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by P.J. O'Rourke
Nov. 17, 2008
Let us bend over and kiss our ass goodbye. Our 28-year conservative opportunity to fix the moral and practical boundaries of government is gone--gone with the bear market and the Bear Stearns and the bear that's headed off to do you-know-what in the woods on our philosophy.
An entire generation has been born, grown up, and had families of its own since Ronald Reagan was elected. And where is the world we promised these children of the Conservative Age? Where is this land of freedom and responsibility, knowledge, opportunity, accomplishment, honor, truth, trust, and one boring hour each week spent in itchy clothes at church, synagogue, or mosque? It lies in ruins at our feet, as well it might, since we ourselves kicked the shining city upon a hill into dust and rubble. The progeny of the Reagan Revolution will live instead in the universe that revolves around Hyde Park.
Mind you, they won't live in Hyde Park. Those leafy precincts will be reserved for the micromanagers and macro-apparatchiks of liberalism--for Secretary of the Department of Peace Bill Ayers and Secretary of the Department of Fairness Bernardine Dohrn. The formerly independent citizens of our previously self-governed nation will live, as I said, around Hyde Park. They will make what homes they can in the physical, ethical, and intellectual slums of the South Side of Chicago.
The South Side of Chicago is what everyplace in America will be once the Democratic administration and filibuster-resistant Democratic Congress have tackled global warming, sustainability, green alternatives to coal and oil, subprime mortgage foreclosures, consumer protection, business oversight, financial regulation, health care reform, taxes on the "rich," and urban sprawl. The Democrats will have plenty of time to do all this because conservatism, if it is ever reborn, will not come again in the lifetime of anyone old enough to be rounded up by ACORN and shipped to the polling booths.
None of this is the fault of the left. After the events of the 20th century--national socialism, international socialism, inter-species socialism from Earth First--anyone who is still on the left is obviously insane and not responsible for his or her actions. No, we on the right did it. The financial crisis that is hoisting us on our own petard is only the latest (if the last) of the petard hoistings that have issued from the hindquarters of our movement. We've had nearly three decades to educate the electorate about freedom, responsibility, and the evils of collectivism, and we responded by creating a big-city-public-school-system of a learning environment.
Liberalism had been running wild in the nation since the Great Depression. At the end of the Carter administration we had it cornered in one of its dreadful low-income housing projects or smelly public parks or some such place, and we held the Taser gun in our hand, pointed it at the beast's swollen gut, and didn't pull the trigger. Liberalism wasn't zapped and rolled away on a gurney and confined somewhere until it expired from natural causes such as natural law or natural rights.
In our preaching and our practice we neglected to convey the organic and universal nature of freedom. Thus we ensured our loss before we even began our winning streak. Barry Goldwater was an admirable and principled man. He took an admirably principled stand on states' rights. But he was dead wrong. Separate isn't equal. Ask a kid whose parents are divorced.
Since then modern conservatism has been plagued by the wrong friends and the wrong foes. The "Southern Strategy" was bequeathed to the Republican party by Richard Nixon--not a bad friend of conservatism but no friend at all. The Southern Strategy wasn't needed. Southern whites were on--begging the pardon of the Scopes trial jury--an evolutionary course toward becoming Republican. There's a joke in Arkansas about a candidate hustling votes in the country. The candidate asks a farmer how many children he has.
"I've got six sons," the farmer says.
"Are they all good little Democrats?" the candidate asks.
"Well," the farmer says, "five of 'em are. But my oldest boy, he got to readin'??.??.??.??"
There was no need to piss off the entire black population of America to get Dixie's electoral votes. And despising cracker trash who have a laundry hamper full of bedsheets with eye-holes cut in them does not make a man a liberal.
Blacks used to poll Republican. They did so right up until Mrs. Roosevelt made some sympathetic noises in 1932. And her husband didn't even deliver on Eleanor's promises.
It's not hard to move a voting bloc. And it should be especially easy to move voters to the right. Sensible adults are conservative in most aspects of their private lives. If this weren't so, imagine driving on I-95: The majority of drivers are drunk, stoned, making out, or watching TV, while the rest are trying to calculate the size of their carbon footprints on the backs of Whole Foods receipts while negotiating lane changes.
