Never give in. Never never never.
“In la sua volontade e nostra pace.”
Gallup and Rasmussen were showing levels of Republican identification never before seen since polling began.
Romney was leading with independents in most polls, in many by double-digits.
Turnout was up in red counties and down in blue.
Early voting was up for the GOP over 2008 and down for the Democrats.
Romney was drawing huge, adoring crowds; Obama couldn’t fill a stadium.
Election gurus like Barone and Rove were predicting over 300 EVs.
Not to mention the fact that we’re languishing in the worst “recovery” since the Depression, under the worst president since Carter, subjected at his hands to legislation that majorities hate, and to one of the meanest, most negative campaigns in memory . . .
And yet, America voted for more.
Like most conservatives, libertarians, and lovers of basic human rights, I am gobsmacked by what happened last night. The exit polls and detailed analysis that will now be done may give us a clearer picture, but I must confess, I was surprised. I went to sleep wondering how the results could possibly make sense. Even with the power of incumbency. Even with the protection of the mainstream media that Obama, like all Democrats, enjoys in disproportionate measure. With these thoughts dancing in my head—not at all like sugarplums—I only managed three hours’ sleep. The questions beating in my head were too great, and too loud, to remain in slumber.
Yes, there was a mix of polling showing conflicting things. On the one side were massive surveys of tens of thousands of people by Gallup and Rasmussen showing historic Republican identification advantages. On the other side were polls, with much smaller samples, that seemed to be overestimating Democrat turnout . . . but which, as it appears, may have been closer to the mark. We will soon know more.
That being said, as shocking as last night’s results are to many of us, they are not without precedent . . .
In 1936, the American people, beaten and terrified by the Depression, reelected Franklin Roosevelt. In every meaningful economic way, Roosevelt’s policies were well into the process of turning what would have been a bad recession into a decade-long economic morass. He didn’t break from the policies that helped cause the collapse, he doubled-down on them. Everything he did prolonged the misery, and yet he somehow managed to convince people that he was leading them out of the darkness.
Obama’s election last night was no mandate—he continues now to preside over a divided Congress and a deeply divided nation. But the parallels with 1936 are strong. The American people have chosen to stay the course with the person who, though most of them do not know it, is prolonging their suffering. That, of course, will sound like sour grapes, especially to those who are celebrating Obama’s victory, but I stand by the statement on its economic merits. There is no real evidence, outside of Paul Krugman’s fevered contortions, that Keynesianism actually works in the real world. There is ample evidence that more economic freedom produces more prosperity and less economic freedom produces less. Less economic freedom means lower standards of living, lower life expectancies, and less personal freedom. There are actual numbers to support this, taken from the actual experiences of actual nations over the last 100 years. We have a record to look back on. We have the example of the hard tyrannies, who failed so spectacularly in the last century. We have the example of nations like Greece, who pursue the same kind of entitlement-state quasi-capitalism that we do here, and who are just a few miles further down the road to failure than we are—showing us where we too will be, soon enough. In a very meaningful way, America chose poorly last night.
But America chose what she chose. So what now? What happens on the political and economic right, among the conservative and libertarian movement(s), writ large?
The next few weeks are going to be ugly. The normal pattern now is for all of us to develop our own ideas for what happened, why we failed, whose fault it is, and how to fix it.
- Some will blame the Romney campaign. Some will turn their anger directly at Romney himself.
- Some will blame the Republican establishment for being too “establishment,” and for foisting bad candidates upon us.
- Some will blame the tea party and others for dragging us too far away from the center.
- Some conservatives will blame libertarians for not joining us, or blame Gary Johnson for pulling away needed votes in close states.
- Some libertarians will blame Republicans for treating Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, and the libertarian movement poorly, and for being little more than statism-lite and the “lesser of two evils.”
- Social conservatives will say we failed to be sufficiently attentive to social issues. Others will insist that the exact opposite is so—that the nation is moving away from social conservatism, and that the GOP risks being tethered to a rock that is slowly being submerged.
- Some will look at the changing demographics of the United States and predict doom, perhaps prescribing radical changes to our platform and beliefs in order to attract new voters.
