I had been dreading yesterday for weeks, and I felt that dread especially keenly in the week leading up to the election.
The arguments on the right that the polls were rigged never made sense to me. When I researched polls I noted that, historically, poll averages have tended in most cases to correctly predict the outcome of elections. Exceptions are very rare. So the only hope I had about that was that, because the response rate to polls has gotten so low in recent years, polls had become more unrepresentative than they used to be.
But the polls stubbornly kept saying the same thing: Romney continued to fall a tiny bit short in many important states. And that’s the way the election panned out.
Last week I also discovered that, when I spoke to a bunch of liberal friends I knew who had adored Obama in 2008, they were all still very supportive of him and very strongly motivated to vote for him. They didn’t say “Mitt Romney, oh he’s a nice guy but I prefer Obama,” either. They had swallowed all the nasty Democratic talking points about him whole: he was going to take away this and that right of theirs, he was a rich whatever who didn’t care about poor people, and all the rest. Those on the right who felt that declining crowds and lack of yard signs meant that enough of Obama’s supporters had defected probably didn’t have the experience I had in talking to so many people who still had a very high regard for him. I saw almost no fall-off in support for him at all.
So I was worried that yes, Democratic turnout would be pretty good. And that yes, lots and lots and lots of people who voted for Obama in 2008 would probably do it all over again. Not all of them, it turns out (Obama lost quite a few percentage points from his 2008 total), but way too many considering his record over the last four years. And strangely enough, turnout for Romney was worse than for McCain, even though he came much closer to beating Obama. So there was a tremendous lack of enthusiasm on the right for the candidate, despite the cheering crowds. Was it his Mormonism? Or did the contentious primary season take its toll? Maybe it was his lack of the common touch? Or lingering distrust of him from those who felt certain he was a RINO? Whatever it was (and perhaps some combination of all of that), it was apparently the right that failed to vote for Romney in large enough numbers.
The left is patient, very very patient. I’m not so sure about the right. But that’s what’s going to be required, I’m afraid: patience. It’s easy to say “we need to take back education and take back the media,” but it’s a lot harder to figure out how to do that. But I am convinced that, until that happens, we will not be winning many elections nationwide.
Mitt Romney came close to winning, a lot closer than John McCain. But close isn’t good enough, I’m afraid. And as I wrote earlier, even had he won it would only have bought us a bit of time (and several SCOTUS nominations, which would have been very helpful). There are those on the right who say “fine, let the country sink ecnonomically, and then people will see the value of conservative policies”—but I don’t get that logic, I’m afraid. It’s possible, but unless they are exposed to conservative thought (which isn’t going to happen in the school system or the MSM), how will they figure it out? Economic hard times are more likely to increase the desire for government dependency, not increase it. As the left is well aware.
I see the polarization of this country increasing. The red and blue states are further apart than ever, and never the twain shall meet. Obama is fond of increasing that polarization and adding to it class warfare, gender warfare, and racial entitlement and resentment. It’s become a winning formulation, and looking at that it’s hard to believe we haven’t lost our way. The question is: can we find it again?
[ADDENDUM: Vanderleun has called our attention to this article, which deals with the same topic: how to regroup? I’m not sure what the author is actually suggesting, though; it’s short on practical measures. And it has the flaw of seeming to suggest that conservatives become the very thing they hate, something commenter “kolnai” referred to in this comment of his:
The critical proportion of leftists has been attained. So now the numbers for us conservatives don’t add up. We need, in effect, a leftist elan for our causes, and in sufficient numbers, to take down the Gramscian institutions, but also to remain conservatives (and not Bolsheviks). It’s as though we must change our nature in order to preserve it…
So the question is: How do we turn the conservative disadvantage into an advantage without selling our souls or becoming Tories? How do we fight like leftists, and effectively, while remaining what we are? This isn’t about libertarian vs. social conservative, establishment vs. grass roots. It’s about how we, all of us, together, can act like Gramscians and Alinskyites in order to overthrow the tyranny of the Gramscians and Alinskyites.
I’m not sure we can. Conservativism is by definition opposed to ideologizing everything. I’m not sure we should, either.
There’s the rub. It seems an almost impossible dilemma, a catch-22, from which there is no way out. We can continue to fight honorably and with half of our souls, as we have – and keep losing. Or we can fight like the scum of the earth with our whole polluted souls – and maybe even continue to keep losing, but granting that we win, perhaps becoming unrecognizable to ourselves.
That is exactly why I called this a watershed election, and why the prospect of its loss scared me so deeply. And I think it’s the same dilemma faced by European conservatives (or what passes for conservatives there these days; not the same as conservatism here), once a population has become seduced by leftist thought and leftist largesse. I’ve quoted Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” before in similar contexts, and now I’ll do it again:
Oh, never, never can [people] feed themselves without us [the Inquisitors and controllers]! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, “Make us your slaves, but feed us.” They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious. Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man? ]