W(h)ither the Republicans?

Aron Nimzowitch, the greatest chess master of his era, once ungraciously berated himself: “That I should lose to this idiot!”

I’m guessing that’s how Republicans felt Wednesday morning. They’ve never respected Barack Obama, and many never admitted that he’s really president. To them, he’s a Kenyan usurper, a vacuous celebrity, the “affirmative action president” for whom whites voted just “to prove that they weren’t racists“, a puppet reading from a teleprompter, the “food stamp president“, a “racist” who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people”, and an “anti-American leftist” who needs to “learn how to be an American” because was mentored by Communists and had been “palling around with terrorists” most of his life.

As for Obama’s policies since usurping the presidency, conservatives were convinced (falsely) that the stimulus was an enormous waste of money. ObamaCare is a “government takeover” that will soon put “death panels” in charge of grandma’s treatment plan. Obama raised taxes and spent wildly, but slashed defense. He threw Israel under the bus, and let Iran get “four years closer to a bomb“. (Picture how imminent the Iranian bomb must be: Hawks like Michael Eisenstadt were telling us in 2005 that “within a few years at most, Iran will be a de facto nuclear weapons state”. Those “few years” had passed already when Obama took office. And now the Iranian bomb is even four years closer than that.)

Now Republicans are supposed to accept that the un-American socialist failure just kicked their butts. And you know who else did? Girls. Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Mazie Hirono didn’t just keep the Senate Democratic, they increased Harry Reid’s majority.

The bubble popped. The Right totally didn’t see it coming. All year and right up to the end, Dick Morris had been assuring them that a Romney landslide was brewing. The polls said otherwise, but pollsters belonged to the lamestream media that was in the bag for Obama, like that “effeminate” Nate Silver. If you used the internal data to “unskew” the Democratic sampling bias, then the polls also predicted a Romney landslide! With a week to go, Newt Gingrich foresaw more than 300 electoral votes for Romney, plus a Republican Senate. The Romney campaign claimed it could take Pennsylvania! George Will saw them capturing Minnesota!

Even Mitt Romney believed it.

I’m belaboring this point for a reason: Sure, we liberals had our own how-could-they-re-elect-that-guy moment in 2004. But most of us had been dreading that outcome for a long time. Even in 2008, when all the signs pointed in our favor, we kept looking up to see if the sky had started falling yet.

Conservatives aren’t like that. They believe (and constantly tell each other) that they are the majority. They are the People. They are the real Americans. In 2008, some kind of affirmative-action Hollywood smoke-and-mirrors made Obama president (if he really is president), but by 2012 America had seen the horrible consequences of his Marxist ideas, and they were ready for a real alpha male like Mitt Romney and his iron-pumping VP.

That fantasy world came crashing down Tuesday night in just a few hours. They lost the White House and the Senate. They lost congressional heroes like Alan West. Joe Walsh got whipped by a girl with no legs. (Check that: an Army helicopter pilot with no legs.) Michele Bachmann barely escaped. Gay marriage won in four states. Marijuana in two.

Not just a bad day. Worse, Republicans lost for an obvious reason that’s only going to get worse: demographics. Only 72% of the electorate was white this year — compared to 74% in 2008 and 77% in 2004. If you lose 93% of blacks, 72% of Hispanics, and 73% of Asians, even 59% of the white vote won’t save you any more.

Only 78% of voters are Protestant or Catholic, and that number is also going down. If you lose 70% of everybody else, that’s a big hill to climb.

If you depend so totally on white Christians, and if they’re less than 60% of the electorate, then you can’t afford to write off any subgroup of them, like single women (67% for Obama altogether — some of them had to be white Christians) or the young (60% of the under-30 vote) or low-to-middling-income workers (60% of those making under $50K).

Ruy Teixeira saw this coming ten years ago. Jon Chait said this was the watershed year in his February article “2012 or Never“:

The modern GOP—the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes—is staring down its own demographic extinction. Right-wing warnings of impending tyranny express, in hyperbolic form, well-grounded dread: that conservative America will soon come to be dominated, in a semi-permanent fashion, by an ascendant Democratic coalition hostile to its outlook and interests.

Republican responses. Several people have observed the resemblance between Republican responses and the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. To me it has sounded more like stuff I remember from the playground.

They cheated. Thank God no major voice in the Republican Party is pushing this line, but it shows up often in comment threads: Nate Silver predicted the election so well because he must have figured in the Democratic vote fraud. There’s zero evidence for this, especially compared to the unmistakeable Republican voter-suppression effort, but no matter.

Fox News’ line has been similar, but less extreme: Obama was mean; he ran a negative campaign. (Ignore the fact that Romney’s campaign was more negative and lied constantly.)

Or the media cheated: The fact-checkers were biased when they correctly reported that Romney was lying about Jeep moving American jobs to China or Obama gutting the welfare work requirement. The “liberal” media wouldn’t help Republicans spin “you didn’t build that” into a gaffe, but they did cover Romney’s 47% tape as the disaster it very definitely was.

