Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Quotables: On Election 2012

The first instinct of some will be to blame the voters — to say they just don’t “get” it — or to imply the “takers” simply outnumber the “makers.”

After all, Americans should have been outraged by what happened in Benghazi. Americans should have been outraged by the increasing debt — and by the fact that the unemployment rate actually rose during Obama’s first term.

But it is the job of politicians and parties and movements to persuade Americans to buy into their vision. And they clearly aren’t buying what Republicans are selling. It’s time for the GOP to do some serious soul searching.

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That reality presents a challenge to the GOP and to conservatives.  We do not need to change our values, but we do need to find ways to communicate them in an engaging and welcoming manner.  We need to think creatively about big issues, philosophy, and how we can relate conservative values to the needs of a wider range of voters.  Conservatism cannot become constrictionism, or the realignment will continue, and it will become ever more difficult to win national elections.

This will require a new set of national leaders for the Republican Party and conservatism.  We need men and women who can think creatively, produce a positive agenda that isn’t defined by an oppositional nature, and who can eloquently communicate that agenda and the values that drive it.  That should be our focus over the next two years before we start thinking about who to nominate as the party’s presidential nominee — and if done properly, that process will naturally produce the right leader for conservatism.  And if that is done properly, too, perhaps we’ll be in position for another realignment four years from now.

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While I am not the very first person to question the credibility of everything I hear in the news media, having once worked for a polling institute and having commissioned several high profile national polls myself, I understand that polls, while hardly perfect, should not generally be thought of as part of the biased news propaganda machine (which is why, ironically, the Fox News poll is often not at all favorable to conservatives).

But because conservatives are understandably so distrustful of everything they are told by the media, it becomes easy for them to fall into the trap of assuming that polls showing Obama winning are inherently flawed. They are even able to come up with enough real numbers to make arguments which appear to be based in intellect, even though they are really being driven by emotion and self interest.

This phenomenon was made even more pervasive because to the conservative political junkies who spend their lives absorbing every possible news item with the assumption that it is simply not possible to comprehend how anyone would vote to reelect Obama. This fed into their fervent belief that the polls must simply be wrong (as did their forgetting that, when nearly everyone votes in a swing state, it really doesn't matter how much more enthusiastic one side is than the other).

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On the bright side, Barack Obama now inherits the problems created by Barack Obama, including Obamacare.  We’ll know a lot about how he’s going to approach those challenges by what happens in the next two months.  Will he be a doctrinaire Socialist Marxist progressive, or will he tack a few degrees right in order to save himself from the ignominy of being known as the president who presided over America’s suicide?

If he proposes that the Bush-era tax rates stay as-is before they expire January 1, we’ll know that he understands a little something about the nature of capitalism, and there will be cause for optimism.  If he lets them expire—well, fasten your seat belts, assume crash position, and brush up on your Greek.

My own thoughts:

We cannot continue traveling the path that we’re on. The entitlement culture must be changed and people must understand that no country can borrow and spend its way to prosperity. If we’re going to get out of this mess, then Americans of all walks, all flavors and all colors are going to have to trust one another. We are a divided people today, and a divided America cannot succeed, cannot prosper and will not last much longer.

Last night’s election was a blow to Republicans. To conservatives—and never think that these are the same animals—it was simply a setback that can and will be overcome. The non white male constituencies that reelected Barack Obama to his second term are capable of embracing conservative values, but only if those values are communicated in a way that is welcoming and non-threatening.

By its nature, conservatism is an optimistic political philosophy. The beauty of being a conservative is simply this—no matter how bad things are, no matter how many forces are arrayed against you, you will prevail. Conservatives never lose their optimism, their confidence or their sense of humor. A conservative always seeks to improve his condition by his own devices, while laughing at himself and always looking forward. 

It will be a challenge to communicate the values of self-reliance, self-governance and self-esteem to people convinced by the left and the media that conservatism is racist, hateful and exclusive. Conservatism is none of that. This is a challenge that must and will be met, or the quip about Greece from Joel Engel becomes a real threat. 

The path is hard, but we can do it. We have to.

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pete4tide said...

Probably the most reasonable analysis I've read today from a conservative. I will say that I'm in danger of losing my optimism for the American people, who appear to want to believe everything they hear regardless of any other analysis to the contrary. Maybe we can chalk it up to the overall optimism that President Obama's supporters seem to share that he is able and capable to do the things that he has promised. I think they are buying a well-manufactured corporate image myself, but I could say the same thing about Romney. Conservatives have great ideas, but we've got to get past the "only appeal to the old white guys" mentality of the past two elections. We have got to find new and better ways to communicate those ideals and ideas that are unique to conservatism, and prevent the media and the left from only harping on the negativity that is inherent in Big Change.

Greg Hammond said...

I completely agree with Pete4Tide. Out here in the People's Republik of Kalifornia, we are watching the ship of state plow full speed ahead toward the iceberg. To the credit of IBCR, when I shared this column with many of my friends, including many liberal friends who aren't insane or stupid, just afraid of the radical right, they gave it a thumbs up. I do, too. Two big thumbs up.

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