Theories on Romney’s loss (one involves beer!)

In my “morning after” post, I speculated that the nation has affirmed its mild embrace of big government. I am not so certain today. It is probably still true that the nation is not as center-right as conservatives presumed it to be, and that the Obama election in 2008 indeed reflected a shift in public views, but a couple of statistics have me curious.

Compared to 2008, Politico exit polls found a 10 percent increase (53%) in the number of people who said “the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” If this accurately represents public sentiments, that’s quite a win for the free market, but it wasn’t enough to change the status quo in our national government.

We can safely say that over the last four years the nation’s electorate pulled back to the center. Conservatives held on to their 2010 gains in the House, and held-off a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate. The former reflects rural districts, while the Senate reflects the influence of major metropolitan centers. Furthermore, the popular vote gap was tightened by a few points, from roughly 7 to 2 percent.

The center-left thesis appears to be false, but a couple of other theories are emerging about what went wrong and what needs to change before 2016.

One theory is that it was all about the ground game. My prediction all along was that this was a turnout election and that Romney’s enthusiasm advantage would lead to a win. I underestimated the power of Obama’s Chicago machine. Romney simply failed on the organization and motivation front, having virtually no local presence. There is no doubt that ground game operations were partially responsible for his loss, and we will see much more emphasis on it in four years, and perhaps less on advertising.

A second theory is that Romney miscalculated his coalition and focused too much on the white vote. As Tim Carney noted in a tweet, Romney’s “47 percent” comments may have been more than pandering; it may have revealed just how off he was about his base and the competition. If Romney bought in to the “makers vs. takers” myth, it certainly contributed to his failure. The Republican Party stands for principles that are not exclusive to race or income, and cannot let the issues be defined in this way. More on the minority vote later.

A third theory, and one that I think is most responsible, is that Mitt Romney brought an excel sheet to a personality fight. Many conservatives hoped that the election would result in Americans taking a hard look at sober realities and choosing the wise and austere path. We hoped for too much. Dan McLaughlin (aka @BaseballCrank) shared a very telling poll this morning:

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On the most important qualities (values and vision), Romney wins by 13 and 9 percent. But the bottom completely falls out among those who want a president who cares about them. This little datum has me placing blame squarely on the candidate himself, and particularly his inability to connect the dots between policies, values and the real lives of average people. I argued this in my last post, and I’ll echo it until I’m blue in the face: we must articulate an understanding of liberty as the cornerstone of equality and opportunity, or it will be defined for us purely in terms of self-interest.

I’m not convinced that Romney would have won had he been able to do this. His plastic delivery, inconsistent past and his immense wealth were handicaps that made anything he said sound rehearsed and insincere. As so many of us knew from the start, but few were willing to admit, Mitt Romney did not have the necessary “it” factor. He was a boring, pragmatic and ideologically malleable executive. He was too presidential to be president.

I would almost guarantee that the GOP’s 2016 nominee will be a minority with a blue-collar background—someone who exemplifies the opportunity brought on by freedom, and who got through life on merit, not government programs. Perhaps Jindal? Rubio? Even Haley, who gets extra points for being female. Ted Cruz will generate a buzz in 2016 as well, but more as a spokesman than a candidate. Whoever it is better be likable.

After all of the analyzing and over-thinking, we end up coming back to the same tried and true maxim: in a close election, the undecided vote goes to the guy people would rather have a beer with.

Theories on Romney’s loss (one involves beer!)

Four more years: What this election means

No one likes a sore loser. In some ways last night’s election was just another election, and we’ll have another one in four years. In fact, we are much more likely to see a Republican nominee that has the charisma of Barack Obama, but the principles of Calvin Coolidge. I’m throwing my hat in early for Marco Rubio.

Yet, I would by lying if I did not admit my concern for the future of the United States. With the country in such bad shape and so much disappointment in the president and our current political landscape, I thought Romney had a good chance. And the popular vote was extremely close. But a field of oddball candidates in the Republican primary made Mitt Romney the most sensible option, providing an easy target for Obama’s class warfare rhetoric.

A Romney presidency, according to Obama, would have led to a reverse in progress—an “on your own” society where the wealthy benefit at the cost of middle and lower class opportunity. Despite the many failures of the Obama administration, most Americans were willing to accept his message and give him a pass.

This election was the perfect measure of America’s attitudes towards business, wealth and the role of government. For four years Obama railed against income inequality, proposing that the federal government increase its role as the great leveler and distributor of opportunity. He argued that businesses and those who run them can only succeed if you lose. He suggested not only that people should give more to charity, drive cleaner cars and have a healthier diet, but that they should not be allowed to choose for themselves—government should force it upon them.

Americans had a chance to evaluate the debate, and made a few important judgments:

1) People deserve help through hard times, and an occasional boost to help them advance, even if it means other people are forced to bear the cost.

2) People should not have to face the full consequences of their mistakes, and do not necessarily deserve the rewards of their good judgment and hard work.

3) Government’s role is to promote virtue, health and leisure—from the national level—and liberty insofar as people are able make their own moral decisions.

4) Businesses operate on competitive profit maximization, which is antithetical to virtue, health and leisure.

In a sense, these are questions that reflect the foundational principles of republican (small “r”) government. At their core is a question of whether democracy is sustainable; whether government “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The results from last night are discouraging. To put it simply: if people are not ultimately held responsible for the decisions they make—which means they reap the rewards and consequences—society will begin to unravel and freedom will be short-lived. Don’t believe me? Try it in your own household and see what happens. How much worse among strangers.

America chose to continue down this experimental road. Some of my closest friends supported Obama’s reelection, so I am certainly not suggesting that Americans are stupid. Smart people can disagree about how society functions and what will lead to better outcomes, and I think we just made an erroneous decision.

WHAT NOW?

