Where does the right go from here?
I swore I wasn't going to make another political post, but I can't help myself.
So, obviously, I was pretty disappointed by the results of Tuesday night, presidential-wise. But life will go on, and the sun will still rise in the morning. Besides, with a Republican-controlled house, I expect that there will be quite a bit of gridlock, and since I tend to lean libertarian I like gridlock, because the government not doing anything beats the government doing things I don't like.
But I've been reading quite a few blogs and articles and doing quite a bit of thinking about what the Republican party did wrong and how it could have won.
First of all, I think it's way too early to argue that the Republican party is forever doomed. Second-term elections are difficult to challengers, even when there are a lot of people who really don't like the incumbent - just ask John Kerry.
I've read a few commentators who have made the argument that "we nominated the moderate and he still lost, just like in '08, we should nominate a real conservative next time" or that Mitt was the wrong guy or that the Republicans should embrace social conservatism more. I don't agree with any of that. Like a lot of people, I wasn't a huge Mitt fan at first, but I voted for him in the R primary because I thought he was the most electable of the people who were in the field. And I stil think that's true.
I think the problem for Mitt wasn't that he was a moderate but that he was a moderate who let himself get painted as an extremist. From reading left-leaning social media or watching the DNC, you would think that if Mitt was elected, his first act was going to storm into women's homes and personally flush their pills, when in reality the platform's stance on contraception was limited to not requiring religious institutions who feel contraception is immoral to pay for it, because of that whole freedom of religion thing in the 1st Amendment. If Mitt - an actual moderate - got painted as an extremist, why would anyone think Rick Santorum or Newt would have somehow done better?
The other big hole in the "MOR CONSERVATIVE!!!" argument is the electoral college. Winning an election means winning swing voters in swing states - people who are by definition in the middle. These people are not going to vote for an extreme candidate, and while motivating your base is important, you need at least some of these people to win. To win in 2016, the right will need to get the votes of people in Ohio and Florida and VA who most likely voted for Obama, possibly twice. I can guarantee that aren't going to vote for Santorum after that.
Another thing i've concluded is that this election suggests that a business person can't become president, because running a business sometimes involves making hard choices - firing people, closing plants, sourcing products from other countries - in order to preserve what is left of the business. And any of those things will get demonized in a teary ad. I love the idea of a businessperson in the oval office, because I think they understand that regulations have costs, and those costs can mean fewer jobs. But it looks like we're probably going to have to stick with career politicians and lawyers and the like, because if you've never actually done anything you can never be criticized for it.
Another thing I've realized is how important personality is. Mitt was routinely joked about as robotic, and it's fair to say he's not the most exciting person. I thought that didn't matter, but it clearly does. I remember hearing one exit poll where the majority of participants stated that the economy was the most important thing, and gave Romney slightly higher points as better on the economy and a few issues. The one thing he lost on was "cares about people like me", and evidently that was how they voted. Feeling one's pain is clearly more important than anything else.
Pre-election, I laughed when Fox's The Five made fun of Obama for skipping White House press conferences while appearing on The View and late night talk shows and doing interviews for Rolling Stone and US Weekly. I'm not laughing now. This was a brilliant strategy - there are a lot of "low information voters" - especially young ones - who get their news from The Daily Show and Reddit and Facebook. Obama was there, and whatever Republican runs in 2016 needs to be there too if they want to win. They need for people who don't watch the news or follow politics to realize that they aren't as far out as they get portrayed.
Obviously, there were a lot of tactical mistakes - Republicans need a better ground game. They need to start running ads early. They need to never, ever, ever bring up rape. But I think there are also a few other things they can focus on. Now, granted, I think whenever people offer suggestions of what they should have done, they usually sum to "they should have taken my position on everything", and this is probably no different.
I'd love to see more of an emphasis on state's rights - on doing things at a state level - and I think the success of certain ballot initiatives is a great opportunity for that. Maine and Maryland legalized gay marriage, and Colorado and Washington legalized pot. The right has always promoted state rights, and here's a great way to put it into action - by not going after states that legalized weed, and by declaring that states should decide the gender rules for marriage, the same way they decide things like age and if cousins can marry. I realize social conservatives don't like gay marriage, but when you look at the demographics it's inevitable - support by people under 30 is around 70%. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can focus on things we actually can change.
Another area I think the right is on the right side of is education reform. The Chicago teacher's strike was interesting, because it pitted a former Obama chief of staff against one of their most reliable constituencies, the teacher's union. Governors like Bobby Jindal and, well, Jeb Bush, have done some really good things with charter schools. Maybe Republicans can propose something like Race to the Top, but promoting charter schools. It promotes free market solutions, and it puts Republicans on the side of poor kids. It's an area where the right can actually make a difference, politically and by doing good.
And then there is immigration reform. I've read some people who argue that it would help Republicans, because a lot of Hispanics share the same values as others on the right, and some who argue that they don't so it won't help. Will it help politically? I think so - sure, it won't get all the voters, but it will help move a few over, and that may be enough to win an election. More importantly, it's an important issue that needs to be solved. Plus, it will prevent another primary debate exchange like the one where Rick Perry and Mitt argued about the immigration status of Mitt's landscapers, or something.
So those are my most likely incoherent thoughts. We'll see if I can hold off on posting any more for the next few years.