There was a pretty lengthy discussion on this thread recently about whether a significant number of conservatives refused to vote for Romney in 2012, and if so why.
That’s is an issue that always arouses strong feelings, and rightly so. The GOP has repeatedly disappointed conservatives, and even some more moderate Republicans, too. I’ve never been especially enamored of the party either, even as I’ve voted in recent years for its nominees. And let me say at the outset that no one (including, of course, me) knows the answer to the question posed in that first sentence.
Commenter “rickl” wrote:
I have no patience for anybody who blames conservatives for Romney’s loss. There were far more who knew he was a bad candidate but held their noses and voted for him anyway than those who stayed home.
Well, of course there were more who voted for him than stayed home. Many, many, many more.
In fact, Romney got a million more votes than John McCain did in 2008, and Obama got about three and a half million less than he (Obama) had in 2008. But Obama still got enough votes to win in 2012. So although I am convinced—from my own personal experience in talking to people, and from reading tons of comments at blogs on the right—that a substantial number of conservatives did stay home or voted third party that day (and in 2008), I have no idea whether that number would have been enough to put Romney over the top if those people had voted for him instead.
So I’m not blaming those stay-at-home conservatives for Romney’s loss. His loss was the result of a coming-together of a very large number of elements, including flaws in the candidate himself, but mainly changes in media, education, and entertainment that have been going on for many decades. But I am fairly certain that those stay-at-homes existed, and might have ended up making a difference, although we will probably never know.
Commenter “rickl” continued:
But 2012 was the last chance for the Republican Party, and they blew it. There are too many voters who are sick and tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and simply won’t do it any more. I predict that they will lose the House in 2014. It may even be a landslide. The so-called “base” is melting away. More and more people are seeing that there is no reason to vote for the Institutional Republican Party, as they are part of the problem.
“Rickl” is certainly tapping into a sentiment seen commonly on the right side of the blogosphere, but that’s a rather specialized group. Again, I have no idea how large that group is, or how large it will become in the next couple of years. Recent disappointing and frustrating actions (or inactions) by the Republicans in Congress suggest that the group is growing larger.
But back to what happened during the 2012 campaign. I also believe that some talk radio hosts and bloggers who beat the “Romney’s a no-good RINO” drum during the primaries helped to convince a number of those people that Romney was an unprincipled guy who was lying about his conservatism, a party stooge who was doing the bidding of a nefarious “GOP establishment” or “GOP elite” intent on screwing conservatives once again, as they had in 2008. But this only tapped into a pre-existing and longstanding rift between conservatives and the Republican old guard.
After the flame of anger against flip-flopping-Romneycare-framing-RINO-extraordinaire Mitt Romney had been duly fanned during the primaries, it’s true that those talk show hosts and bloggers came on board and supported Romney—as did the vast majority of conservatives. Most did the familiar old “hold your nose and vote for him” routine, which isn’t easy—but is what politics often requires, choosing the lesser of two evils in the voters’ eyes.
But a certain percentage will resist and dig in and say, “No! I’m not going to be the tool of the Republican Establishment any more.”
“Rickl” expresses these feelings quite well, and they’re not hard to understand. To a lesser extent, I actually share those feelings. But in my entire life of observing politics—which I’ve done “from both sides now”—I can honestly say that there have been precious few candidates of whom I’ve thought really highly. Very very few, no matter which side I was on. And yet I’ve voted every year for the person I see as lesser of two evils (or the less imperfect of two imperfects). And I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing it as long as I’m able to toddle to the voting booth or fill out an absentee ballot.
People are flawed, politicians perhaps most of all. It takes a very special type of personality to even want to be a politician; I would never do it, nor would most of you. It’s a dirty, nasty, rotten business, full of compromise and temptations to corruption and overweening power and with constant threats from people wishing to destroy you, waiting for you to slip up at any moment, and willing and eager to distort your record and lie about you and about your family.
Our system is the worst possible one except for all the others that have ever been tried, and if you take your ball and go home it’s bound to get even worse.
Good luck with that third party, too. It’s a nice dream, but I just don’t see it attracting enough people. If conservatives desert the Republican Party, it is more likely (IMHO) that two smaller parties will form, conservative and Republican, and the Democratic Party will have an even longer reign in power.
I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, and you don’t believe it. Or maybe you just don’t care any more, the system seems so bad to you already. Fine; I don’t really expect to convince you. But one thing I will say is that I represent absolutely no one but myself; I’m certainly not a member of any Republican establishment. I’m not even a Republican, which is pretty funny if you think about it. I’m merely a person who observes, and what I observe is the latest manifestation of the old saying: