Romney in exile

Just a couple of weeks ago, Republicans were hailing Mitt Romney as the man who would make a great president.  Now, after some more tone-deaf remarks by the Republican presidential candidate of the sort he’s been making all along with party members defending him, his former followers are repudiating him.  From Dan Eggen of the Washington Post:

Ten days after failing to sail into the White House, Mitt Romney is already being tossed overboard by his party.

The former Massachusetts governor — who attracted $1 billion in funding and 59 million votes in his bid to unseat President Obama — has rapidly become persona non grata to a shellshocked Republican Party, which appears eager to map out its future without its 2012 nominee.

Romney was by all accounts stunned at the scale of his Nov. 6 loss, dropping quickly from public view after delivering a short concession speech to a half-empty Boston arena. Then came a series of tin-eared remarks this week blaming his loss on Obama’s “gifts” to African Americans and Hispanics — putting him squarely at odds with party leaders struggling to build bridges with minorities.

“You can’t expect to be a leader of all the people and be divisive,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Friday on MSNBC, adding: “Someone asked me, Why did Mitt Romney lose? And I said because he got less votes than Barack Obama, that’s why.”

It’s a remarkable fall from grace for Romney, who just 10 days ago held the chance of a Republican return to power at the White House.

The messy aftermath of his failure suggests that Romney, a political amalgam with no natural constituency beyond the business community, is unlikely to play a significant role in rebuilding his party, many Republicans said this week.

“He’s not going to be running for anything in the future,” said Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho), who sharply criticized Romney’s comments about Hispanics. “He’s not our standard-bearer, unfortunately.”

via Romney sinks quickly in Republicans’ esteem – The Washington Post.

Is this fickleness and disloyalty?  Or recognition that Romney was not really a very good candidate?

Setting policies by means of SuperPACS

A case-study in contemporary policy-setting.  The Republicans put off Hispanics, which is arguably demographic suicide.  So how to change the anti-immigration stance associated with the party?  Reason? Discussion?  Debate?  Coming to a consensus?  No.  Start a super PAC that will give money to pro-immigration Republicans and sponsor primary opponents against Republicans who vote the wrong way.

Prominent Republicans are launching a new super PAC they hope will help begin repairing the political damage left by years of anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric that has dominated GOP primaries and alienated crucial Hispanic voters.

The organization, to be called Republicans for Immigration Reform, aims to undermine what organizers call the “extremists” who have pushed party nominees to stake out far-right positions such as opposing a pathway to legalization for millions of illegal workers, students and children.

Even before it raises money and establishes target races for 2014, the group’s organizers told The Washington Post, it will help smooth the way for wavering Republican lawmakers to vote next year for an immigration overhaul. Such a measure suddenly gained momentum last week after GOP leaders watched President Obama’s dominance among Hispanic voters help carry him to an electoral college landslide.

Spearheading the group is Carlos Gutierrez, the Cuban American commerce secretary under President George W. Bush. He is joined by Washington lawyer Charlie Spies, co-founder of the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which, illustrating the very trend that the new PAC aims to thwart, aired some tough ads during this year’s primaries accusing Romney’s rivals of supporting “amnesty” and being “too liberal on immigration.”

“There’s currently only energy on the anti-immigration reform side, and we want to be able to provide some cover for Republicans that vote in support of an immigration reform approach,” Spies said.

Spies and Gutierrez declined to cite a fundraising goal, but both enjoy close ties to corporate America, which generally favors looser immigration laws. A super PAC can accept unlimited donations. Spies’s pro-Romney group raised $142 million for the 2012 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“This is not small ball,” Gutierrez said. “We’re serious, and we are going to push the debates on immigration reform to a place where I believe the Republican Party should be in the 21st century.”

via New super PAC hopes to give cover to pro-immigration Republicans – The Washington Post.

Let us bracket the issue of immigration reform and whether Republicans need to loosen up on the question and make major efforts to attract Hispanics.  I myself agree that something on this order needs to be done.  So let’s not talk about that.  Let’s discuss this method of forming policy and making laws.

On any issue, we can now expect a SuperPAC to fund one side and probably another SuperPAC to fund the other side.  (I am not disputing their “rights” to do so.  Let’s not talk about that either.)  They work by rewarding, threatening, and punishing lawmakers with money, using campaign contributions–given, withheld, or given to an opponent–as a means of coercing support of a legislative agenda.

Doesn’t this replace democracy with plutocracy, so that money becomes the actual means of governing?  This strike me as a step beyond simply raising money for a campaign.  As we have seen, raising and spending money will not necessarily win you an election.  You get special interests making contributions but that may or may not determine how a lawmaker votes.  This tactic, by contrast, seeks to determine which candidates can run for office in the first place and fixes their position on an issue, which is determined not by the give-and-take of a rational process but by the SuperPAC that has quite literally bought their vote.

Balance of powers vs. balance of parties

In his column on attempts to the reform the filibuster, Ezra Klein points out that the Founders built into the Constitution a balance of competing arms of the government that would check and balance each other.  What we have now, however, is a system of competing political parties that check and balance each other.

It’s true the Founding Fathers wanted to make legislating hard. That’s why they divided power among three branches. It’s why senators used to be directly appointed by state legislatures. It’s why the House, the Senate and the president have staggered elections, so it usually takes a big win in two or more consecutive elections for a party to secure control of all three branches.

But the Founders didn’t want it to be this hard. They considered requiring a supermajority to pass legislation and rejected the idea. “Its real operation,” Alexander Hamilton wrote of such a requirement, “is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” Sound familiar?

The Founders also opposed political parties — though they went on to start a couple — and couldn’t have foreseen how highly disciplined parties would subvert the political system they designed. Instead of the branches competing against one another, as they envisioned, we now have two parties competing uniformly across all branches.

via Is this the end for the filibuster?.

Parliamentary systems require political parties.  The leader of the majority party becomes the Prime Minister.  Such forms of government work best when there are a number of parties that can then form coalitions and alliances.  I suppose our political parties were copied from those of England.

America’s constitution, however, does not require parties, and our national founders warned against them.

What would happen if we were to abolish all political parties?  As it is, the role of parties in elections has shrunk considerably with SuperPacs and independent campaign fundraising.  Why not turn that into a virtue?

Individual candidates and politicians would still form factions, caucuses, and interest-groups.  But these alliances would be fluid, varying from issue to issue.  There would still be individuals who ran as conservatives, liberals, and other ideologies in the legislature, and there might be organizations that supported them.  But a  Senator with libertarian sympathies could vote with  liberal colleagues on drug laws and conservative colleagues on free market issues.  Pro-life coalitions could include both religious conservatives and social-justice liberals.

I know it will be said, political parties are inevitable.  And, arguably, they once were.  But what do political parties do now in the age of the internet, political action committees, open primaries, and grass roots activism?  They serve as the gatekeepers of who gets to be on the ballot in the presidential campaigns.  But their political conventions have become mostly irrelevant.  Surely another mechanism could be put into place, such as a series of primary elections, beginning on the local level and continuing onto the state, regional, and national levels.  Couldn’t this re-vitalize our democracy and our representative form of government?

The fate of moral issues

The Republicans did not make a big deal of  moral or “cultural” issues during the last election.  Little was said about abortion.  Conservatives were well-behaved when it came to gay marriage.  Unlike previous elections, Republicans–including social conservatives who care a great deal about these issues–pretty much left them alone.

But the Democrats, in contrast, did run on moral and cultural issues.  They attacked conservatives for opposing abortion and gay marriage.  They went further, scaring the general public that the Republicans would outlaw birth control and enslave women.

And the Democrats won on these issues.  Their take on moral and social issues was, in fact, very important.  Single women voted overwhelmingly for Obama, largely, according to the exit polls, because of “women’s issues.”  Clumsy and unsophisticated treatment of the “rape exception” for abortion on the part of two pro-life candidates cost arguably cost Republicans the Senate.

So we have reached the point at which conservative moral issues are political losers and liberal moral issues–gay marriage, abortion on demand–are political winners.

So what now for social conservatives?

Working through the five stages of grief

Dana Milbank, while crowing over President Obama’s re-election, says that Republicans are going through the 5 stages of grief:

Denial. “I think this is premature,” Karl Rove protested on Fox News election night, after the cable network, along with other news outlets, correctly projected that President Obama had won Ohio — and therefore the presidency. “We’ve got to be careful about calling things.”

Bargaining. “We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions,” House Speaker John Boehner offered Wednesday, shifting his budget negotiating posture before reconsidering the next day, but “the president must be willing to reduce spending and shore up entitlement programs.”

Depression. “If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached,” Ann Coulter said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “It’s over. There is no hope.”

Anger. “We should have a revolution in this country,” tweeted flamboyant mogul Donald Trump, who had served as a prominent surrogate for Romney. “This election is a total sham and a travesty.”

Acceptance. Uh, well, there hasn’t been much of that yet.

via Dana Milbank: Republicans working through their grief – The Washington Post.

Well, let’s work on that last one. First of all, remember that the Democrats were going through the very same depression with the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004.  They too were worrying if their party would survive, if they could ever win the hearts of an American majority again, if they needed to give up their liberalism and become more like Republicans.  That was for the president just before this one.  And now the Democrats have re-elected their guy and are as triumphalistic as 2004 Republicans.  And now look at those woe-begone Democrats and those crowing Republicans.  The pendulum swings, the wheel turns, and fortunes keep changing.

