Many of us were shocked by Obama’s easy victory over Romney after being misled by our right wing pollsters. The natural reaction has been to sink into a deep funk and declare the nation finished, given over to welfare state decline and depravity. Christians in particular are dismayed at the electorate’s apparent approval of Obama’s extreme embrace of abortion and the homosexual political agenda, and are sinking into an even deeper funk, expecting an age of persecution.
During the primaries I did not support Romney. Santorum was my guy. This was not about his Mormonism; my problem with Romney was twofold: 1) his weak commitment on the social issues, and 2) his image as a corporate suit.
Let’s start with the second issue. During the 2007 primaries Governor Huckabee ran against Romney and pointed out that he, Huckabee, “looked like the guy you’d have a beer with” while Romney “looked like the guy who laid you off.” The Obama campaign understood that people vote their emotions and not their thoughts, and early on worked to define Romney as an out of touch plutocrat who only cared about rich people. While this charge is false, he does look the part. This neutralized voters who are unemployed due to Obama’s policies, or even swung them to vote for more of Obama. The big story in this election is not about all of the Latinos, blacks single women and young people who voted for Obama, but all of the people in general and white working class in particular who sat it out.
As to the first issue, Romney once again took the default position of the Republican establishment which is to run away from their social conservative base in the hopes of wooing swing voters from Democrats. Obama and the Democrats in contrast, doubled down on their base of abortion and same sex marriage advocates. It has been my observation that there is no percentage in disrespecting your true believers in order to win over some of the wishy-washy. The wishy-washy are that way precisely because they are conflicted about these issues, and are more likely to vote for leaders who look like they know their own minds whichever side they are on. The winning formula seems to be to nail down your base on the social issues with absolute positions and then fight for the middle on economic issues.
When, for example, you say you are for (or against) abortion in all cases, you take the issue off the table and can move on to the economy. When you take a “moderate” position with exceptions and qualifications, you keep the issue on the table for endless debates about “legitimate rape” or “partial birth abortion.” You do not nail down your base and can never get around to making your economic argument to the middle.
When Todd Akin made his poorly worded argument against killing children conceived in rape Romney threw him under the bus. When Richard Mourdock made a similar clumsy statement in his Indiana race, a female Romney surrogate who was coming out to campaign for him instead publically denounced him. Can anyone imagine a Democrat similarly disavowing a fellow Democrat in the midst of an election over an embarrassing choice of words? This is because, while Democrats don’t know how to run an economy or anything else, they do know how to win elections.
In conclusion, the country is far gone but not as far gone as the election results would have you think. Our problem is that the Republican Party leadership does not know what it is doing. And that is a big enough problem for now.