People are even more conservative if they have children. Nobody with kids is a liberal, except maybe one pothead in Marin County. Everybody wants his or her children to respect freedom, exercise responsibility, be honest, get educated, have opportunities, and own a bunch of guns. (The last is optional and includes, but is not limited to, me, my friends in New Hampshire, and Sarah Palin.)
Reagan managed to reach out to blue collar whites. But there his reach stopped, leaving many people on our side, but barely knowing it. There are enough yarmulkes among the neocons to show that Jews are not immune to conservatism. Few practicing Catholics vote Democratic anymore except in Massachusetts where they put something in the communion wafers. When it comes to a full-on, hemp-wearing, kelp-eating, mandala-tatted, fool-coifed liberal with socks in sandals, I have never met a Muslim like that or a Chinese and very few Hispanics. No U.S. immigrants from the Indian subcontinent fill that bill (the odd charlatan yogi excepted), nor do immigrants from Africa, Eastern Europe, or East Asia. And Japanese tourists may go so far as socks in sandals, but their liberal nonsense stops at the ankles.
We have all of this going for us, worldwide. And yet we chose to deliver our sermons only to the faithful or the already converted. Of course the trailer park Protestants yell "Amen." If you were handling rattlesnakes and keeping dinosaurs for pets, would you vote for the party that gets money from PETA?
In how many ways did we fail conservatism? And who can count that high? Take just one example of our unconserved tendency to poke our noses into other people's business: abortion. Democracy--be it howsoever conservative--is a manifestation of the will of the people. We may argue with the people as a man may argue with his wife, but in the end we must submit to the fact of being married. Get a pro-life friend drunk to the truth-telling stage and ask him what happens if his 14-year-old gets knocked up. What if it's rape? Some people truly have the courage of their convictions. I don't know if I'm one of them. I might kill the baby. I will kill the boy.
The real message of the conservative pro-life position is that we're in favor of living. We consider people--with a few obvious exceptions--to be assets. Liberals consider people to be nuisances. People are always needing more government resources to feed, house, and clothe them and to pick up the trash around their FEMA trailers and to make sure their self-esteem is high enough to join community organizers lobbying for more government resources.
If the citizenry insists that abortion remain legal--and, in a passive and conflicted way, the citizenry seems to be doing so--then give the issue a rest. Meanwhile we can, with the public's blessing, refuse to spend taxpayers' money on killing, circumscribe the timing and method of taking a human life, make sure parental consent is obtained when underage girls are involved, and tar and feather teenage boys and run them out of town on a rail. The law cannot be made identical with morality. Scan the list of the Ten Commandments and see how many could be enforced even by Rudy Giuliani.
Our impeachment of President Clinton was another example of placing the wrong political emphasis on personal matters. We impeached Clinton for lying to the government. To our surprise the electorate gave us cold comfort. Lying to the government: It's called April 15th. And we accused Clinton of lying about sex, which all men spend their lives doing, starting at 15 bragging about things we haven't done yet, then on to fibbing about things we are doing, and winding up with prevarications about things we no longer can do.
When the Monica Lewinsky news broke, my wife set me straight about the issue. "Here," she said, "is the most powerful man in the world. And everyone hates his wife. What's the matter with Sharon Stone? Instead, he's hitting on an emotionally disturbed intern barely out of her teens." But our horn rims were so fogged with detestation of Clinton that we couldn't see how really detestable he was. If we had stayed our hand in the House of Representatives and treated the brute with shunning or calls for interventions to make him seek help, we might have chased him out of the White House. (Although this probably would have required a U.S. news media from a parallel universe.)
Such things as letting the abortion debate be turned against us and using the gravity of the impeachment process on something that required the fly-swat of pest control were strategic errors. Would that blame could be put on our strategies instead of ourselves. We have lived up to no principle of conservatism.
Government is bigger than ever. We have fattened the stalled ox and hatred therewith rather than dined on herbs where love (and the voter) is. Instead of flattening the Department of Education with a wrecking ball we let it stand as a pulpit for Bill Bennett. When--to switch metaphors yet again--such a white elephant is not discarded someone will eventually try to ride in the howdah on its back. One of our supposed own did. No Child Left Behind? What if they deserve to be left behind? What if they deserve a smack on the behind? A nationwide program to test whether kids are what? Stupid? You've got kids. Kids are stupid.
