Barack Obama won re-election in a decisive electoral victory, leaving conservatives shocked and dismayed. The hand-wringing has begun: Why did Obama win? What does it mean?
A common theme I've found across the interwebs goes something like this.
The takers won. It's all over except for the pain. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Why should I work? To give a bunch of ungrateful jerks more free stuff? Feh. I want free stuff too.
I don't recognize America anymore. It used to be a great country. The greatness is gone. Lost. Aspire to mediocrity! Responsibility is for someone else!
There's no point in trying to fight for Liberty. Because nobody wants it anymore.
I give up.
The fight for liberty is frustrating (and never-ending). I feel your pain. But in this election, did Americans really choose to trade their liberty for free stuff? I think this idea gives way too much credit to Mitt Romney and the Republicans. After all, they didn't represent liberty in any meaningful way. So let's start by looking at the numbers.
According to Politico, Tuesday night's exit polls "found that 53 percent of those surveyed said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals - a figure that's risen 10 points since the 2008 election." FoxNews exit polls say 52% believe the country is on the wrong track. That's over half of voters in both cases, so there must be a viable constituency for smaller government in America. Republicans were simply unable, or unwilling, to tap it.
A lot of people simply stayed home this election too (I know I did) . When USA Today reported back in August that "perhaps 90 million Americans who could vote won't," they were certainly on to something. Because according to the Associated Press, "fewer people voted this year than four years ago … the numbers were even lower than in 2004." Why is it that so many refuse vote? I've read a lot of analysis on non-voters, but take it all with a grain of salt. Because it seems to me, anyway, that non-voters are naturally a difficult group to collect data on. Applying experience and observation though, I think we can hazard some meaningful answers.
If exit polls find more than half of voters believing the country is on the wrong track and wanting the government to do less, can't we logically assume that non-voters are even more cynical than they are? A sample from USA Today findings backs our assumption up.
There's a lot of lack of trust in our leaders, a lack of positive feelings about political institutions … a lack of civic education … the cynicism of the coverage of politics …
Many of these unlikely voters are suspicious of and disconnected from politics … six in 10 say they don't pay attention to politics because "nothing ever gets done"; 54% call politics "corrupt."
Among the top reasons given by registered voters for not bothering to go to the polls: not liking either candidate and not feeling that their vote matters.
Now, Obama won the popular vote by just over 3 million votes, yet somewhere around 90 million people didn't bother voting at all. Hmmmm … While a mere 3.4% of the non-vote vote would have tipped Romney over the edge, the tired old purveyors of "conventional wisdom" insist that squishy lefties like Mitt Romney are needed to pickup votes from "the middle" instead. Doesn't make sense, does it?
Ron Paul earned more than 2 million votes in the (conservative) Republican primaries alone, but it's hard to imagine these voters turning out for "Lefty" Mitt Romney, a candidate much closer to Obama than to Ron Paul. While not as popular or well-funded as Paul, Gary Johnson still managed to gain over 1.1 million votes in the presidential election. That's one-third of Obama's margin of victory right there! Yet one has to wonder how many Gary Johnson supporters simply stayed home too, knowing he didn't have a chance in Hades of winning. Libertarians are notorious for not voting to begin with, and Johnson was a bit squishy from a libertarian perspective. So I'd be amazed if Johnson's 1.1 million votes even represents 1/10th of the libertarian vote potential. Again, Obama won by only 3 million votes. Do I need to do the math for you?
Then there's the traditional conservatives … how many of them stayed home, or voted for Johnson, Virgil Goode, another third-party candidate, or perhaps even for the Obama (as the "lesser war" candidate)? Republicans are bleeding the "limited government" constituency at an alarming rate.
National Review Online's Jim Geraghty argues that a mere "407,000 or so additional votes in the right proportion" in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado would have put the Republican candidate over the top. I don't know. But it should be more than obvious by now that Obama would have been defeated by a more (genuinely) liberty-minded candidate.
Sure, there were plenty of reasons to vote against Barack Obama (legions of them in fact), but the fact remains that there wasn't a single good reason for those approximately 90 million non-voters to vote for Mitt Romney. Now, of course, many of those non-voters are left-wing. But that's beside the point. Only a small percentage of them were needed to win. Liberty-minded people are naturally skeptical of political institutions, especially politicians. So, in light of the rampant institutional corruption which consumes government from top to bottom, it's understandable why so many see a flip-flopping "Etch-A-Sketch" candidate like Mitt Romney as nothing more than a cruel joke. Romney didn't even represent for them a compromise of sorts, but just another schmuck in a long line of candidates who reject everything they value in toto.
The Conservative Punditocracy
While the Conservatives Who Matter continue lamenting the Tea Party, fretting over Hispanics, and petitioning to move ever more radically toward the mystical "middle" … Stop! Don't listen to their crap. They've steered you wrong time and again. They gave you Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, massive deficits, perpetual war, and losses in 'o6, '08, and now in '12 … They pummeled Goldwater and gave you "Tricky Dick" instead, along with his wage and price controls, EPA, Clean Air Act, OSHA, abolition of the Bretton-Woods agreement, push for a universal health care mandate … Are you begining to see a pattern?
If Romney was known for anything, he was known for saying one thing while doing another. Most people call that lying. And it's long past time conservatives face the fact that over the past few decades (at least), the Republican Party has proven itself a mind-boggling disgrace. Yet what does the conservative punditocracy offer their viewers/readers/listeners? Spin! Constant, never-ending spin. The "castor oil candidate" suddenly became a true conservative, "who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool." The TARP supporting candidate and fan of Ben Bernanke morphed into "a supporter of free-market economics and limited government." Then, perhaps by some ancient form of magical alchemy, RomneyCare (ObamaCare's pilot program) transformed into "a libertarian solution" …
Pathetic. Dishonest and pathetic.
A progressively-biased mainstream media may be a serious obstacle, but it was clearly the conservative punditocracy who disadvantaged conservatives the most. I mean, seriously, what did all their lies, hackery and spin get ya? An outside chance to elect a left-wing Republican as president at best. Oh, boy! Maybe, just maybe, if the conservative punditocracy had provided the electorate with genuine — truthful — information about the candidates, instead of mindless Republican boot-licking rants, conservatives would have had a choice, not and echo … and won.
Personally, I've been hearing the same line of crap from the same old schmucks for 44 years. "We gotta beat the Democrats!" Vote for the most kinda, sorta, somewhat conservative but winnable-est candidate. Yeah, yeah, yeah … this lame piece of conventional "wisdom" (if you can call it that) is older than the hills. And its record is a dismal failure too. If that's the best they have to offer, their advice isn't worth a handful of manure. Simply beating the Democrats hasn't stopped the federal governments growth trajectory on iota in over 100 years. What was it again Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over?
Movement Conservatives and the Tea Party
It has been said that liberals fall in love, while conservatives fall in line. Well, falling in line is not the act of a freeman. It's an act of testicular disgrace … "as goes manhood, so goes society."
For a group who constantly invokes our revolutionary Founding Fathers, conservatives sure are skittish when it comes to rocking the boat. For all its initial sound and fury, the Tea Party never threatened to tear the GOP apart. Or even shake its foundations. They wanted to play it safe instead. "Give Me Reform, or at least Mitt Romney!" Soon they subordinated themselves behind Romney — a dishonest Establishment psychopath who represents everything destructive and wrong about the Republican Party and Washington, DC.
It's embarrassing, isn't it? The Republican Party has been sticking it to conservatives for longer than I've been alive. Don't conservatives have even an ounce self-respect? Guess what? The GOP will keep on shoving it up your ass too … That is, until you finally find it within yourselves to turn around and sock 'em square in the jaw. You're not going to sweet talk the party, via "loyalty" and such, into giving up their power (that's what shrinking government means). You have to break 'em down and take control.
This requires being a leader instead of looking for one. But isn't your liberty worth it?
"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
What does today's Republican Party actually represent? Freedom and liberty? Don't make me laugh. Rugged individualism and limited-government? Only in your dreams.
The real fruits of Republican-controlled government are status quo and expanded welfare statism, runaway executive power, perpetual war for global democratic revolution, the "licensed immorality" of the normalization of torture, indefinite detention, death of the Bill of Rights, an Orwellian Department of Homeland Security and its perverted TSA, obscene domestic surveillance, Internet surveillance, a very literal war on the American people, ceaseless spending, welfare for dependent dictators, an ever-expanding military budget, corporatism, money printing, crony bailouts … need I go on?
Is it really such a wonder why so many Americans hate the Republican Party? Is it really any wonder why millions refused to vote for the individual mandate and TARP-supporting advocate of a presidential "kill list" Republican candidate? It shouldn't be.
As abominable as ObamaCare is (and it is abominable), millions of us see the precedent-setting behavior and slippery-slope implications of the Republican-built police state as a bigger threat (or at least on par) to our freedom and liberty than ObamaCare . In other words, going back to the excerpt at the start of this post, millions of Americans already stopped recognizing America a long time ago.
A Choice, Not an Echo
Maybe, just maybe … appealing to the "middle" with a candidate like Romney was a losing strategy from the get-go. Maybe if applied to different candidate, the "lesser evil" argument could have persuaded enough non-voters to defeat Obama. Instead of heaping scorn on the liberty movement, maybe the legions of primary voters and conservative activists who chose the mostest electablest candidate over principle, are the ones to blame. Instead of expecting millions of Americans to blindly fall in line, maybe, just maybe, they should have been offered a much better choice.
While the failed conservative punditocracy continues ranting endlessly about Hispanics, amnesty, social issues, "ground game," etc., ad nauseam … in pursuit of the ever-elusive "middle," movement conservatives need to take a step back, think carefully about it, and determine who it is they wish to win over — those who want a choice: the libertarians and traditional conservatives who comprise the "liberty movement," or more echo: the status quo favored squishy "middle" (aka more of the same)?
As the exit polling confirms, not every American wants "free stuff" and an all-powerful government to watch over them. There are plenty of people who want government to do a lot less. But if you want their votes, if you want them in your coalition, you first have to win their trust. And being a "Republican," or not a "Democrat," is hardly a persuasive argument. Because, for reasons that should be blindingly obvious, the Republican Party doesn't have their trust. Not even a little. Maybe that's why the party establishment is so enamored with the "middle." But then again, why would the "middle" vote Republican when Democrats already offer what they desire? It doesn't make sense.
Pragmatism and Hogwash
The case for freedom is strong and incredibly persuasive. Yet conservatives spend very little time making it, adding (Republican-inspired) caveats when they do. Why is that? Out of fear of upsetting the left? I doubt it. What I think conservatives fear most is, going against the clowns they call "leaders," you now, those pundits and politicos who got conservatives where they are now (which is nowhere), by perpetually arguing to move leftward (and accept statism) in the name of "pragmatism" and "compromise."
But what is compromise?
Offering a little more or accepting a little less through mutual concessions — hashing out the details — to complete a deal is compromise. This doesn't require anyone involved to violate their principles, after all, everyone agrees on the basic principles of the deal. I agree to sell, and you agree to buy a cup of coffee for $5.99. The surrender of principles to achieve some agreement, however, is an entirely different animal. The principle "Thou shalt not steal," for example, gets violated no matter how small the theft. By negotiating with a thief to take only a few of your valuables, instead of them all, you've abandoned the principle of "Thou shalt not steal" altogether.
What about pragmatism?
Pragmatism rejects fundamental principles wholesale in favor of mere ends to be served. In other words, "whatever works." But to whose benefit and why? We cannot answer these questions from a pragmatic point of view, because pragmatism eliminates solid standards of success and failure, right and wrong, and even reality itself. After all, theft works for a thief, lying works for a liar, and killing works for a killer … Pragmatism amounts to nothing more than a blank check that allows a politician to contradict yesterday's words today, because like, you know, it's a whole new circumstance.
In my 44 years, the federal government has never ceased to grow in size, scope, power and expense. So much for "standing athwart history, yelling Stop," huh? Conservatives can keep wallowing in victimology, consoling themselves by blaming others, or they can take responsibility for failing their own agenda and ultimately walking to their own demise. I mean, how many more defeats must conservatives endure before (finally) accepting the truth that the movement must stand for something other — something more — than simply being the GOP cheerleading squad?
What Is To Be Done?
Conservatives need to accept their failure. George W. Bush was a horrible president, and yes, much really is his fault. Mitt Romney is a dishonest and unprincipled politician who represents everything wrong with the Republican Party (which sucks). The mainstream conservative media has led you terribly astray, not only in terms of electoral strategy, but philosophically and morally as well. Attacking Democrats while defending Republicans is a useless tactic which will neither rollback the state, nor persuade new voters your way (but can make hypocrites out of conservatives). And face the music, the real reason the Republican Party establishment pushes so hard for "the middle" is precisely because, that is where they want to govern. They have no interest in limiting their power whatsoever. They only want more.
Finally, conservatives need to figure out who they are — as in what they actually believe — and establish their principles accordingly. Then cease "pragmatically" washing those principles down the drain. That way, by having more in their arsenal than favored politicos and petty partisanship, they can argue for something (perhaps freedom?), rather than simply against.