Let’s face facts, people. Conservatism really took it on the chin in 2012. After all, Republican Mitt Romney got his ass beat by left-wing ideologue Barack Obama. The Supreme Court, led by John “No Seriously, Dubya Nominated Me!” Roberts, upheld ObamaCare. The US Senate remained in the hands of Democrat
Majority Leader embarrassment Harry Reid.
Look at some of the dire metrics going against conservatives. The fiscal cliff deal is all tax hikes, no spending cuts and a whole lot of kabuki theater nonsense. The media remains a statist bullhorn and progressive piggy bank all in one. The education establishment is committed to indoctrinating America’s youth in the ways of Karl Marx while failing to teach them how to read. According to conventional wisdom, the Right should spare themselves the embarrassment of a messy end, get into a dark corner, curl up in a ball and quietly die.
Just like it croaked in 2009, right?
Consider the following sequence of events. On Election Night, Barack Obama’s hottest sexual fantasy was fulfilled when Mitt Romney delivered a submissive beta-male concession speech. Just over a month later, Governor Rick Snyder made right-to-work the law of the land in union-dominated Michigan.
That certainly wasn’t supposed to happen. Just like after Obama won in 2008, the left was stoked to see America morph into a slightly bigger less ouzo-fueled Greece. Socialist values were destined to sweep away all the bitter-clingers and their retrograde obsessions with the US Constitution, free market socialism and keeping some of the money they earned through the sweat of their labors. All that hackneyed 18th century Enlightenment jive was going out the door, replaced by Barack Obama’s brand of shiny happy grievance-group buy-offs.
The Mitten State, of all places, was thought to be one of the strongholds of Barack Obama’s national progressive realignment. Big aggressive labor groups pumping piles of money into Democrat campaign coffers has been the great idea in the Donkey-Puncher playbook since the Paleolithic Era. Now that beloved Donkey-Puncher strategy is in serious jeopardy.
Lest you think this is an isolated right-wing victory in a sea of conservative defeats, ponder the fact that during what was supposed to be the new Progressive Golden Age, no Republican has lost a governorship since 2007. Thirty states have a GOP chief executive. Twenty-one states have both a Republican governor and a GOP-controlled legislature. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker not only survived a nasty recall race, he annihilated the competition and looks poised to win a second term.
Seen this way, it’s clear many states welcome right-of-center politics. They’re comfortable letting conservatives–or ‘Republicans‘ at least–run their governments. Why didn’t all that translate into a win for Mitt Romney?
Maybe because Romney just didn’t offer enough of a contrast to Barack Obama’s galloping socialism. Forget for a moment that the former Taxachussetts governor got less votes in ’12 than that famous arch rightwing stalwart John McCain did in 2008. Instead, look at how well the Libertarian Party candidate did. Gary Johnson scored 44,000 votes in Florida. Ohio gave 47,000 votes to the former New Mexico governor. He snagged 48,000 votes in the Keystone State.
To be fair, with the exception of Florida, none of these vote counts could’ve put Romney ahead of Obama. But you can look at these Gary Johnson voters, along with Mitt’s overall lack of support, as indicative of a general conservative dismay with the Republican nominee. If the GOP presidential candidate isn’t going to stand up forcefully to the President, why should anybody else? Many voters made the entirely reasonable conclusion that Romney was a weak specimen, and they looked at other options. This in turn created a min-Perot effect, where the traditionalist/conservative vote was split in several states and was depressed across the country.
The Romney campaign seemed to take an awful lot of voters for granted. Social issues like abortion were never really addressed, except in the quietest most defensive way possible. Gun enthusiasts got a few perfunctory interviews in various National Rifle Association publications, but that was pretty much it. It seemed as if Team Mitt felt these voters–who make a large chunk of the Republican base–were just going to fall in line. Those Republicans were not swayed by Romney’s sotto voce strategy, and it ended up costing Romney dearly.
Worse, by not going out and arguing against Obama’s anti-life positions or his thinly-veiled hatred of the Second Amendment, the GOP nominee allowed David Axelrod and Co. to define him as an out of touch racist gay-bashing plutocrat who wanted to chain women to an ironing board while simultaneously giving them cancer. In retrospect, the Romney campaign ran an absurd race. While Mitt wanted the election to be about jobs and the economy, Obama and the media (sorry for the repetition) made it about what an unlikable piece of shit Romney is.
Sadly the Democrat’s plan worked, because the Republican nominee was unable to defend himself from a barrage of attacks. Nor could he articulate strong positions that excited important parts of the GOP base. Worse, he couldn’t effectively pivot any of his policy positions into personal or political slams against Barack Obama.
In short, conservatism’s problems in 2012 were much the same as they were in 2008. Nationally, their standard-bearer was n astoundingly poor choice to represent the vast center-right coalition that should be natural Republican Party supporters. In contrast, state level conservatives are enacting serious reforms. Once you look beyond Washington DC’s poisonous liberal assumptions, there is a muscular conservatism to be found in the rest of the nation that is making progress against the utterly unsustainable blue state model.
Maybe the Right should do what Rush Limbaugh says.
Let’s try conservatism, just for a second, just to see how it feels.
Now in the short term, conservatives will certainly take some licks. Their nominal party just lost an election. That tends to have painful consequences. More ominously, the Republican’s caving in to the fiscal cliff deal might just be the final nail in the Party’s coffin. That means precious time will be lost as conservatives coalesce behind a new opposition party. If that process is done quickly a regenerated Tea Party, flush with new supporters, could become a more effective bulwark against the Democrat’s hateful statism than the feckless GOP.
Looking at the situation in total, 2012 gave conservatives plenty of heartburn. But in some ways, the failure of the Republican Party’s presidential campaign and the success of the state-level GOP gives the Right options it did not have in 2011. We have principled leaders in positions of power who have started tearing down liberalism’s failed policies. The Right can tout their successes and compare them to Obama’s catastrophes.
Even better, conservatives no longer just have to accept what the Republican Party tries to spoon-feed them. The Right has gotten very little out of it’s coalition with the Beltway GOP besides a pair of busted presidential campaigns and a very strained frenemy-esque relationship. Perhaps it’s time to remind the Republican Party who really is the junior partner in the firm.