I’ve said before that even had Mitt Romney won this election, unless it was by a landslide, we’d still be in big trouble. It would only have bought us a little time.
Or maybe it would have just given us the illusion of buying time, because so many of the difficulties and trends seem to have been set in motion long ago. I’m talking, of course, about the big three: schools, media, and family.
However, it’s still interesting to ask why turnout for Romney was lower this year than for McCain in 2008, when enthusiasm for the candidate himself was so much higher. I submit that turnout was not that much lower in 2012 than in 2008, and enthusiasm was indeed higher for Romney than for McCain—among those who were enthused. But a small but significant number were not enthused—they seem to have been turned off.
Some of them were probably libertarians. Some of them were probably people who didn’t warm up to Romney because they felt he was a rich fat cat. Some of them may have been those “a plague on both your houses” voters who want the apocalypse to come because then Americans will finally see the conservative light.
The latest figures I can seem to get on the 2012 election is that Mitt Romney received 57,901,531 votes. McCain’s final tally (remember, that includes all the absentee and provisional ballots) in 2008 was 59,934,814. That’s a difference of about 2 million, some of which might be made up over the next week or so as the absentee and provisional votes come straggling in. So in the end the difference might not be that far off between the two years.
But if the difference holds, it is surprising. One would have expected more votes rather than fewer, or even the same. So in addition to the possible explanations I offered above, I’ll add:
(1) Sarah Palin may have brought out a lot of people that Paul Ryan failed to reach.
(2) A significant number of military voters (who tend to be strongly Republican) may not have received ballots in time to vote.
(3) Voter fatigue, whatever that means.
(4) Quite a few McCain voters must have died over the last four years. But wouldn’t they have been replaced by young ones? Yes, but young people went overwhelmingly for Obama. So the replacement rate isn’t 1 for 1.
If Romney’s get-out-the-vote effort had increased turnout by just a little bit over McCain’s figure, he would have beaten Obama. But it is a fact—and a longstanding one—that Republican get-out-the-vote efforts run far short of the organizational abilities of Democrats. Democrats perfected the techniques way back in Tammany Hall days, when big-city machine politics ruled at a local level. That era began centuries ago. It’s hard to figure out what the conservative equivalent could be, especially since conservatives are demoralized at this point.
Conservatives are not natural at organizing, although the Tea Party was a start. But the Tea Party has often showed bad and narrow judgment in the candidates it supports. When I think of the Tea Party movement, I think there was a lot of naivete involved. In fact, one of the lessons of this election is that conservative must stop being naive about the left, and must start anticipating their attacks. For example, remember when the Tea Party began, and the immediate, almost instantaneous meme that was spread—by Democrats, assisted by their helpmates in the MSM—was that it was racist? There was not a shred of evidence for that, so it was manufactured.
And it worked. Ask most people today about the Tea Party, and you’ll see that the disinformation campaign about it has won.
I miss Andrew Breitbart immensely right now. He was one of the very few people on the right who understood all of that, and who tried to fight fire with fire.
[ADDENDUM: Maybe the problem with turnout is no mystery at all. Read this. A complete mess, and it might have mattered a lot.]
[ADDENDUM II: More.]