Yes, the mainstream media presented a different world than the conservative media. That’s because the conservative media was delusional, as Tuesday demonstrated.

It was luck. Both Haley Barbour and Karl Rove blamed Hurricane Sandy. A related theory is that Chris Christie pulled a dolchstoss, stabbing Romney in the back by embracing Obama after the storm.

But how did Sandy help Democrats win senate races in hurricane-free Montana and North Dakota? And what about the gay marriage initiatives? Seriously, did Maryland voters see Christie embrace Obama and think, “They should get married”? Is that what happened?

It doesn’t count. At least it doesn’t count against conservatism, because Romney wasn’t a true conservative.

Yeah, like Rick Santorum or Herman Cain would have done better. Exit polls say 35% of the electorate calls itself conservative, compared to 25% liberal. But moderates preferred Obama 56%-41%. How many moderates would have voted for Michele Bachmann?

On election night, conservatives argued that Romney’s moderation hurt their turnout, and claimed that Romney got 3 million fewer votes than McCain did in 2008. However, that argument is fading as the absentee ballots and other late reports get tabulated. As of this morning, the McCain-Romney gap was down to 1 million and will probably go away completely in the final totals.

Romney tacked to the center in October because he was losing as a conservative. True conservatives lost senate seats in red states like Missouri and Indiana, and got soundly thwacked in swing states like Ohio and Florida. Obama would have beaten a true conservative in a landslide, but Romney’s “tax cut? what tax cut?” act in the first debate made things competitive for a while.

It’s not fair. Non-whites shouldn’t have voted against Republicans, because Republicans have trophy non-whites. Listen to Rush Limbaugh:

Why doesn’t the Republican Party get credit for Condoleezza Rice? Why doesn’t the Republican Party get credit for Marco Rubio? Why doesn’t the Republican Party get credit for Suzanne Martinez? … The Allen Wests … Clarence Thomas. Herman Cain. None of it counts.

Even Republicans who notice the demographics still misdiagnose the problem as identity politics. But Marco Rubio won’t get them the Hispanic vote any more than Sarah Palin or Linda McMahon or Carly Fiorina captured the women’s vote. The problem is policy. As one Hispanic activist put it: “The face of who delivers bad news does not change bad news.”

Rush sort of gets this, but he doesn’t like it:

But what are we supposed to do now?  In order to get the Hispanic or Latino vote, does that mean open the borders and embrace the illegals? … If we’re not getting the female vote, do we become pro-choice?  Do we start passing out birth control pills? Is that what we have to do?

Here’s a start: The next Republican nominee needs to tell Rush to go to Hell when he calls Sandra Fluke a “slut” or says Cubans aren’t like other Hispanics because “they’re oriented toward work“. As long as the Party tolerates racism and sexism, it’s going to have trouble with non-whites and women, no matter who’s on the podium.

Your loss, America. Listen to Ann Coulter:

If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers, and it’s over. … [America is] no longer interested in conservative ideas. It’s interested in handouts.

The “tipping point” — when lazy people who want government handouts become the majority — is something conservatives have been talking about for a long time. And how did we get there? Bill O’Reilly explained.

It’s a changing country, 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. … The white establishment is now the minority.

So: Democracy has failed in America because we’ve let in too many lazy brown people and let the lazy black people reproduce faster than the hard-working white people. Maybe that message will sound more inclusive when Marco Rubio or Bobby Jindal says it, but the Economist’s Lexington column thinks it’s a problem:

Put simply, it is hard for a party to win national elections in a country that it seems to dislike.

I’m going home now. Citizens of 15 states have posted online petitions calling for their states to secede.

You wanna fight me? I’ll fight you. Watch this video from Heritage Action.

I know, they appear to mean “We are in a war to save this nation” and “We will take the fight for freedom to the halls of Congress” and “This is the last stand on Earth” metaphorically. But not everybody in their audience will see it that way.

What’s a sensible response? When defeated, we all fantasize vindication and revenge. But you can’t let yourself carry out the ideas you generate just to make yourself feel better. Eventually you need to look objectively at why you lost and what you can do about it.

I agree with Charles Krauthammer and Rush Limbaugh this far: The problem is not conservatism per se. America needs a sound conservative party.

One of the major parties should be skeptical of government, and should look for market-based and private-sector ways to solve problems. Much of Obama’s “socialist” agenda originated with the kind of problem-solving conservatives used to do: Cap-and-trade was a conservative idea for controlling pollution through markets. ObamaCare came from RomneyCare, a conservative plan for achieving universal coverage without nationalizing the insurance companies. Whether you like those ideas or not, they (and more like them) should be part of the discussion.

But America doesn’t need an arrogant delusional conservative party.

When the new Tea Party congressmen took office in 2011, they had a mandate to push for spending cuts, but not to take the United States to the edge of bankruptcy, as they did in the debt-ceiling fiasco. Religious-right politicians may get a mandate to make abortion laws stricter, but not to humiliate abortion-seeking women, or force raped women to carry their rapists’ children.