We railed at welfare and counted it a great victory when Bill Clinton confused a few poor people by making the rules more complicated. But the "French-bread lines" for the rich, the "terrapin soup kitchens," continue their charity without stint.
The sludge and dreck of political muck-funds flowing to prosperous businesses and individuals have gotten deeper and more slippery and stink worse than ever with conservatives minding the sewage works of legislation.
Agriculture is a business that has been up to its bib overalls in politics since the first Thanksgiving dinner kickback to the Indians for subsidizing Pilgrim maize production with fish head fertilizer grants. But never, since the Mayflower knocked the rock in Plymouth, has anything as putrid as the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2008 been spread upon the land. Just the name says it. There are no farms left. Not like the one grampa grew up on.
A "farm" today means 100,000 chickens in a space the size of a Motel 6 shower stall. If we cared anything about "nutrition" we would--to judge by the mountainous, jiggling flab of Americans--stop growing all food immediately. And "bioenergy" is a fraud of John Edwards-marital-fidelity proportions. Taxpayer money composted to produce a fuel made of alcohol that is more expensive than oil, more polluting than oil, and almost as bad as oil with vermouth and an olive. But this bill passed with bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress and was happily signed into law by President Bush. Now it's going to cost us at least $285 billion. That's about five times the gross domestic product of prewar Iraq. For what we will spend on the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2008 we could have avoided the war in Iraq and simply bought a controlling interest in Saddam Hussein's country.
Yes, we got a few tax breaks during the regimes of Reagan and W. But the government is still taking a third of our salary. Is the government doing a third of our job? Is the government doing a third of our dishes? Our laundry? Our vacuuming? When we go to Hooters is the government tending bar making sure that one out of three margaritas is on the house? If our spouse is feeling romantic and we're tired, does the government come over to our house and take care of foreplay? (Actually, during the Clinton administration??.??.??.??)
Anyway, a low tax rate is not--never mind the rhetoric of every conservative politician--a bedrock principle of conservatism. The principle is fiscal responsibility.
Conservatives should never say to voters, "We can lower your taxes." Conservatives should say to voters, "You can raise spending. You, the electorate, can, if you choose, have an infinite number of elaborate and expensive government programs. But we, the government, will have to pay for those programs. We have three ways to pay.
"We can inflate the currency, destroying your ability to plan for the future, wrecking the nation's culture of thrift and common sense, and giving free rein to scallywags to borrow money for worthless scams and pay it back 10 cents on the dollar.
"We can raise taxes. If the taxes are levied across the board, money will be taken from everyone's pocket, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and least advantaged will be harmed the most. If the taxes are levied only on the wealthy, money will be taken from wealthy people's pockets, hampering their capacity to make loans and investments, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and the least advantaged will be harmed the most.
"And we can borrow, building up a massive national debt. This will cause all of the above things to happen plus it will fund Red Chinese nuclear submarines that will be popping up in San Francisco Bay to get some decent Szechwan take-out."
Yes, this would make for longer and less pithy stump speeches. But we'd be showing ourselves to be men and women of principle. It might cost us, short-term. We might get knocked down for not whoring after bioenergy votes in the Iowa caucuses. But at least we wouldn't land on our scruples. And we could get up again with dignity intact, dust ourselves off, and take another punch at the liberal bully-boys who want to snatch the citizenry's freedom and tuck that freedom, like a trophy feather, into the hatbands of their greasy political bowlers.
But are we men and women of principle? And I don't mean in the matter of tricky and private concerns like gay marriage. Civil marriage is an issue of contract law. A constitutional amendment against gay marriage? I don't get it. How about a constitutional amendment against first marriages? Now we're talking. No, I speak, once again, of the geological foundations of conservatism.
Where was the meum and the tuum in our shakedown of Washington lobbyists? It took a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives 40 years--from 1954 to 1994--to get that corrupt and arrogant. And we managed it in just 12. (Who says Republicans don't have much on the ball?)
