Explaining the Romney Debacle

Exploring the reasons offered for Romney’s defeat — while citing relevant words from two recent books by Gelernter and Crowley that essentially predicted it

Conservatives are stunned by the outcome of the just concluded presidential election. They had rationalized Obama’s 2008 victory as an understandable aberration by the American people. Weary of the deleterious effects of the Bush presidency (two inconclusive wars, profligate government spending, the confusing message of a supposedly conservative administration advancing big government programs and, of course, a dangerous economic meltdown); smitten by the purportedly optimistic, post-partisan, unifying message of a largely unknown and untested neophyte – aided and abetted by an adoring media; and anxious to allay once and for all its heartfelt guilt over American slavery; the people understandably engaged in a risky, indeed somewhat reckless act of installing the least qualified individual ever to occupy the Oval Office.

But after four years of: shrill partisan posturing; failed Keynesian policies that prolonged the economic crisis; weak-kneed foreign policy that heralded a sharp decline in American prestige and power; a massive expansion in the Federal debt and deficit that threatens our children and grandchildren’s prosperity; and a draconian explosion in federal regulations (including Obamacare) that are crippling American business – after all that, surely the American people would recognize the folly of their decision to entrust the presidency to an amateur, pseudo-socialist. Surely they would rectify the mistake.

Wrong! America doubled down on the wretched hand that it dealt itself in 2008.

And so the soul searching has begun. How could this happen? What is the cause? Here are the most commonly offered ‘after the fact’ explanations:

  • Demographics. The size of the groups who support the president’s leftist policies – namely, blacks, Hispanics, single women and young voters – has reached a point wherein they constitute a natural majority. This tilt will only intensify in the future.
  • Schism. The split in the Republican Party between TEA Party conservatives and more moderate establishment types depresses Republican voter turnout and, until it is resolved, it will fatally cripple Republican presidential possibilities.
  • Ground Game. The Democrats are doing a much better job of energizing their base and getting it to the polls – both in early voting and on election day.
  • Cultural Shift. The character of the American people has fundamentally changed. No longer are we the heirs of the founding generation. We have become more like our European cousins. In short, we no longer subscribe to the Founders’ principles, to wit: liberty is paramount, above equality; government should be limited, its influence superseded by that of individuals, families and communities; markets should be free, government only enforces the rules of play, it does not interfere in the game, that is, in the commerce of the people; democracy only works when it is grounded in the moral guidelines of a religious people, not because of any abstract belief in the ‘goodness of man’; and America is exceptional, a beacon of freedom to all mankind. We have reached the point wherein more than half the population believes in the precise opposite of the above five principles.

In fact, the last explanation – Cultural Shift – is decidedly not ‘after the fact.’ Furthermore, while the first three reasons all have substantial merit, I believe it is the last that is the most telling. This is because, difficult as it might be, each of the first three ‘excuses’ could be overcome. First, the demographics don’t lie. But as many have pointed out, the Hispanic and black communities are inherently conservative and with the right approach, Republicans might be able to wean them from their hypnotic obeisance to the siren call of the Left. Next, the Democratic Party has been completely captured by its left wing. What is to say that conservatives can’t take an equally firm grip on the Republican Party? Third, improving a ground game is merely a technical/logistical matter.

In the same vein, one might assert that America has had religious revivals before. Why not another that would shift the cultural foundation back to its traditional moorings? Indeed the likelihood of that is minuscule compared to the possibility of a reversal in any of the other three explanations. In fact, many cultural conservatives believe that we have already experienced an actual cultural/social collapse from which it is probably impossible to recover. Furthermore, to return to the thought at the beginning of the previous paragraph, this explanation for Romney’s defeat was not really discovered only after the election. Many conservatives had been exploring this idea in various venues – well before the election. Two excellent examples of such Cassandra-like warnings can be found in America Lite by David Gelernter and What the (Bleep) Just Happened by Monica Crowley. Both are extremely well written and well researched books. Gelernter focuses primarily on the state of higher education and the role it has played in the transformation of American society. Crowley, on the other hand, while she connects the dots to past administrations, focuses her attention largely on the Obama years and how it represents the culmination of a century-long process by which the progressive movement has subverted traditional American society.

Here are some relevant quotes from the two works. The reader may ponder, based on these trenchant observations, whether there is any hope for a preservation of America in its traditional incarnation.

