So Republicans got whipped like the team in Little League that lets every kid play. They got beat in the House, they got beat in the Senate, they got beat in the White House, and they got beat in many states, counties, and cities. Over the next couple of months, many conservatives and liberals will propose reasons why they "permanent Republican majority" lost. Here are some truths and myths:
Myth #1: This represents a rejection of conservatism
To be fair to the country, no one to the right of Arianna Huffington will assert this, but you will hear it from time to time. This is absolutely, 100% incorrect. The United States, which just elected a real Progressive for President, is overwhelmingly Conservative. According to the Battleground Poll, conservatives outnumber liberals 60%-36%. People who consider themselves very conservative outnumber those who consider themselves way left of center 20%-9%. Ronald Reagan was in the middle of America. Bill Clinton and George Bush were left of center. Obama is on the fringe.
Myth #2: Sarah Palin cost McCain the election
This will be brought out by many of the moderates in the Republican Party, and the vestigial Nixon-Rockefeller wing. They slam it as a rejection of Western, Conservative, individual liberty Republicans, when McCain should have picked a Northeastern middle-of-the-road, business-first, not so mean Republican (or independent). Sarah Palin motivated Republicans and was worth between 8 and 10 points to the John McCain campaign. Had he made a boring pick or a liberal pick, Obama would have a mandate, and many Southern states with large black populations would have went blue. If Tom Ridge won McCain Pennsylvania and lost him Georgia and Mississippi, I don't know if anyone would have thought it was worth it.
Myth #3: This represents a fundamental change in the election map
See 1992, 1996 for how wrong this is. Virginia might have too many bureaucrats to go Red again, but the rest of the switched states switched because of the historical nature of the Obama campaign and the distaste for Republicans. It won't last. If Obama pushes all of his economic plans through, in 4 years, New York might be a swing state.
Truth #1: This represents a failure of Rove-ian politics
This couldn't be more true. Personal attacks don't work. Nothing personal McCain tried to pin Obama with stuck, and they made McCain look desperate. They didn't even work for Bush. I know he won, but the strategy almost cost him both elections. As a popular campaigner who connected well, he almost lost to an unpopular Bill Clinton's Vice President. Any idiot could have beaten the empty suit John Kerry. He really was the Democrats' Bob Dole. And I couldn't be happier. It's time for a higher level of political conversation in this country.
Truth #2: This represents a rejection of Bush policies
Were I an outsider, I'd think that it's a little funny, because everything the public hates about Bush, Obama promises more. After the miserable failure of No Child Left Behind, Obama's promising more government involvement in schools. After the miserable failure of Medicare Part D, Obama is promising more government healthcare. After the long and difficult Iraq War, Obama is promising more interventionism, in Darfur and Waziristan. The neoconservatives and modern Progressives are both Troskyites. In fact, the first neoconservatives were just progressives who recognized the unpopular nature of their policies in practice and became slightly more Fabian on social issues.
I'm not an outsider, and I worry for my country.
Unknown: This represents a rejection of Social Conservatism
This is probably not true, but it's worth talking about. Really, since Bush took office, the conservatives haven't had a seat at the table. Republican policies were a mixture of mostly neoconservativism with a little bit of the Moral Majority's issues thrown in. What is now called social conservatism was especially offensive to the old Rockefeller Republicans, and Goldwater was also against it. However, I don't think it's gone. California and several other states outlawed gay marriage, and Republicans in the Bible Belt generally did well. It is possible that the social conservatives that lost did so because they were too closely attached to the neoconservatives. This remains to be seen.
Republicans will do well to re-evaluate themselves. There needs to be a self-evaluation. They have to offer policies that distinguish themselves. Big government Republicanism is not only destructive to the country, it is also a losing formula. The fact is that when Democrats try to run the country through Washington, they can do it more efficiently and more fairly than Republicans. They're just better at big government. Republicans must relearn conservatism. It won't be easy, but it is necessary. A quote from Barry Goldwater could help: "I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is 'needed' before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents 'interests,' I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can."
God Save the Republic!
Update: Interesting article from Scott Rasmussen.