Our attitude toward immigration has been repulsive. Are we not pro-life? Are not immigrants alive? Unfortunately, no, a lot of them aren't after attempting to cross our borders. Conservative immigration policies are as stupid as conservative attitudes are gross. Fence the border and give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry. Put the National Guard on the Rio Grande and know that U.S. troops are standing between you and yard care. George W. Bush, at his most beneficent, said if illegal immigrants wanted citizenship they would have to do three things: Pay taxes, learn English, and work in a meaningful job. Bush doesn't meet two out of three of those qualifications. And where would you rather eat? At a Vietnamese restaurant? Or in the Ayn Rand Café? Hey, waiter, are the burgers any good? Atlas shrugged. (We would, however, be able to have a smoke at the latter establishment.)
To go from slime to the sublime, there are the lofty issues about which we never bothered to form enough principles to go out and break them. What is the coherent modern conservative foreign policy?
We may think of this as a post 9/11 problem, but it's been with us all along. What was Reagan thinking, landing Marines in Lebanon to prop up the government of a country that didn't have one? In 1984, I visited the site where the Marines were murdered. It was a beachfront bivouac overlooked on three sides by hills full of hostile Shiite militia. You'd urge your daughter to date Rosie O'Donnell before you'd put troops ashore in such a place.
Since the early 1980s I've been present at the conception (to use the polite term) of many of our foreign policy initiatives. Iran-contra was about as smart as using the U.S. Postal Service to get weapons to anti-Communists. And I notice Danny Ortega is back in power anyway. I had a look into the eyes of the future rulers of Afghanistan at a sura in Peshawar as the Soviets were withdrawing from Kabul. I would rather have had a beer with Leonid Brezhnev.
Fall of the Berlin wall? Being there was fun. Nations that flaked off of the Soviet Union in southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus? Being there was not so fun.
The aftermath of the Gulf war still makes me sick. Fine to save the fat, greedy Kuwaitis and the arrogant, grasping house of Saud, but to hell with the Shiites and Kurds of Iraq until they get some oil.
Then, half a generation later, when we returned with our armies, we expected to be greeted as liberators. And, damn it, we were. I was in Baghdad in April 2003. People were glad to see us, until they noticed that we'd forgotten to bring along any personnel or provisions to feed or doctor the survivors of shock and awe or to get their electricity and water running again. After that they got huffy and began stuffing dynamite down their pants before consulting with the occupying forces.
Is there a moral dimension to foreign policy in our political philosophy? Or do we just exist to help the world's rich people make and keep their money? (And a fine job we've been doing of that lately.)
If we do have morals, where were they while Bosnians were slaughtered? And where were we while Clinton dithered over the massacres in Kosovo and decided, at last, to send the Serbs a message: Mess with the United States and we'll wait six months, then bomb the country next to you. Of Rwanda, I cannot bear to think, let alone jest.
And now, to glue and screw the lid on our coffin, comes this financial crisis. For almost three decades we've been trying to teach average Americans to act like "stakeholders" in their economy. They learned. They're crying and whining for government bailouts just like the billionaire stakeholders in banks and investment houses. Aid, I can assure you, will be forthcoming from President Obama.
Then average Americans will learn the wisdom of Ronald Reagan's statement: "The ten most dangerous words in the English language are, 'I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to help.'?" Ask a Katrina survivor.
The left has no idea what's going on in the financial crisis. And I honor their confusion. Jim Jerk down the road from me, with all the cars up on blocks in his front yard, falls behind in his mortgage payments, and the economy of Iceland implodes. I'm missing a few pieces of this puzzle myself.
Under constant political pressure, which went almost unresisted by conservatives, a lot of lousy mortgages that would never be repaid were handed out to Jim Jerk and his drinking buddies and all the ex-wives and single mothers with whom Jim and his pals have littered the nation.
Wall Street looked at the worthless paper and thought, "How can we make a buck off this?" The answer was to wrap it in a bow. Take a wide enough variety of lousy mortgages--some from the East, some from the West, some from the cities, some from the suburbs, some from shacks, some from McMansions--bundle them together and put pressure on the bond rating agencies to do fancy risk management math, and you get a "collateralized debt obligation" with a triple-A rating. Good as cash. Until it wasn't.