- Some will insist that we must pursue Benghazi and Fast & Furious, all the way to impeachment if we have to. Others will point out the backfire potential created by Obama’s teflon and his relentless media shield, and warn that we risk losing everything by appearing bitterly partisan.
You can count me among those who call for solidarity. We must resist this pattern to the best of our ability. Yes, we’ll have some things to figure out. But falling upon each other like angered wolves is not the way to go.
Romney and Ryan ran a good campaign. Romney was not the first choice of many, but I believe that, had he been elected, he would have made a good president, and would have surprised many conservatives by how well he did. He and Paul Ryan ran as hard as they could. And they are both decent men who do not deserve to be savaged by us, or by anyone.
The “establishment” didn’t foist Romney upon us; he won more votes in the primaries. If you want to be angry that Romney was the candidate, then work with the GOP to close the primary system. Open primaries are more likely to bring us more moderate candidates. But we should not criticize the GOP for something it did not do. Romney won in a voting process, selected by millions. He was not pushed on us by anyone.
The tea party does not deserve criticism or blame. They are a spontaneous, organic, libertarian-conservative movement that is fighting for human freedom in ways we have only seen a few times in our political history. They are fighting for exactly the right things, and contrary to their portrayal by many of America’s elite opinion-makers, they are doing it with a great deal of decency and aplomb. Where they stumble may be in occasionally backing candidates who are ideologically solid but who, for various reasons, cannot win. (Even in a wave election, Christine O’Donnell was never going to win in such a deep-blue state.) But these are tactical failings. The movement itself is one of the best things to happen to America in a long time.
The conflict between libertarians and conservatives is a deeply complex one, and one that we are going to need to solve if we are to have viability long-term. This is a huge subject for another time, but we must begin to address it. We need to kindle a modern fusionism, but the obstacles are great indeed. Conservatives and libertarians overlap on the vast majority of our ideological spectrum, and we share the same ideological provenance. It is essential that we work together. The results of this election will cause more acrimony between these two sister movements in the short term, but exigent circumstances may soon unite us in common purpose. That unity of purpose is a goal that both sides must pursue, with or without those exigent circumstances. Yes, Republicans should have treated Gary Johnson and Ron Paul better. And yes, we see once again the utter pointlessness of third-party efforts in the United States. Both sides are right about both of these claims. But if the right remains divided, in spite of our shared love of liberty, and the left unites and defeats us, and foists more statism upon us, it won’t much matter who was right.
The social issues, and where we should go with those; the changing demographics of the United States; and myriad other questions of policy and ideology will vex us for some time to come. We will have some division and discord for a while. But it must not last for too long, for one thing is clear, above all else:
The real threat is not among our ranks at all. The real threat is statism, in all its forms. The real threat is from the left, from an ideology that will place one order of men into bondage to another, and tell us that we are evil for opposing that bondage. The real threat is found in our collective discovery, now beyond all doubt, that a free press does not mean an honest press. That we have leaders charged with leading fairly, and journalists charged with bringing us truth, who have abrogated those duties. That 100 years of statism now has us teetering on the brink of an economic morass deeper than any we’ve seen . . . and that a majority of people, mostly out of ignorance of these deeper truths, have chosen a path that will hasten our arrival at the edge of that morass. Whatever our personal opinions are about our intra-movement squabbles, our failings, and the best path for us to take, those opinions pale in comparison to the real challenge, and the real threat.
Last night was deeply demoralizing. How could America choose this course? Many of us are in shock. Many are simply exhausted. Needless to say, some will need time to recover. But we must not take too long, and we must not give in to squabbling. There is work to be done, and we need to do it. Every generation has been called upon to defend liberty in some way or other. That call did not cease with last night’s election—it got louder. It is now a klaxon that should ring in each of our ears, uniting us in common purpose for liberty and against statism.
And we should never forget . . . previous generations have faced far worse than this . . .
Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including AnyStreet.org (now a part of Western Free Press) and Liberatchik.com. He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to WesternFreePress.com.