So what are the lessons of last night? Well, three major lessons come to mind immediately, two with respects to the Presidential race and a third related to the Senate. These lessons will be the battlegrounds of the coming civil war inside the GOP.
Quickly, with respects to the Senate for a moment. I submit there are two distinct types of Tea Party candidates, and they produce dramatically different results. The differences have to do with focus, as all Tea Party candidates more or less agree on the issues. Yet it’s obvious that only one kind of candidate succeeds. The more well rounded liberty focused candidates win. The socially focused candidates lose. Think Rubio, Johnson and Paul, versus say, Akin, Mourdock or O’Donnell. Akin and Mourdock both committed unforced errors that cost the Republicans two easy seats. Moreover, their viral quotes inflamed Obama’s “war on women” and cost Romney no telling how many votes in Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
Republicans win more often when they are socially conservative, but do not make social issues the emphasis of their candidacy. Perhaps the Tea Party needs more of Reagan’s influence, and less of Mike Huckabee’s.
Now to the big show, and money left on the table. Mitt Romney and his brilliant sorcerers of stratagem decided that they would coast home with a safe campaign. They decided it would be ok to let Bush and conservatism take the blame for the economy that liberalism wrecked, which allowed Obama to get away with complaining about what he “inherited.” They decided not to contest the issue of giving Obama credit for bin Laden. They decided they would accept Candy Crowley’s take on the Benghazi attacks. They decided they would accept Obama’s jobs figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They decided not to talk too much about Obama Care, and they waited way too late to try and convince auto workers that 2 dollar gas and not government bail outs were the recipe for job security in their industry.
Apparently, they decided not to offend, or to pick any fights that might actually take some intellectual parrying to sort out. This is a problem that goes back to 2000 for our party. If we don’t realize at some point that we must have some hard arguments with the other side, we will continue to lose campaigns. We only win campaigns when we have these ideological discussions, and articulate why we are right. That’s how we attract the independents. We are never successful by saying we don’t really mean it. Think 2010, 1994, 1984 and 1980.
In the meanwhile, we have now re-elected a President who took credit for killing a man he refused to admit was an enemy, and who was found by tactics Obama abhors. We have re-elected a President that has taken credit for rescuing an auto industry that is still technically failing. We have re-elected a President who sat by for seven hours while brave Americans were being murdered on live drone TV. And we have re-elected a President who has so totally destroyed our job market, that we can’t even keep score on unemployment in an intellectually coherent way.
Yes, so concerned were Romney and his campaign about offending the moderates, that he forgot to educate them. A President who has failed at every aspect of his job, who has seen every candidate of his choosing go down in flames since his inauguration, was still able to out maneuver yet another perfect candidate brought to us by the safe, clean, reasonable Republican establishment. In 2008, the GOP nomenklatura assured us that John McCain was the right man for the moment. He was blitzed by ten million votes. And in the battle for 2012, that same group insisted that we not offend the other side with the unkempt and volatile (yet delightfully persuasive) Newt Gingrich. No, we must nominate the latest greatest non-offensive concoction, Mitt Romney.
Now to the third lesson, which is that of Sandy and Katrina. And it is related to the second lesson. While putting hard data to this thesis will be almost impossible to do, there did seem to be a “disturbance in the force” of the Romney campaign as Sandy crashed upon the shores and Chris Christie started his bromance with Obama. This disturbance is not logical, but it seems obvious now that it was a factor. Why? The problem with Sandy was not so much Sandy, as it was the memory of Katrina.
And Katrina is remembered as an abject failure of George Bush and by extension, all Republicans. And why is it remembered as a conservative and Republican failure? Because Bush (and Karl Rove) thought the smart thing to do was to fall on their swords and not embarrass liberal Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans or liberal Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana for any failures. Now both of these liberal hacks were far more responsible for the problems of Katrina than was Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Halliburton, global warming, Mitt Romney, or you, or me.
And yet, you and I are still paying the price for this lamantable strategy. So radioactive is the Republican brand related to hurricanes still, thanks to Bush and Rove, that Mitt had to quietly step aside while Christie and Obama slobbered all over each other. Imagine how differently this could have played out if the corrupt liberal establishment of Louisiana had gotten their share of the Katrina blame. Sandy would have been a bonus politically.
Meanwhile, of course, the FEMA response to Sandy is far worse than the response to Katrina. This will be known some day soon, but Obama will be in the White House just the same.
And the GOP will be in a full tilt civil war. Ground zero of this war need to be the issue of truth, and whether or not we are going to put forth leaders who can and will articulate why we are right on all the big issues. Or will we continue with leaders who take a short term path of least resistance approach to please the focus groups, and their pals in the Jurassic media. The truth better win inside the GOP, or the country is gone. Which, frankly, it may be already. Game on!