Conservatives need to recognize that they are only about 1/3 of the country. To stay in office, they need to please someone other than themselves — to compromise, in other words. That requires a humility that at the moment seems alien to them. But if they force a series of absolutist us-against-them decisions on the voters, they will keep losing.

Conservatives need to grapple with the real problems of America, and stop shadow-boxing with imaginary problems. Fifty million Americans without health insurance is a real problem. Income inequality is a real problem. So are global warming, gun violence, and an election system where people have to wait five hours to vote. Feel free to start offering market-based, private-sector solutions at any time.

But voter fraud is not a real problem. Sharia law is not a real problem. Obama’s birth certificate is not a real problem. See the difference?

Come back to reality: Tax cuts do not increase revenue. Spending cuts don’t create jobs. Rape causes pregnancy. People die for lack of health insurance. Foreigners don’t want us to bomb or invade them. There’s no reasonable way to deport 12 million Hispanics.

Stop pretending otherwise.

Be as conservative as you want. But face reality, offer solutions, and give a little to get a little.

Don’t go back into the bubble. It may not feel like it now, but the American people did conservatives a favor last Tuesday.  For just a few hours the bubble popped, and it became painfully clear that the conservative media had been lying to its viewers and readers about the election.

What else have they been lying about?

Here’s my best, most honest advice to conservatives: Go cold turkey on propaganda. It kills the pain temporarily, but in the long run it makes your problems worse. Fox News, the Weekly Standard, talk radio, the Washington Times — they haven’t been serving you, they’ve been pandering to you and taking you for a ride.

America needs a conservative party. But it needs a conservative party that faces reality.

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  • Suzanne Galloway  On November 12, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Excellent observations. Just surprised SC (my home state) hasn’t decided to withdraw from the union since SC is a VERY slow learner in the political arena.

    • Bregudul  On February 3, 2013 at 3:57 am

      There isa camel in the tent that all candidates and the media stuoudisly avoided.We are supposedly at war’ with the Taliban and Al- Quaida. Also on the terrorist list are Hezbollah, and the Gazan Palestinians. We are in active support of the Phillipine government against their crop of insurgents. Add actions in Somalia and Yemen to the list.All of the above have one thing in common, Islam. It is not just a shooting’ war, our homegrown Islamic moderates’ are actively trying to instill Sharia Law into our court system as well.And yet Obama has the gall to say We are not at war with Islam’. Perhaps. But he neglected to complete that sentence, for Islam is at war with us and ALL western civilization.The first rule of warfare is to identify your enemy, and that is what few will do. We won a war with Nazi Germany. We won a war with Japan. Those wars had identifiable endings, and both Germany and Japan are now listed as valued friends. We won’ a war with Soviet communism, or if not won’, it has been effectively contained to the point that it is no longer an immediate threat.When will we understand that there is a war’ that has been going on, without end, for 1400 years. When will we understand the meaning of taqqiyah’ and hudna’?

      • Paul  On November 22, 2013 at 1:14 am

        First off I would like to say great blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was iesreettnd to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Kudos!

      • weeklysift  On November 22, 2013 at 7:01 am

        Most of the Weekly Sift is written first thing in the morning. Last thing at night, I think about what I wish I could say clearly. And then, if the gods of sleep are kind, I wake up in the morning with words in my head.

  • allanrtate  On November 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    You say “The Right totally didn’t see it coming.” This is one option, but implies that they were unable to analyze polling data objectively. But, you got it right, and so did Nate Silver. Somehow I have to believe that they can do the math too. Maybe they wanted their supporters to believe they would win. Or maybe they felt the need to spin the story knowing the reaction they would get from the people who made the big donations. Like him or not, Romney made a lot of money analyzing complex data and making objective decisions. Could he really have been fooled?

    • weeklysift  On November 15, 2012 at 8:26 am

      This gets us into the never-ending quest to find “the real Romney”. What does he believe, and what does he just want a certain group of people to believe he believes? I have never come up with a satisfying way to address that question.

      It’s certainly true that the rank-and-file on the Right didn’t see it coming. Whether their leaders were lying to them or lying to themselves … we probably won’t know until one of them writes a tell-all autobiography.

  • Richard Mitchler  On November 14, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    The two party system has been here before. What the Republicans need is a leader like Bill Clinton to help make them competitive again. They should begin by looking at the administration of George Bush 11. Among his many well known failures are some notable innovations (hence the term he called himself “Compassionet Conservatisim”).

    • weeklysift  On November 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

      I agree that Republicans need to get some real compassion into their message, rather than the Devil-take-the-hindmost attitude they so often project now.

      The problem with “compassionate conservatism” is that it is so easy to corrupt. You start out with a reasonable-sounding idea for improving schools through free-market competition, and before you know it big private-education companies are controlling your message for their own benefit.

      The Democrats have a parallel problem around bureaucracy and the possible corruption of government programs into patronage jobs. But at least we’re aware of that problem. Maybe I’m biased, but I don’t see a similar awareness on the Right.


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