By now everybody knows about the results of Tuesday’s elections and we’ve seen tons of analysis. The predominant themes have been that only in hindsight did Romney run a horrible campaign, that the Tea Party extremism had been rejected by the voters, that this is truly Obama’s mandate, all of the Republican forecasting models were horrifically wrong, and that the Republican party’s only hope is to make drastic changes to its principles if it hopes to survive. Did I miss anything? It’s natural to knee jerk or overreact when something unexpected happens, so I have advice for both sides: don’t read too much into this election and base your next moves only on what happened Tuesday.
First, for the Democrats, you weren’t given a mandate. You scored some impressive wins on Tuesday, and for that I congratulate you. You kept the presidency in a hard fought campaign. You managed to gain seats in the Senate, including one popular figure from your side in Elizabeth Warren retaking Ted Kennedy’s old seat in Massachusetts. You got a referendum passed in Colorado legalizing pot, you got gay marriage ballot initiatives through in three states, and in California several measures to raise taxes and restrict economic freedom also went through. Combine this with President Obama’s 333 electoral votes and it looks like you’ve got a clear mandate that the country is shifting leftward, right?
Not quite. When you look at the battleground states the president’s victory only came by roughly 350,000 votes. Yes, I now what the final margin in the overall popular vote was certainly more decisive, but keep in mind that the president also got nine million fewer votes than in 2008. The Republicans gained seats in the House, and now has it’s largest margin among Governorships that either party has had in 12 years. Your California measures only made an already hostile business climate even worse by raising taxes and assuring that the unions will still be able to force union members to pay for their political campaigning. Expect more businesses to leave your state and unemployment to rise even more. And be careful with the gay marriage wins – your side seems to be even more prone to overreach than the right is. I’m predicting you’ll jump the shark on this issue when someone decides to file a lawsuit against a church that refuses to perform a gay marriage. Sadly you’ll succeed in turning public opinion on this issue better than any conservative ever could.
Now for the conservatives. Yes, the Romney campaign was not perfect. I’m not even going to bother linking to any of the myriad of post game analysis articles on what went wrong. If you’re reading this post you’ve probably read more than your share already. The day wasn’t a complete disaster for the GOP, as seen by my earlier mention of the House and Governorships. Of course, the presidency was the big prize and the failure to defeat such an incompetent president is painful to say the least. While I’ve seen no shortage of reasons for Romney’s loss to Obama, nobody has seen the most obvious reason that Romney failed – there is simply no way he could have beaten Obama.
I wrote just before the election why I believed Obama would win. Put simply, the president has an amazing cult of personality that gives him legions of voters will support him unconditionally. Obama also is phenomenally gifted at winning elections. Yes, I know about all of the scummy things he had to do to win previous elections – I’ve written about that before as well. But the bottom line is he did win those elections – it’s what he’s great at doing. Regardless of who the Republicans ran I’m convinced that nobody could have beaten Obama.
Think about this as a sports analogy. Playing back in the 1980’s, Lawrence Taylor was probably the greatest linebacker in the history of the game. He was so incredibly dominant at his position that he actually changed the game in that opposing offenses had to completely adjust their style of play to account for him at all times (his being frequently coked up and tiring out his opposing offensive linemen by sending hookers to their hotel rooms the night before didn’t hurt either). You could be one of the best offensive lineman responsible for stopping him – you could be in the greatest physical shape of your life. You could have studied hours of game film of Taylor’s previous games and know all of his habits and tendencies. You are ready and thanks to your preparation you are completely confident in your ability to defend against Taylor when the play starts. In other words, you could be as physically, mentally, and psychologically prepared as is humanly possible. You are ready to stop Lawrence Taylor cold and protect your quarterback. Then the play starts and the result is Taylor blowing past you like you’re a matador and planting your quarterback into the turf. You did everything right that you possibly could, but at the end of the day nothing can change the fact that your opponent is simply better than you.
Obama was simply better at getting people behind him for the election, and his coat tails bought in the votes for many other Democrats sharing the ticket with him. The Republicans would love to have someone similar that they could use to rally their base, although without the creepy cult worship factor. The lefties in the media are dancing in the streets at the death of the Republican party, just like they did back in 2008. And how did that work out? The left also is never going to have Obama on a ticket again, and all of the advantages that he brings with it.
Do the Republicans have lessons they need to learn from this election? Oh, yes. And once the smoke clears I’ll probably have my own two cents to throw in. Do the Democrats have reason to celebrate? They certainly do. But to assume that this once in a lifetime candidate who will never be able to run again marks a complete shift in how voters view the issues would be a mistake for both sides.
Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog