised that kind of change in Washington and was surrounded by enough of the Republican establishment to ensure that it wasn't going to happen.
To a lot of people, the promise of a better managed Washington bureaucracy wasn't enough to get them to the polls.
And he certainly never explained conservative principles of government consistently and effectively and why they work. He tried, especially later in the campaign, but it was like listening to someone speak a second language. And by the time he started to get better at it,he'd already been defined by the Obama Campaign and their sycophants in the media.
Which brings us to my second point. It is time we started seeing how the left sees us, and acting accordingly:
As much as I despise the left, I have to admit I have a real admiration for the way they refuse to compromise on their principles and wage strategic,ideological war on their enemies. When something goes wrong, they circle the wagons rather than engage in a circular firing squad and admit that they might be mistaken about anything...because unlike conservatives, they don't regard their ideological opponents as wrong, but as evil. They will lie, cheat and steal to attain their objectives, and they wage offensive war while conservatives largely play defense.
General Douglas MacArthur had a one word definition for defensive war I've always loved: "Defeat".
Once we acknowledge these basic truths, other helpful facts come to light..and they are what we need to look at to begin to outline a strategy:
Let's start with the media.
There were four instances I cited where the media directly influenced the election in a major way, namely George Stephanopoulos' kickoff of the whole birth control/war on women theme for the Democrats when he was supposedly moderating a GOP debate, the WAPO's fraudulent article of Romney's tenure at Bain Capital that even their own fact checker gave 4 pinnochios. And there was Candy Crowley's assist to the president's fib during the second debate on Benghazzi, and CBS selectively editing President Obama's '60 minutes' interview and withholding the unaired footage that showed him denying Benghazzi was a terrorist attack - until election day.
And those are just the major ones.
There are a number of effective ways to deal with this problem. First, there's simple avoidance and honesty. There is literally no one with an 'r' after his name who's going to be treated fairly by any of the alphabet networks, the WAPO, the New York Times, or most other legacy media outlets.
Why not acknowledge it? Imagine a Republican candidate who simply said publicly, with a smile, 'Y'know what? I've never seen you treat conservatives fairly and without bias, so I see no point in doing interviews with you, carting one of your people around on the campaign trail, or having one of your talking heads moderate a debate.'
Imagine if that was the united position of all Republican candidates? Different ballgame.
Conservatives have their own media sources - social media, blogs, half of FOX, and talk radio. Rush Limbaugh has an audience of between 20 and 23 million people every day. Mitt Romney never went on his show even once, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of those people sat home on November 6th.
There's simply no need to pander to these dinosaurs.
I'd love to hear a Republican candidate call out the media for bias that's obvious to at least 60% of the American people, according to Pew.
Imagine how refreshing for average Americans it would have been to have one of the GOP candidates turn to George Stephanopoulos and say, 'George, why don't you admit that you just picked that question on birth control out of the nether regions of your anatomy just to try and get one of us saying something that could be edited into an attack ad and a Democrat talking point? Did you set this up in advance with the White House? I realize you're a partisan Democrat, but you're supposed to be here as a journalist. Don't you have any ethics at all?'
When Democrat activist Sarah Fluke was trotted out a couple of months later and the connection was obvious, did you hear Mitt Romney or even a campaign surrogate point it out? Was there ever an attack ad made on the obvious tie in? Nope.
There the key. You go one offense and make the Democrat's media shield largely irrelevant.And you do it with a smile.
Second, let's examine something that seems to elude a lot of Republicans and self-identified conservatives; no matter what kind of pretzels they twist themselves into, no matter how they attempt to outdo Democrats in pandering, they're doomed to failure.
Here's why..because no matter what, the Democrats and their media allies are never going to allow Republicans to appeal to any of the special interest groups on their plantation.So the appeal to these voters needs to made not in terms of groupthink but in terms of educating them in conservative principles and why these principles matter in terms of their own self interest and their children's future.
Again, a few examples.
George W. Bush was probably the U.S.president with the most aggressive record for combating AIDS.He spent billions to do so, especially in Africa, where he and his wife are revered to this day.He also appointed a number of gay members to his staff including his campaign manager and RNC head Ken Mehlman. Did any of this get reported much by the dinosaur media? And more importantly did it have much effect on President Bush's standing with gay voters? Nope.
