It’s not about the base, stupid! UPDATED: @ahmalcolm: It wasn’t the turnout, period.
First thing this morning, I shared an article about the presidential election results. Right away, I got backlash– from friends. It seems like a perfectly decent analysis to me. Alright, it’s from the WSJ. Fine. But it provided a first glimmer of hope for me in the stygian night.
But now I know: the few hours after a big loss like this are dicey. Optimistic noises aren’t welcomed. These conservative friends proceeded to savage my post. They contended that, in my youth and inexperience, I was missing the fact that we’ll never be able to swing the electorate back to our side. Obamacare will keep them coming to the Democrat trough. Obama will appoint new, liberal SCOTUS judges. And our moderate GOP leaders will continue to stand idly by as it happens.
Others today have argued that we just needed to get more conservatives to the polls. The base wasn’t energized by moderate Romney, they say.
Well, if they weren’t energized, then who rallied to Mourdock’s and Cruz’s side in the primaries, who waited in long lines at Chick-fil-a? Who helped Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker overcome the unions’ recall effort?
Last July, I watched as people flocked to see Ryan at his alma mater Miami of Ohio. Just days earlier, he had been announced as Romney’s running mate. And why else would 30k-plus brave the chill, autumn conditions in West Chester, OH, the Friday before the election to see a coalition of national conservative leaders rally around this ticket?
The base was with us. Where we lost was in thinking that that was enough. Many others– even in red county Ohio– aren’t with us.
As a member of the Americans For Prosperity-Ohio door knocking team, I helped reach out to hundreds of people in Butler County (and neighboring counties). When you knock on door after door in blue-collar, low-income areas like Middletown, South Lebanon and parts of Hamilton, you hear and see what a phone call can’t gauge. When you look a person in the eye and ask them about the economy, that’s when you can get what they really think.
What was that? Either they were not engaged in politics at all, or they struggled to put together a cogent sentence along the lines of “the economy hasn’t been great, but Obama had helped it a little bit”. A small group, though, said things that were borne out by last night’s results. You’d swear you opened the door to find David Axelrod or Stephanie Cutter standing there. The answer was sometimes word for word from an anti-Romney ad. Romney and Bain laid off those casket company employees. He’s arrogant. One woman told me that she was afraid of Romney being elected– the tax increase attack.
So, would a few more Republicans getting out to vote have been helpful? Yes, of course. But it’s a stretch to say that that’s the reason we lost. Something else entirely caused this. It’s a hurdle we’re going to have to figure out how to navigate– and quickly.
EDIT.1: There’s also this to consider.
Mike Flynn from Breitbart News:
Andrew always pointed out that politics was far downstream from media and pop culture. By ceding the media and pop culture space, conservatives were always at an extreme disadvantage whenever a specific political debate arose. They could occasionally win certain battles, but they would always be fighting against extreme headwinds. Last night was a brutal reminder that Andrew was right.
There’s also this compelling argument (with numbers, for the nerds) to counteract the CW that voter turnout was way down from ’08.