Or, put another way, Wall Street was pulling the "room full of horse s--" trick. Brokerages were saying, "We're going to sell you a room full of horse s--. And with that much horse s--, you just know there's a pony in there somewhere."
Anyway, it's no use blaming Wall Street. Blaming Wall Street for being greedy is like scolding defensive linemen for being big and aggressive. The people on Wall Street never claimed to be public servants. They took no oath of office. They're in it for the money. We pay them to be in it for the money. We don't want our retirement accounts to get a 2 percent return. (Although that sounds pretty good at the moment.)
What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That's not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. "Jeeze, 230 pounds!" But you can't pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters--all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs--think so too.
We, the conservatives, who do understand the free market, had the responsibility to--as it were--foreclose upon this mess. The market is a measurement, but that measuring does not work to the advantage of a nation or its citizens unless the assessments of volume, circumference, and weight are conducted with transparency and under the rule of law. We've had the rule of law largely in our hands since 1980. Where is the transparency? It's one more job we botched.
Although I must say we're doing good work on our final task--attaching the garden hose to our car's exhaust pipe and running it in through a vent window. Barack and Michelle will be by in a moment with some subsidized ethanol to top up our gas tank. And then we can turn the key.
P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
by Peter Hitchens
November 9, 2008
Anyone would think we had just elected a hip, skinny and youthful replacement for God, with a plan to modernize Heaven and Hell - or that at the very least John Lennon had come back from the dead.
The swooning frenzy over the choice of Barack Obama as President of the United States must be one of the most absurd waves of self-deception and swirling fantasy ever to sweep through an advanced civilization. At least Mandela-worship - its nearest equivalent - is focused on a man who actually did something.
I really don't see how the Obama devotees can ever in future mock the Moonies, the Scientologists or people who claim to have been abducted in flying saucers. This is a cult like the one which grew up around Princess Diana, bereft of reason and hostile to facts.
It already has all the signs of such a thing. The newspapers which recorded Obama's victory have become valuable relics. You may buy Obama picture books and Obama calendars and if there isn't yet a children's picture version of his story, there soon will be.
Proper books, recording his sordid associates, his cowardly voting record, his astonishingly militant commitment to unrestricted abortion and his blundering trip to Africa, are little-read and hard to find.
If you can believe that this undistinguished and conventionally Left-wing machine politician is a sort of secular savior, then you can believe anything. He plainly doesn't believe it himself. His cliché-stuffed, PC clunker of an acceptance speech suffered badly from nerves. It was what you would expect from someone who knew he'd promised too much and that from now on the easy bit was over.
He needn't worry too much. From now on, the rough boys and girls of America's Democratic Party apparatus, many recycled from Bill Clinton's stained and crumpled entourage, will crowd round him, to collect the rich spoils of his victory and also tell him what to do, which is what he is used to.
Just look at his sermon by the shores of Lake Michigan. He really did talk about a 'new dawn', and a 'timeless creed' (which was 'yes, we can'). He proclaimed that 'change has come'. He revealed that, despite having edited the Harvard Law Review, he doesn't know what 'enormity' means. He reached depths of oratorical drivel never even plumbed by our own Mr Blair, burbling about putting our hands on the arc of history (or was it the ark of history?) and bending it once more toward the hope of a better day (Don't try this at home).
I am not making this up. No wonder that awful old hack Jesse Jackson sobbed as he watched. How he must wish he, too, could get away with this sort of stuff.
And it was interesting how the President-elect failed to lift his admiring audience by repeated - but rather hesitant - invocations of the brainless slogan he was forced by his minders to adopt against his will - 'Yes, we can'. They were supposed to thunder 'Yes, we can!' back at him, but they just wouldn't join in. No wonder. Yes we can what exactly? Go home and keep a close eye on the tax rate, is my advice. He'd have been better off bursting into 'I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony' which contains roughly the same message and might have attracted some valuable commercial sponsorship.
Perhaps, being a Chicago crowd, they knew some of the things that 52.5 per cent of America prefers not to know. They know Obama is the obedient servant of one of the most squalid and unshakeable political machines in America. They know that one of his alarmingly close associates, a state-subsidized slum landlord called Tony Rezko, has been convicted on fraud and corruption charges.
