Bleary Eyes, Broken Hearts, We Lost
Let's get the emotional response to the Disaster of 2012 out of the way. I don't know about you, but this is how I felt last night and continue to feel today.
I couldn't have said it better, Chuck. Sixty million Americans did vote to blow it up.
Emotion out of the way, what happened to about a million John McCain voters? In 2008, the uninspiring nominee who became the GOP standard-bearer because of a timely endorsement from orange Charlie Crist racked up 58,343,671 votes. In 2012, four years after America has seen Barack Obama's special blend of malevolent incompetence, narcissism, mendacity and laziness in action, Mitt Romney was a far better GOP candidate and ran a far better campaign than McCain's, and so far Romney racked up 57,401,992 votes.
That's a difference down of 941,679 votes as of this writing, when Mitt Romney should have been able to overperform the lackluster John McCain. Why didn't he?
Barack Obama, on the other hand, lost 6,796,706 votes from 2008 to 2012, as of this writing. Obama lost about 10% of his vote and still won a second term. That isn't all that difficult to explain. People who voted for him four years ago really were less enthused about voting for him again. So they didn't, but they didn't switch sides either.
Where did those million McCainiacs go? Did they all die in last four years? Actually, given the age of the GOP coalition, that's not impossible.
We do know now that Romney did poorly among Hispanic voters compared to McCain, who grabbed 31% of the Hispanic vote. Romney got just 25% or so overall, and he did worse in some of the swing states. He could have done better among Hispanics than he did, and it's possible that another candidate could have done better. Rick Perry nets about 40% or more of the Hispanic vote in Texas, but Texas Hispanics tend to be more conservative than Hispanics outside the state. He would never have lived down his debate gaffe anyway, so that's a moot point. Respectable Republicans despise and and set out to destroy people like Perry, giving the Democrats an additional boost. Democrat Obama can lie through his teeth about the deaths of four Americans and the looming fiscal cliff and it doesn't hurt him at all, and boob Biden can be himself for all the world to see and the Respectable Republican does not try destroying him, but any Republican's odd brain freeze spells doom for them along with a lifetime of mockery from pretty much the entire world. I'm not whining, just acknowledging reality. Life is not fair and it never will be. Conservatives have always known this.
It's possible that if Romney had merely held serve with Hispanics compared to McCain in the swing states plus improved the ground game a bit, he could have won. Had he done as well as Bush 43, he certainly would have won. It's possible that Romney went too far on immigration during the primary, but it's more likely that Obama's immigration change by fiat brought enough liberal Hispanic voters home to him. It's hard to beat the quick-targeted pander, just as it's hard to beat the lure of free stuff. It's possible that just enough of my fellow evangelicals stayed home because Romney is a Mormon. I don't know, but I do know the question does come up. If so, they made a grave mistake. We weren't voting for a deacon but for a president, and Romney had the skills to be a very good one.
It is the leftist ideal world plus the lure of free stuff that brought Obama's vote back out in sufficient numbers to give him the win. Free stuff and the promise of more free stuff is one of the few proposals that he actually ran on. ObamaCare is sold as free stuff and enough people believe that that's what it is, despite the fact that it's a job-killing drag on small businesses and still threatens to bankrupt reeling state governments. If you don't have a job, ObamaCare may have something to do with that. So wipe that smug smile off your face, hippie.
But to some extent, I'm wasting pixels and time even writing all this. Most of those who voted for Barack Obama for a second time are not persuadable by fiscal appeals or national security or anything grand. They're not ideas voters. A core of them may think they are, but there is no viable intellectual foundation to the idea that government can print and spend as much money as possible, and can at the same time tax our most productive citizens to punitive levels. It won't work. Point that out to a liberal and they either become non-responsive or hostile. It's what we'll be doing in Obama's second term.
As for the free stuff voters, they have always been out there in large numbers and we have known they were out there but for the most part they figured into no one's Election Day calculations. They're the reason we pay more attention to polls of likely voters than registered voters, and pay almost no attention at all to polls of generic Americans. But Obama has turned many of those generic Americans and registered voters from spectators into actual voters. That's a big part of his magic. If that sounds condescending, tough. If you think it identifies you, it probably does. Have a nice day.
The problem of persuasion looms large. Qualifications for the office may not matter. Records and resumes apparently don't matter. The economy and other issues -- honesty, standing up for America's interests and image -- may not matter. Content matters less, apparently, than tone. Except that even in tone, Obama can promise punishment and revenge and get a pass. So maybe it's not tone. Obama certainly did not run a unifying or uplifting campaign. He ran on fear and blame and giveaways and envy, and it worked. Obama may be a historic one-off. It's hard to see Joe Biden replicating Obama's wins in four years' time. For one thing, the Republicans will improve the ground game and turn out our couch potato voters to match the Democrats. For another, Biden is not very bright.
Demographics have finally passed the GOP by. It's unfair given the two parties' histories, but it's a fact. The ideal Republican candidate from here on out, it seems, should be female, at least one kind of racial minority but two are preferred, self-made but not so successful that it's intimidating to anyone or can be cast as rapacious, and a member of no Christian group that anyone has any real problem with. Methodists and Episcopalians are probably fine but we'll never see a Southern Baptist president who is also a Republican. Democrats obviously get a pass and can be as fringe or radical as they please. The ideal future Republican candidate can also can have no track record in office to dog them, but they have to have won office somewhere (but done nothing with it), and must be an Oscar-level actor so that people know that the candidate is truly feeling their pain. Democrats can recruit rich and radical numbskulls and win, as they did in Massachusetts. Republicans have to check an awful lot of boxes and be perfect just to have a chance.
Are we now the land of free stuff and the home of the knave? I hope not, but as of November 6, 2012, that's the way to bet.