When Missouri Senate candidate Todd Aiken made his now infamous remarks on 'legitimate rape' and Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock got sucked into a similar sounding statement about how sometimes pregnancy resulting from rape is G-d's will, the Democrat's media allies immediately made campaign fodder out of it to attack Mitt Romney using the 'war on women' theme. No real response was made aside from simple denial, even though Mitt Romney promptly condemned the remarks, is happily married and has a long standing record of treating women kindly and with equality.
Nor does it ever work both ways. No one ever questioned President Obama about say, Democrat senate candidate Tammy Baldwin's far left way out of the mainstream positions on Israel, or Elizabeth Warren's openly marxist views and asked him to condemn them.
The same thing is going to be true of Latinos.
Much is being made of the Latino demographic, and they're important, but by no means responsible by themselves for President Obama's victory. They represent 10% of the electorate, and the president got between 68% and 70% of that vote...so at best we're are talking about 7% of those who voted. Just by contrast, there were over 9 million white voters who didn't show up.
In response to this, a number of members of the GOP establishment are frantically talking about 'comprehensive immigration reform' (read 'amnesty) in order to try and out pander the Democrats.It won't work, for the same reason the Republican party's superb record on civil rights and equality for women (it was Republicans who primarily passed women's suffrage over Democrat opposition)doesn't matter to a certain portion of women voters.
It doesn't matter because the Democrats will always find people to carry the flag for them, and a Republican whose words can be twisted for the cause.
If the Republicans were to come out en masse for amnesty, all the Democrats would have to do is find Latino equivalents of Elizabeth Fluke, and latch on to any statements by Republicans supporting controlling the borders.
Also, if the GOP does come out for amnesty, they will be cutting their own throats as far as winning a national election goes. Not only will they not get more Latino votes than they do now, but they will continue to alienate conservatives who oppose that policy..and whom will likewise sit out the elections again.
So,how do we stop this vicious circle jerk?
There are two strategies, one long term and one short term. In the long term,you push adamantly in congress for assimilation of legal immigrants to the degree you can. You use the term 'access' constantly and accuse democrats who oppose it of racism.
One of my fonder memories was participating in a demonstration of Latino parents against bi-lingual education in the Edgemont neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.These parents understood that as much as they loved la lingua English was the language of success and access for their children.
In the short term, we come down again to educating people on conservative principles and why they're better in terms of their own self interest than the alternative.
According to the exit polls, more people thought Mitt Romney was superior to President Obama in almost every category except one..'cares about people like me'. In a word, empathy.
And to me, a winning hand is talking to people with respect like fellow citizens rather than as a special interest group.
Instead of talking about people 'self-deporting' , you go on Telemundo and Univision talking about the issues that matter to Latinos. Healthcare is a hot button issue, so you explain why ObamaCare is going to lead to rationing and less availability, something that will be apparent in a couple of years anyway. You make school choice and vouchers a major campaign issue, something that matters a great deal to Latinos with children now stuck in the dysfunctional public schools. You talk about about the good paying blue collar jobs and lower food and gas prices that would result from a sensible energy program that utilizes our resources, and how President Obama's policies have hurt them in the wallet .You explain how Obama's HHS mandate attacks their religious freedom, and talk about the president's position on infanticide for newborns who survive abortions.You speak to them about how and why lower regulation and taxes equals prosperity and economic freedom for them and how Obama's policies limit it.
On immigration, you talk about fairness, on the need to have a clear cut policy for everyone, on things like a points system and clear guidelines, on things like guarantors to allow pending but legal status, increased opportunities to earn citizenship in the military or other forms of national service, and use of E-verify.
You do it a lot, and you do it in English and Spanish.
Would a Republican who did these things sweep the Latino vote? Of course not. But I guarantee they'd get more than 30%, and more importantly, as recent immigrants begin to become established and their children advance, they tend to become more conservative. And you've let them know that there's a home for them in the GOP without compromising your principles as well as retaining your core conservative base.
Trying to get into a pandering match with Democrats is a sure loser. They'll always win that race to the cellar.
In the interests of time, let's look at the last three truths we discovered together, since they're related. Ask yourself - is there any point in engaging in gentlemanly, respectable behavior with the left and expecting the same in return? In being polite and accommodating? Ask Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney about that one.
Or simply replay the last Democrat campaign in your mind, and read some of the gloating and destructive language over at leftist enclaves like MSNBC after Obama's victory.