They also know the US is just as segregated as it was before Martin Luther King - in schools, streets, neighborhoods, holidays, even in its TV-watching habits and its choice of fast-food joint. The difference is that it is now done by unspoken agreement rather than by law.
If Mr Obama's election had threatened any of that, his feel-good white supporters would have scuttled off and voted for John McCain, or practically anyone. But it doesn't. Mr Obama, thanks mainly to the now-departed grandmother he alternately praised as a saint and denounced as a racial bigot, has the huge advantages of an expensive private education. He did not have to grow up in the badlands of useless schools, shattered families and gangs which are the lot of so many young black men of his generation.
If the nonsensical claims made for this election were true, then every positive discrimination program aimed at helping black people into jobs they otherwise wouldn't get should be abandoned forthwith. Nothing of the kind will happen. On the contrary, there will probably be more of them.
And if those who voted for Obama were all proving their anti-racist nobility, that presumably means that those many millions who didn't vote for him were proving themselves to be hopeless bigots. This is obviously untrue.
I was in Washington DC the night of the election. America's beautiful capital has a sad secret. It is perhaps the most racially divided city in the world, with 15th Street - which runs due north from the White House - the unofficial frontier between black and white. But, like so much of America, it also now has a new division, and one which is in many ways much more important. I had attended an election-night party in a smart and liberal white area, but was staying the night less than a mile away on the edge of a suburb where Spanish is spoken as much as English, plus a smattering of tongues from such places as Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan.
As I walked, I crossed another of Washington's secret frontiers. There had been a few white people blowing car horns and shouting, as the result became clear. But among the Mexicans, Salvadorans and the other Third World nationalities, there was something like ecstasy.
They grasped the real significance of this moment. They knew it meant that America had finally switched sides in a global cultural war. Forget the Cold War, or even the Iraq War. The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world.
Suspicious of welfare addiction, feeble justice and high taxes, totally committed to preserving its own national sovereignty, unabashedly Christian in a world part secular and part Muslim, suspicious of the Great Global Warming panic, it was unique.
These strengths had been fading for some time, mainly due to poorly controlled mass immigration and to the march of political correctness. They had also been weakened by the failure of America's conservative party - the Republicans - to fight on the cultural and moral fronts.
They preferred to posture on the world stage. Scared of confronting Left-wing teachers and sexual revolutionaries at home, they could order soldiers to be brave on their behalf in far-off deserts. And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?
by Richard Baehr
Nov. 10, 2008
The State of the Republican Party
It is not a good sign when Party officials describe a loss of at least 6 Senate seats and 20 or more House seats and the presidency as not all that bad, given the circumstances this year. After the 2004 elections, the GOP held 55 Senate seats, 232 House seats, and the Presidency, won with a record 62 million votes cast for George Bush, with victories in 31 states. After the last few contested Senate and House races are decided in the next few weeks, the GOP will not hold the Presidency, and will hold 40-43 Senate seats and 175-179 House seats.
To say this is a sea change in 4 years, is to understate the shift that has occurred. If one looks back a bit further to 1992, the Republicans have won the popular vote in only one Presidential election in the last 5, (2004 by 2.4%), and combining the results for the 5 most recent elections, the Democrats have received almost 20 million more votes then the Republicans, a margin of almost 4%.
The House seats are now distributed between the Parties about where they were after the 1992 elections. The two Republican victories in the Presidential races in 2000 and 2004 were eked out with narrow wins in a few key states producing small Electoral College victories. The Democrats' three victories were far more decisive.
While it is true that the 2008 race would have been much closer in the Electoral College with a small percentage shift in the popular vote in Indiana, Florida and North Carolina, looking forward to 2012, the prospects for the GOP are daunting. Changes due to redistributing the 435 House seats after the 2010 census will likely add a few net Electoral College votes to GOP-friendly states (e.g. Texas, Florida, Arizona), but even if the GOP then won all the states they won in 2008, plus all those they lost by 6% or less in 2008 (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina), they would still fall short of the 270 Electoral College level needed for victory.
Does anyone think that Barack Obama will be easy to knock off in 2012? Even if a GOP candidate in that year decided to opt out of public financing for the general election in 2012, does anyone think he or she could match the fundraising level of Barack Obama? Does anyone think the demographic shifts in the country will soon become more favorable to the Republican Party? Does anyone think Obama's campaign team will do a lousy job in 2012 after what they accomplished this year?
