Friday, November 9, 2012

Aftermath 3: The Lessons

After a substantial political loss there is always some soul-searching on the losing side and as 2012 is the most bitter GOP defeat in living memory there will be some serious self-reflection as to what went wrong. Okay--but let's be real: that "serious" part may need to be put in scare quotes. Let's look at the "lessons" that are coming out now about the losses.

1. You Can't Compete With Free Stuff
Commentators in the political blogs are quick to point out that if one side is offering free things (phones, money, etc.) there's just no way to compete! The Republic is doomed. Take one of a billion examples:
Sorry Gabe, you're wrong. We lost partly because the DemocRAT party lies, but mostly because people want free stuff and refuse to think about the bill. Look at credit card usage in society. Look at student debt. People are just looking for freebies and Obama promised a bunch.
Lesson: Democrats will win because Republicans are responsible.

Projected Action: Curl up into ball, await apocalypse.

Analysis: Never mind that Obama won 8 of the 10 richest counties and the wealth map lines up fairly closely to the Obama Map:

Basically it looks like a big portion of the Obama voting bloc was either (a) Latino (see the clusters in south Texas and all over New Mexico) and (b) wealthy areas and (c) cities. Unless you want to make the case that wealthy areas are all full of Takers this doesn't make any sense.

2. We Ran A 20th Century Campaign in the 21st Century
In this analysis the GOP lost not because of their message but because of their organization. Basically Romney got fewer votes than McCain and despite a fairly dismal four years Obama kept his "fluke" 2012 turn-out (D+6) numbers. This all came down to organization. The good news: we can re-organize. The bad news: If we don't do it quick we're gonna lose again!

From HotAir:
It pains me to say all that because I don’t want to scapegoat Romney. He’s a good man. There were, as I said, powerful demographic forces here that he was up against. Obama may well have run the best campaign organization ever assembled, and it’s hard to knock off an incumbent even in the best of times. I have no doubt that Romney’s ground game was stronger than any other GOP primary candidate’s ground game would have been. But that’s part of what makes this election result terrifying — the best manager in our presidential field got completely outmanaged. It’s hard enough to win when you’re at a disadvantage among registered voters, but when your guys can’t even keep pace organizationally with the opposition, you’re basically throwing elections away. Can’t anyone here play this game?
Lesson: Nothing wrong with the message, candidate, or base--just get better people in place.

Projected Action: Kidnap and brainwash David Axelrod, pirate Obama's software, hire nerds.

Analysis: This is at least fact-based. Romney did get out-organized, out efficiencied, and out maneuvered. From the Oct 31 Pew survey:
However, Obama voters in the battleground states are more likely than Romney voters to say that they have received emails or text messages about the campaign (43% vs. 30%) or have been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign (25% vs. 14%).
In addition, it appears that Romney was genuinely shocked by the election results. If that's true his people--presumably best of breed (and at double the salaries of Team Obama, it appears, as a whole) were making the same mistakes Fox News did.

Whatever the case with the message or demographic destiny, this theory holds definite water. The Republicans will have to re-tool their election machine for the next election.

3. Women, Latinos, And The Young--Don't We Gotta Do Something?
Looking at exit polling it appears that women, Latinos, and under-30 voters made up the Obama coalition. Given that Romney favored self-deportation in the primaries, that Romney got hit over the head with his end-Planned-Parenthood stance, and that the GOP isn't especially gay-friendly (which the young tend to vote in favor of) does something need to be done? How about amnesty!?
For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.
Lesson: Maybe these guys do vote after all--we should amend our policies to stop pissing them off.

Projected Action: Amnesty in return for full boarder enforcement. Kick out anyone who makes a rape-gaffe ... instantly. Run Rubio: he's hip.

Analysis: It can't be a bad idea to reach out to more minorities and young people.The question is going to be one of branding. The GOP is certainly the old-white-guy brand (I speak as, more or less, an old white guy ... middle aged at least). Rubio may already be running.The question will be: does the base allow a young, hip candidate to win the primaries? If so then, yes: there is a good shot at reversal of fortune here. If not ... then what?

4. Let's See How They Do Without A Black Candidate Next Time!
Cynical, yet canny is the observation that African Americans turned out in force for Obama. Would they do that for Hillary? For Biden? What if it was a black guy on the R-Side (Cain?)? In this view the party just has to wait four years and then run a Real Republican.
The coalition that turned out Election night 2012 to re-elect Barack Obama is Barack Obama’s coalition. It is not Joe Biden’s coalition. It is not the Democrats’ coalition. It turned out to elect Barack Obama in 2008. It did not, despite his pleas, turn out in 2010. It will not turn out in 2014. In 2016, Joe Biden, despite his claims now, is going to be 74 and too old to make a good attempt at the Presidency. If, for some reason, he leaves office sooner than that, the Democrats are going to tear each other apart to fill the seat or the President will pick a care taker.
Lesson: It was all racial politics.

Projected Action: Run Santorum.

Analysis: If you think Obama won't be Clintoning around the country in 2016 for whoever wins the nomination (assuming he's not disgraced) think again. If you think he can't turn out his base ... well, for 2014 you may be right. Consider that Obama did not get involved in the 2010 races as an active surrogate for various parties (which he could not as the sitting president--and will not be able to again in 2014) but the machine might still work--just less well. Also consider: this kind of thinking led "everyone" to conclude that 2008 numbers were a one-time fluke. I didn't think we'd see D+6 either--but we did. So I wouldn't count on this too heavily.

But there's a kernel of truth here: Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate. That isn't to say there won't be other historic candidates in the near future (first woman president? Sure.) But Obama will still and always be the first black president (half-black? you miss the point) and he has charisma no matter how much you dislike him personally. If the Democrats can manufacture people like that they'll continue to win like that--otherwise, expect 2016 to be a lot tougher than 2008 for the Donks.

Then again, Latinos are a growing segment. While they are socially conservative as a whole, if you treat them like dirt they have looooong memories.

What Do I Think?
I think that the Republican party needs to be re-tooled. It needs new leadership, better infrastructure, and a good dose of reality (Romney, a numbers guy and pragmatic manager should not have been surprised by the Obama machine). It sounds like a dirty word right now but if I were running the show I would be looking for some compromises on immigration that my base could stomach--and if they can't stomach anything? Then, well, Whig.

Unlike Erick Erickson, I wouldn't just bet against the Democrats again. For 2014? Yes--but without Obamacare being rammed through to mobilize the base and get old people out in force I'm not sure the wave is set to rise again for the GOP either. If things do improve economically then 2016 could be pretty damn tough even without Obama.

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