The good news is that over the next four years we will have a better idea what Obama’s policies have done. His healthcare law will be in full effect, he will not be able to escape an 8-year record on the economy and foreign policy, and the specter of George W. Bush will no longer loom over the Republican party. And hopefully, Americans will have learned that being a good communicator has very little to do with being a good president.

But we have to change our culture. Conservatism and libertarianism are backed by strong arguments and should be partners in educating society on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. They should also be partners politically. Libertarians should stop whining and segregating themselves. By refusing to work from the inside of the Republican party they simultaneously make the party less libertarian and make libertarians less effective. Read here for more on that.

We need donors to support organizations that advance the ideas of our Founders, not just in Washington, but throughout education and the media.

We need a message that communicates why a free society is a more virtuous, healthier and prosperous society. And we need people who can understand and articulate that message with clarity and creativity.

And Republicans absolutely must bridge the messaging gap with women and minorities. Policies alone do not fully explain the gap, so the problem has more to do with how we have presented our values. The failure, in my view, has been the inability of Republicans to connect their policies to values, and to connect those values to the concerns of the common person. We cannot stand for “liberty” just because we want to keep our money; we must show why liberty is the very cornerstone of equality and opportunity. We must go after crony capitalism and champion charity.

There is much work to be done on behalf of people like myself, not just to change the next election, but to change our cultural worldview.

Four more years: What this election means

Why I’m voting for Romney

The momentum in this election has clearly shifted toward Romney. His debate performance erased Obama’s 15% lead among women, and over the last two weeks polls are putting Romney either neck-and-neck or slightly ahead. The data from Gallup, who has been tracking early and likely voters, suggests that not only is Romney winning among people who say they will vote on election day, but even among people who have already voted—a bloc that typically leans Democrat.

Many voters who embraced Obama’s message in 2008 are jumping ship—even some loyal Democrats, like this man, who will be voting Republican for the first time in 80 years.

Is it Romney’s charisma? No. His nice hair and good looks? Doubtful. What is sucking the air out of Hopenchange has less to do with Mitt and more to do with the sober realities of the last few years. For all his talk, Obama failed on nearly every front.

Aside from wrapping up a couple of loose ends from the Bush administration (withdrawal from Iraq and hunting down Bin Laden), there is little for this administration to be proud of. Obama railed against Bush for adding $5 trillion to the national debt, then added $6 trillion in just his first term. He promised hope, but oversaw record levels of poverty. He promised bipartisanship, then proceeded to become arguably the most divisive U.S. president in modern history, both in terms of his public rhetoric and his lack of cooperation in Washington, even with his own party. Obama’s 2012 budget failed to gain a single vote in either the House or Democratically led Senate. He promised to calm hostilities in foreign relations, but the world is just as hostile and American leadership in the middle east has become dangerously impotent. Obama has failed at getting our economy back on track, even after predicting that this would result in a “one term proposition.” Even race relations and class antagonism are on the rise.

“NO DOUBT, THIS PRESIDENT HAS FACED ENORMOUS CHALLENGES, BUT THIS HAS BECOME AN EXCUSE TO IGNORE ANY AND ALL OF HIS FAILINGS.”

No doubt, this president has faced enormous challenges, but this has become an excuse to ignore any and all of his failings. The fact is, Obama spent his political capital during his first two years passing three major initiatives: His massive “omnibus” spending bill was an “investment” disaster that illustrates the problems of centralized planning and crony capitalism; The Affordable Care Act has yet to reveal its total impact, but is already prompting insurance premiums to rise, companies to drop coverage (and cut jobs/hours), and religious institutions—like my Alma Mater—to file suit against the federal government; And the Dodd-Frank bill was a reckless attack on the financial sector that further stunted economic recovery.

Politically independent New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a painful, single-issue endorsement of Obama, but included a sharp criticism of the president:

In 2008, Obama ran as a pragmatic problem-solver and consensus-builder. But as president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction. And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.

I flatly reject Obama’s worldview, which is a threat to liberty, international stability and economic prosperity. This is certainly not his intention, but it is the result.

But I’m not just voting against Obama; I think Romney would be a superb president. His record is exactly opposite that of his opponent; Romney has a history of enormous personal and professional success as a uniter and an effective leader in both the public and private sector. Moderate journalist David Brooks has endorsed Romney on the grounds that he is far more likely than Obama to work with Congress and find common ground. He has a close family, sincere faith and strong work ethic.

There is extremely little to dislike about Romney, save for envy. This is why Obama’s key objective has been to paint Romney as the rich guy who is the cause of all of your problems.

Romney

I would agree that Mitt Romney is no ideal candidate—I’m skeptical of his rhetoric on China, promoting manufacturing and job training programs, and his foreign policy views are still unclear—but ideal candidates are fantasy. Some of these policy details are useless anyway. As I wrote in my last post,  “plans” matter very little when it comes to actually governing with a split Congress and a massive bureaucracy. When a presidential candidate says “I have a plan to…” it means: “Here are a few things that the moderate members of my party kinda like.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

When the smoke of campaign season clears, the best measure of a man is his record. Obama has been a constant disappointment and a divider; Romney has been a constant success and a uniter. Obama’s popularity is largely built upon hype, hope and a whole lot of media bias. But there’s little evidence that any of this has brought about a better world.

For the sake of full disclosure, I did not vote for Obama in 2008 and had no doubts whether I would end up supporting the Republican candidate in 2012. I knew after reading The Audacity of Hope back in 2006 that Obama’s view of the role of government is very different from mine, and it is a dangerous one. I disagree entirely with his understanding of how people work, how business works, and how government does not work. I can commend his good intentions and his charisma, but that isn’t feeding the poor or promoting opportunity.

Talk is cheap.

 

Why I’m voting for Romney