They don't care about you, because to them, remember, you're not just wrong, you're evil.
The way to win is to force the left to play by our rules and on our turf, not the other way around.
And of course, remember that victory lies in attack, not defense and not in merely reacting to attacks.
These are all closely related items.
You force the left to play on your turf by defining them before they define you.
You do it by holding them accountable for their failures in no uncertain terms and forcing them to address them.
You do it by holding their ideas up to the light so that everyone sees the innate ugliness inside.
You do it using the powerful weapons of ridicule, sarcasm, truth and common sense.
You do it by framing their worst moments and repeating them over and over again.
And most of all, you do it with a smile, and without fear.
We used to know how to do this a lot better.
Remember how Ronald Reagan dealt with Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale? Geroge HW Bush with Dukakis? Richard Nixon with George McGovern? George W. Bush with John Kerry?
They defined them as tax and spend liberals, as failures and in at least three of these cases as so out of the American mainstream as to be unelectable.
In fairness, it wasn't really George W. Bush who did this, but the Swift Boat veterans and John Kerry's own transcendent unlikeable arrogance that sunk him, but the model holds.
Ever wonder why no one did this with Barack Obama? Why neither John McCain or Mitt Romney dwelt on his far left, marxist roots, his radical associations or his lack of qualifications? His championing of infanticide, his pledge to eviscerate the U.S. military or 'spread the wealth around', and in the case of Mitt Romney, the wasted stimulus money, Fast and Furious, Benghazzi, the active campaign to disenfranchise the votes of active duty military?
When President Obama thumped his chest about the auto bailout, did Mitt Romney ever explain to the American people that it was a bail out to benefit the president's union allies and cost the American taxpayers $80 billion we'll never see again?
When the president outright lied about how he 'funded' Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, did Mitt Romney ever call him on it and reveal that the president actually wanted to cut it to the bone, and that it was congress that revolted and insisted on funding it?
When President Obama claimed he ended the Iraq War, did Mitt Romney counter by telling America that the disposition of forces agreement and our date to leave Iraq were actually put in place by the Bush Administration, and that it was only possible because of the surge strategy that Senator Obama and his Democrat cohorts tried to sabotage and destroy at every opportunity?
And therein hangs a large part of the tale.
Were they afraid to do it because they felt the Obama Media would call them racist? That black voters would vote against the GOP ticket?
If that's what they thought, they were kidding themselves. There was a lot of playing the race card and dubbing the president's opponents racists by the Obama media and their campaign surrogates.
And blacks voted almost as a bloc for the president regardless.
On the other hand, running a campaign that directly highlighted the president's misdeeds, that ridiculed his pretensions (did you even see one GOP ad featuring golf clubs or Michelle Obama's vacations?) and promised a brand new climate in Washington just might have brought some of the three million Republicans who stayed home out to the polls.
The entire campaign was corrupted and sabotaged by this attitude of 'niceness'. It suited Mitt Romney's personality, but again, it gave the impression to a lot of people that they had no real reason to vote Barack Obama out..especially once Romney
was demonized early in the campaign as a heartless plutocrat.
That's something to remember, by the way, if the left could take an accomplished, essentially decent man with a squeaky clean record and paint him in these colors, they can and will do this with anybody.
Mitt Romney even made the classic mistake of knocking out the champ and giving him an immediate rematch.Out of niceness and a mutated sense of 'fairness'.
Forced to fight on the enemy's turf, Mitt Romney scored an upset win.A sensible thing to do would be to simply cancel the next two debates, simply saying that the American people had gotten a pretty clear look at the differences between him and the president, and further debates were unnecessary.
Or if they were, instead of going along with the scheduled program of left leaning Democrat friendly talking heads, Romney could have insisted a different venue with a conservative moderator, or even a Lincoln-Douglas style debate with a timekeeper and no moderator.
He could have forced President Obama to fight on his turf instead of the other way around.
He didn't and you see the results.
Will the GOP take an honest look at itself and start turning itself around?
Will they start playing to win?
I honestly don't know. The Republican establishment mostly lives in a bubble and they're overly concerned about being liked and likeable.
However, there are a few faces, the GOP's bench that they got almost entirely because of Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint's efforts in 2010 that may force things along these lines in spite of the Old Boys.
If not, the GOP will go the way of the Whigs, and good riddance.
We'll see what happens between now and 2014.