Furthermore, those of us who believe in limited government should also believe in the limited importance of government. True, this election will mean that government will get stronger and, perhaps more concerning, that the general public wants it to get stronger. But our country is too big and complicated to control or even to figure out.  Attempts to control and to figure out everything and everyone invariably fail, making for new political opportunities.

Yes, conservatives will have lots to resist.  Republicans will need to regroup and address their failures.

But this election surely doesn’t mean the end of America, as I have been hearing.  The government as presently constituted does not prevent us from going to church, enjoying time with our families, having a good meal, reading an interesting book, or exercising other facets of our humanity.  We are far, far from state totalitarianism, and if you don’t think so read up on life in the former Soviet Union or present-day North Korea.

Christians in particular should cultivate some perspective from a much-much bigger picture.  However you voted–and I  recognize that some Christians are overjoyed with this outcome that others are mourning–I invite your meditation on Psalm 146, the whole thing, an exploration of whom we must trust including for things we think are political:

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
 who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry. . . .

The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!  (Psalm 146:3-7)

Predicting the election

Now that Florida has FINALLY counted its ballots (why can 49 states conduct an efficient election but Florida can’t?), we know the final tally.  The Sunshine State went for Obama, giving him a total of 332 electoral votes.  Here are the results:

CandidatePopular votePercentageElectoral votes (270 to win)
Barack Obama61713086 51% 332
Mitt Romney58510150 48% 206

This enables us to assess how we did at our pre-election post Your predictions.

The winner?  MY BROTHER Jimmy Veith.  He nailed it EXACTLY.  Here is what he said at comment 22:

My brother is good at predictions. I am a little better.

Obama: 332
Romney: 206

Popular vote: Obama: 51%, Romney: 48%, Others: 1%

Congratulations, Jimmy!  You have proven yourself to be this blog’s  top prognosticator.  And thanks for keeping it in the family.  (Imagine what I am going to have to put up with at Christmas!)

I predicted Obama would get 291, coming short by 41.  The Veith boys, Jason, Todd, Klasie, Darren, & ADB were the only ones who correctly predicted an Obama victory.

I appreciate SKPeterson’s comment in a post-election thread:

It would appear that the Republican Party would be better served if it followed the commentary on Cranach and quit listening to the Limbaugh’s, the Rove’s and the WSJ hack commentariat (as much as I enjoy reading the WSJ too, natch).

He links to this article:  How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File.  According to the author, Conor Friedersdorf , the conservative media and punditocracy were nearly unanimous in predicting a Romney victory.  They didn’t predict a McCain victory in the last presidential election, but this time wishful thinking trumped reality across the board.

Perhaps my brother Jimmy will explain how he reached his completely accurate conclusion.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if wishful thinking had some influence, Obama fan that he is.  I myself wished for the opposite of what I predicted, which I daresay is even rarer.)  But here is my reasoning, first, in regards to the election results; and second, in regards to the arguably more impressive feat of predicting Obama’s election in 2008 before he won any primaries, Romney’s nomination before the Republican primaries, and Obama’s re-election at the lowest point of his popularity.

For the election, I ignored the popular vote, which has little to do with electing a president.  The electoral vote is everything, so the state-by-state results are everything.   In general, unlike most conservatives, I trusted the poll results.  Survey research has gotten extremely sophisticated.  Journalists might be biased, but it does no good for professional pollsters to be biased, since their livelihoods depend on accuracy.  One can question their sampling techniques, but these guys usually know what they are doing.  That is to say, it’s a matter of vocation.  It’s true that poll results will vary, so I paid most attention to the poll aggregators at RealClearPolitics, which posts the average of all polls.  Most of the states were strongly for one candidate or the other, with neither scoring the necessary 270 total.  So everything hinged on eight too-close-to-call “battleground states.”   For Romney to win, he would have to win virtually all of them.  I thought that was unlikely.  Obama only needed a few.   The day before the election, the polls showed him leading slightly in most of them.  As my brother somehow knew would happen, he won all but two.

So much for my quantitative analysis.  For my qualitative analysis that predicted the outcomes before the races even started, I picked Romney as the best of an exceedingly weak field.  And by “best” I do not mean the most conservative or the one who would be the most effective chief executive.  I mean the one who presented himself the best and seemed least likely to pull something embarrassing.  (Republicans have GOT to field better candidates.)  Americans like their presidents, for better or for worse, to be inspiring and have a compelling story, to have a mythical quality about them, to be larger than life.  Not all presidents are that way.  George W. Bush wasn’t,  but then again neither was Al Gore or John Kerry.  Nor do such figures necessarily make good presidents.  But Barack Obama had the “it” factor, so I thought he would go far.


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