And finally, it is possible, if not likely, that by 2011-2012, the economy will be headed up again, just in time for Obama's re-election campaign. Obama has been both lucky and good in his campaigns, and counting on luck deserting him in 2012, is a poor plan for victory. Some Republicans are counting on Obama becoming a failure as President, and then losing in 2012. But even if Obama struggles, the perception of how he is doing is certain to be better than occurred during the Bush Presidency. In fact, failure in the first two years, and perhaps the entire first term, will be blamed on the deep hole that Bush dug for the country.
To be sure, the 2008 election would have been a lot closer and McCain would have had a shot at victory, had the financial crisis come two months later. Had Obama not outspent McCain 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 in battleground states down the stretch, the race might have tipped to the GOP in a few states. But looking at the eventual outcome in the battleground states, it is hard to see how McCain would have won, even if the national numbers moved 7-8% in his direction. McCain might have needed a 3% popular vote margin to win the Electoral College, and then have had a good shot at Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
The Republican Party started to bleed in the 1990s when Bill Clinton successfully picked off many suburban white voters who had been traditional Republican voters, largely due to economic issues. He was able to do this because of the perception that the GOP was increasingly the Party of social conservatives, dominated by Southern legislators and voters. In essence, resistance to social conservatism trumped these voters' commitment to economic conservatism.
While the GOP had some success in 2000, 2002 and 2004 in getting some of these voters back, they deserted the party the last two elections. The Reagan big tent was always fragile, and the fissures have been out there now for quite a few elections. Can the GOP find a charismatic leader like an Obama to reunite the separate constituencies: national security conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives, all of whom are needed for victory? No one immediately springs to mind. Can the Party develop a consistent and appealing thematic message? Maybe, but the message will be lost without the national spokesperson/ leader.
The Palin Factor
Did Sarah Palin cause McCain's defeat? That is an easy one to answer. No she did not. Blame Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Fanny and Freddie, and a 30% market decline in two months for that. Might Palin have cost McCain some votes? I think this is likely, particularly among independents, and also among some Jewish voters, especially in Florida. But in no way was this decisive. Those who say Palin robbed McCain by taking away the experience issue, did not watch this election very closely. Experience counted for nothing when Hillary Clinton made that case against Obama and counted for nothing when McCain made the same case. Those who were concerned about McCain's age (and longevity, and hence his successor), were in most cases not going to vote for him anyway.
Palin was the victim of an immediate and unprecedented media assault from the left after her selection, and then during the campaign she took the heat from some holier-than-thou establishment conservatives who considered themselves her intellectual superior, and from some whisperers in the McCain campaign, looking for a scapegoat for the likely loss that occurred.
Some others in the McCain campaign were likely trying to eliminate Palin from contention in 2012. I think Palin showed much more dignity than her attackers, and an admirable stoicism. She also demonstrated that she has real appeal to many in the Party, and she was the only one to generate any real excitement this year. Does Palin have a future in national politics? Maybe, but she will need to broaden her appeal to succeed. She has some real political gifts, that even some on the left were honest enough to note .
Polls, Pumas And The Bradley Effect
PUMAs (pro-Hillary Democrats) did not materialize to deliver Pennsylvania to McCain as I had been assured would occur in several emails I received in the week before the election. The so-called Bradley effect (the hidden from pollsters anti-black vote) was non-existent. Nate Silver's model, and Mark Blumenthal, and the RCP averages did not lie; Obama was headed for victory after the financial collapse.
But I did learn something about a key indicator from this election: pay attention to the last Redskins home game before Election Day. Many are familiar with the theory that when an original NFL team wins the Super Bowl, the stock market climbs that year. OK, the Giants did their part in the Super Bowl, and the market is down near 40% for the year. Scratch that theory. But the Redskins model is now 17 for 17. If the Redskins win their last home game before the election, the party that won the popular vote in the last election will win the White House. If they lose that last home game, the party that lost the popular vote will win the election.
