Just like all of the people that call themselves conservatives or those that identify with the Republican Party, I was very disturbed by the outcome of the election earlier this month. Election Day was very difficult. First, Obama won Ohio which sealed his re-election. After that, I woke up to the news that an exciting, young, energetic Mia Love was defeated in Congress and Allen West was in major trouble in Florida (he would eventually concede).
Pundits on the left and right filled the airwaves with their thoughts on why the GOP lost the way they did with the Obama White House presiding over a lethargic economic recovery. Mitt Romney was not conservative enough … women were scared away from the GOP … minority outreach was hopelessly lacking in the RNC agenda. I took opportunities to give my thoughts in some places, but I also took some time to just listen to the discussions to get a wider perspective.
I offer two critical observations from the election. First, we have Mitt Romney’s post-election comments that sparked so much controversy. Romney blamed Obama’s garnering of so many votes from the young, women and minorities on their desire to get free stuff. Volumes of commentary have been written explaining the factual flaws in Romney’s words, so I will not cover that here. In focusing on the African-American community, I will say that a figure much smaller than 100% of the African-Americans that voted for Obama voted for him because they wanted free stuff. Similarly, a small percentage of African-Americans would vote against giving those that need support from the government to vote for someone that dismisses all votes against him as a quest for freebies. I do not wish to point out that the GOP needs to purge irresponsible generalities from its vernacular; there is plenty of commentary about that. I prefer to talk about what outreach means. While not every African American needs government to survive, the GOP must answer the question of how those people who are in need would survive if programs are to be cut. Unlike when Mitt Romney fumbled over his poor and safety net comments, the GOP has to make it clear that 1) conservatives want to lead in empowering those that are in need to move from consuming tax dollars to producing them, 2) conservatives believe that most African-Americans that are in need do not want to be and 3) the “big 3” – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – will bankrupt the nation and the insolvency of those programs will affect those that are in need worse and sooner. There is a myth that all who vote Democrat are dependent on government in some form and are willingly dependent; this myth must be eliminated from any GOP approach to outreach. If the GOP is to truly attempt outreach, there has to be a dialogue to understand what the true needs of minority communities are, not just “hip hop” a message that does not address the needs of those communities. We have to discuss how people with no healthcare will get care. We must discuss how truly educating kids – not worrying about saving school administrations – will lead to ending generational legacies of government dependence. Conservatism holds the answer to prosperity for all communities. The key need is someone with the commitment and eloquence to express this vision without giving in to so many negative stereotypes.
Another critical observation is more general. It is around the entire 2012 Election process. It was very troubling to see the relatively small amount of attention paid to critical issues during the election. If you were excited about Obama’s victory because you are dedicated Democrats or you hate Romney and Republicans, consider why you voted. Did you vote for a comprehensive fixing of our education system, considering your President has come out against No Child Left Behind? That’s troubling since no detailed plan was broadcast to replace NCLB. Did you vote for fiscal reform that would lead to a balanced budget during Obama’s second term? That’s troubling since no plan presented by the campaign balanced the budget during Obama’s second term. Did you vote for someone that explained why the stimulus did not work as intended? Did that candidate then show you either how those shortcomings would be fixed or how another approach would be utilized for economic recovery in Obama’s second term? That’s troubling – all the Obama campaign offered was that the GOP played obstructionist in Obama’s first term. While making Obama a victim may work for sympathy points, it does not reveal a plan to fix our economic problems. Just less than half the country voted for Romney – the GOP still has some power. What specific efforts will be given towards bipartisanship? Are all Republicans going to be rounded up and shot? While that may be tempting to some Democrats, it is not feasible.
What haunted me about this election was that we spent too little time challenging specific plans and visions from either candidate. After considering all that happened, I remain convinced that conservatism holds the answers despite the missteps along the way. I can live with the majority of the country looking at the evidence presented by each campaign and coming to another conclusion. I am haunted by the idea that the country did not get to consider such evidence when making their decisions. The war on women, Romney’s misstatements fostered by underlying stereotypes, and the inability of the media to avoid salaciousness and discuss substantive issues (consider the amount of time spent regurgitating polls versus time spent discussing education plans) lead me to believe conservatism did not get a fair shot with the young, minorities and women; these are the groups that decided the election. I am convinced that Mitt Romney lost this election more so than Obama won it, but there is still a lot of work to do on the conservative side anyway.