Gelernter. The quality and content of the education provided is a clear indication of the quality and tendency of the democracy that provides it,” wrote Lionel Trilling in 1952. A famous report called “A Nation at Risk,” in 1983, put the nation on notice that its schools were failing. In 1987, Alan Bloom’s widely read The Closing of the American Mind told Americans that their elite colleges were grossly politicized. The facts of educational decay were intolerable and all around us, like a mountainous garbage dump across the street on a hot day, with thousands of cawing crows spiraling cynically overhead and the stench of rot invading every last cubic inch. It took a powerful act of will to ignore the state of our schools, but we summoned up the will and we did it. And are still doing it.

Those famous reports of the 1980s, and others like them, described changes that had already happened. The big change in U.S. education happened mainly during the 1970s; it was widely and reliably reported in the 1980s—and has been largely ignored ever since. For roughly thirty years we have been aware of massive, portentous changes in how we educate our youth—and we have shrugged them off. And things have only got worse. American students learn little or no history or literature or civics. “Only a third of Americans can name the three branches of government,” noted the former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “But 75 percent of kids can tell you American Idol judges.” We wince and move on.

So long as the educators are left-wing, the rest of the country could be 98 percent conservative and it wouldn’t matter. The left-lib blot will spread; nothing can stop it. If the educators are left-wing, the nation must fill up inexorably with graduates who are left-wing, just like their teachers.

During the 1970s, many left-wing teachers taught their political beliefs — the message of America’s own cultural revolution — to their students. Those students were the leading edge of the Airhead Army. Among this leading edge, some graduated to become teachers themselves. They handed the message on to their students. Every year saw a new group of students emerge for whom the message of the revolution seemed less like radical left-wing politics and more like simple truth. In modern America, the left gets its way not by convincing people but by indoctrinating their children.

Crowley. We’ve had all kinds in the presidency, but Obama represents a first. All previous presidents had guiding political philosophies, which they all bent—to some degree or another—when it became too difficult politically to stick to them or when the American people resoundingly rejected what they were doing. Some of them pressed on anyway, but all of them at least acknowledged the American people and registered their discontent. All previous presidents had at least some degree of responsiveness to the people they led. Not Obama. This president is driven by such a devout and fervent ideology that nothing—not big majorities of the American people, not the Constitution—can stop him. We’ve seen other transformative presidents—Lincoln, FDR, Reagan—but none of them attempted to transform the nation into something wholly unrecognizable as America—until this one.

This was the essence of Obama’s Declaration of Dependence. Instead of treating them [government programs] as temporary helping hands to only those in need, the redistributionists saw the programs as gleaming opportunities for the massive expansion of government power as well as leverage to build a permanent Democratic majority. If they could maneuver the programs into ever-growing entities that covered ever-growing numbers of people, those same people would become ever dependent on government and, therefore, ever grateful to the party and ideology that made that assistance available to them.

The redistributionists have always kept their eyes on the prize. They have played the long game. And they have carefully cloaked another truth: since the balance between government power and liberty is zero-sum, the more power the government amasses, the less liberty there is for the individual. Their massive spending is deliberate: it is a coldly calculated move to destroy the fiscal health of the country in order to justify a constantly metastasizing state. It’s like the classic 1958 horror/sci-fi flick The Blob. The Blob starts out as a tiny jellylike substance. But it quickly grows and grows, until its mass is enormous and completely uncontrollable, consuming everything in its path of destruction.”

We blindly and willingly gave the keys to the kingdom to a stranger who then blindfolded us and took us on a socialist joyride. What a long, strange trip it’s been—and not in the good Grateful Dead way. As all of the Obama weirdness and destruction unfolded, most Americans began to feel like the coed at the frat party who drinks too much wine out of a box, goes home with the guy she thinks is Ryan Reynolds, only to wake up instead with the Situation. But unlike our fictional coed, in our drunken political stupor we actually married the guy. And the divorce is going to be really, really expensive.”

The particular horror is that we are allowing the theft of freedom to be done to us by our own government. While we luxuriate in abundance, complacency, and apathy—many of us knowing nothing else—Obama and the kooks are maneuvering us quickly into bondage. Once we are truly bound, the relationship between the individual and the government will be changed irrevocably: the individual will have dwindling and ultimately meaningless “freedoms” and the people will be led toward European-style dependence; we will be an enslaved mob…If people believe they can vote themselves a raise, they will. And once that mentality finds its way into the middle class, then America as the land of the free will be history.