Monday night, I was, for the first time in ages, pulling for the Redskins. When they took a 6-3 lead over the Steelers, I had visions of Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado tipping to McCain the next day. But alas, the Skins went down to Pittsburgh 23-6, and McCain lost the following day. In reality, given the near certainty that McCain was going down the next day, the Presidential polls should have led the wise sports gambler to lay some heavy action on Pittsburgh -- both straight up and also taking the points. Since most of the last 17 President elections have not been that close (exceptions in 1948, 1960, 1968, 1976, 2000 and 2004), the poll numbers for the Presidency may be most useful as a guide on how to bet on the Redskins last home game before the election.
Richard Baehr is the chief political correspondent of American Thinker.
by Rod Dreher
November 10, 2008
And so, with a resounding, bone-rattling crash, the conservative era ends. Now the scattered and demoralized armies of the right will turn on each other with such ferocity it will make the brutal opening scene of Gladiator look like a slap fight at a slumber party. It's about to get mercenary in the woodshed.
Who lost conservatism? The first instinct among shell-shocked and infuriated partisans will be to blame anybody but their own faction for this historical repudiation. Look to the talk-radio mob to set upon conservative elites who failed to stay loyally on side, especially in the matter of Sarah Palin's candidacy. This will do nobody any good and will delay the necessary repentance, rethinking and rebuilding.
The right has developed a vicious habit of tagging any dissenting conservative as a closet liberal. This folly has constructed an airtight bubble around the GOP and conservative leaders, not only depriving conservatism of constructive criticism from within its ranks, but also reinforcing the rank-and-file's worst instincts. If the election results didn't convince Republicans that they couldn't afford to throw people out - especially their intellectuals and people who respect intellect - then their ignorance is invincible.
This election ought to once and for all teach conservatives that Ronald Reagan is dead, and he's not coming back. The intellectual poverty of the GOP primary debates showed itself by the candidates' ritualistic invocation of Mr. Reagan's name, as if saying it often enough would compensate for the lack of new ideas among the sorry bunch.
Mr. Reagan and his popular brand of conservatism arose out of a particular set of historical circumstances - specifically, the challenge of Soviet communism abroad and welfare-statism at home. It's a new day with new challenges, and the intellectually exhausted right is not up to meeting them.
Conservatives must return to the philosophical sources of our tradition and reinterpret its insights and truths for the world we live in now. Ideas really do have consequences - as, obviously, does the lack of same. Yes, conservatives have to oppose the Obama Democrats when they overreach, but if the only response conservatives offer is defensive and obstreperous, they will not soon recover.
Conservatives will go nowhere until the right owns up to the failures of the Bush years. They were chiefly a failure of competence and a corruption of professed ideals. They were also a failure of ideology. In particular:
The good news is that Mr. Obama may be a liberal, but he did not campaign as one and is too smart to govern as one. America remains largely a center-right country, which means there are opportunities for new iterations of conservatism. All eyes should be on Louisiana's brilliant young governor, Bobby Jindal, as the one national Republican left standing who can shore up the fragments against conservatism's present ruin - and possibly reverse the tide.
- The idea that the American military is an omnipotent tool for spreading liberal democracy died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The right's romanticization of militarism, and its crusading pieties about the universality of democratic values, are done.
- The dogmatic conviction that the globalized free market is capable of regulating itself for the greater good of society is a spectacularly costly shibboleth, as even Alan Greenspan, the high priest of this religion, confessed recently.
- The GOP's knee-jerk hostility to environmental concerns is not only a betrayal of conservative tradition but also costs Republicans credibility with young voters. Similarly, though it's tough for social conservatives like me to admit it, we've lost the gay marriage battle, especially among the young. We're going to have to come to some sort of accommodation with it to protect religious liberty.
Out of loss, new victories can arise. Modern American conservatism began with the crushing defeat of Arizona's Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race. That laid the groundwork for an emerging conservative movement, one that would not fully arrive until the Reagan presidency set the political agenda for nearly 30 years.
It is poetic, even poignant, that conservatism ended its remarkable run with the failed 2008 presidential effort of the Arizona senator who succeeded Mr. Goldwater. It took 16 years to get from Mr. Goldwater to Mr. Reagan.
The duration of conservatism's exile from power depends on how long its civil war lasts - and who wins it.
Rod Dreher is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist.