By Don Feder
How do you blow an election when your opponent presided over the worst economy in memory unemployment has hovered at 8% for almost four years; the price of gas has doubled; the national debt has grown by a third; long-term unemployment is up 87%; the number of Americans in poverty increased by 6.4 million; and the president’s signature initiative (Obamacare) has been consistently opposed by a majority of Americans since it passed two and a half years ago?
How do you lose an election to an incumbent whose foreign policy consists of cringing, kowtowing and abject apologies a foreign policy defined by the body of an American ambassador being dragged through the streets of a Third World sinkhole?
How do you manage to screw up a presidential campaign two years after your party sweeps into power in the House of Representatives with the largest majority in over 60 years and takes most of the swing-state governorships? How do you engineer such a catastrophe with one of the greatest populist movements in American history the Tea Parties at your back?
Every time conservatives let the Republican establishment pick our presidential candidate, we lose: Gerald Ford in 1976, George H.W. Bush in 1992, Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008.
The GOP elite believes it has a God-given right to bestow the party’s presidential nomination as it thinks best, while the role of the conservative activist base is to respectfully touch our forelocks and fall in line. It favors candidates who are committed to being non-controversial, who live in abject fear of offending the mushy middle, who confine disagreements with their opponents to economic issues and me-too furiously elsewhere. The results are predictable. The result is Mitt Romney.
Governor Romney is a decent man, a patriot with a nice family who knows how to create jobs. As a candidate, he was unimaginative, uninspiring and pathetically adverse to taking risks.
Romney resolutely refused to talk about anything but the economy. At its convention, the GOP nodded respectfully toward God and said nice things about life and marriage in its platform.
But when the campaign began in earnest after Labor Day, it was all jobs, jobs, jobs, deficits, deficits and deficits. (The high cost of energy got an honorable mention.) Romney was maniacal about staying on message. When Benghazi exploded in the president’s face, the Romney camp outsourced the issue to talk radio. That’s not leadership.
Incredibly, exit polls showed more voters trusted Obama to handle a foreign crisis than Romney (by 57% to 50%). That’s what comes from the GOP nominee’s refusal to speak frankly about the fiasco.
During the much-hyped Arab Spring, Obama helped turn Egypt over to the Muslim Brotherhood. He gave Libya a government that was either unable or unwilling to control al-Qaeda clones, which Moammar Gadhafi (who must be grinning in hell) did quite effectively.
During the siege of our Benghazi consulate, the White House dithered for seven crucial hours (when the lives of four Americans could have been saved by modest military intervention) for fear of offending the Muslim street — the lodestar of Obama’s foreign policy. The father of one of the dead former Navy SEALs all but accused the president of killing his son.
The administration lied about the nature of the attack for two weeks. Romney could have said: How can you trust a man who misled the American people about what caused a foreign policy disaster which sends a signal of American impotence to our enemies? But his campaign was terrified of going off-message and fearful of projecting its candidate as a warmonger, so it said as little as possible. It was a thousand times worse than McCain giving Obama a pass on Jeremiah Wright in 2008.
Mitt the Mild thought he could coast to victory by inspiring confidence, by smiling a lot and sounding presidential about nothing in particular.
Even the discussion of Obama’s record of economic carnage was in muted tones: Not, this out-of-control ideologue is killing the middle class and destroying our future, but, oh dear me, we just can’t afford four more years. Never send a RINO to do a conservative’s job.
Have you noticed how the media blather about negative campaigning was conspicuously absent this year? That’s because the negativity came exclusively from their candidate.
Obama successfully tagged his opponent as a corporate-raider, down-sizer, outsourcer and health-insurance-snatcher, who ate widows and orphans for breakfast on Christmas Day.
The meme was multi-millionaire Mitt wants tax cuts for the rich. Mitt disdains the middle class. Mitt’s a liar. Mitt wants to let his Big Oil buddies destroy the environment to reap obscene profits. Mitt would deny women contraceptives and then force them to have their rapist’s child.
Instead of talking about Obama’s radical ties (Wright, Ayers, Occupy Wall Street, Van Jones) and his illegal amnesty for illegal aliens (or his assault on the Constitution generally), instead of exposing his war on Christianity combined with his breathless love affair with Islam, it was: Don’t you know we can’t afford four more years? Obama tossed red meat to his base. Romney dangled a balance sheet.
Smart candidates in a tight race go negative because it works. Fear and anger (Voting is the best revenge) always trump sweetness and light. Obama figured that out early on. Romney is still staring vacantly into space waiting for light to dawn on Marblehead.
Much has been said about changing demographics. This usually relates to the browning of America – the shrinking white majority combined with a rising minority population.
That’s only part of the picture. More than in any past campaign, this election reflects the left’s success in re-creating America in its image: a nation more single and secular than ever before a nation whose symbol is a hand raised palm up.
Family and faith (the bedrock of conservative votes) are eroding. The gender gap is more of a single-women gap. In 2008, John McCain, nobody’s idea of a hot date, won married women by 3 points, while Obama won their unmarried counterparts by 41 points.
Married women, especially those with children (where Republicans really clean up), are thinking about the future in a serious way how to make ends meet, save for the kids education, plan for retirement.
Single women are concerned primarily about the government’s ability to help with the consequences of their inability to keep their legs closed.
For decades, the left promoted singleness by encouraging easy divorce, welfare policies that made government daddy, and loosening sexual restraints.
They’ve also turned single women into the newest victim group by cultivating resentment. Spurred by the religious right, Republicans are coming to take away your reproductive rights, the left warns. Destruction of the economy is a small price to pay for the freedom to eliminate those pesky products of conception. The Democrats are selling not liberty but license. Single women fell for it like chicks swooning when Magic Mike struts on stage.
Two decades ago, Billy Graham’s virtual endorsement of Romney, in full-page ads, would have been a quite a coup. This year, even if the Romney campaign had chosen to capitalize on it, the impact would have been far less pronounced.
In 1990, 8% of Americans said they had no religious identity or affiliation. By 2012, that number had grown to 19.6% (including fully a third of adults under 30). By portraying the devout as sexually repressed bigots, fanatics and anti-science zealots, the left (through its legions in the news and entertainment media) has grown this demographic.
While Republican candidates always get the lion’s share of regular churchgoers, according to pre-election polls, the unaffiliated were breaking for Obama over Romney by 65% to 27%. This is another constituency the left has both helped to create and assiduously courts. Under Obama, for the first time, a delegation of atheists and agnostics was welcomed to the White House.
While Romney’s 47% comment was inaccurate (retirees on Social Security aren’t the same as AFDC recipients), in many ways, America has become Gimme Nation a people in relentless pursuit of stuff provided at the taxpayers’ expense. De Tocqueville forecast the end of democracy in America when a majority learned they could vote themselves benefits from the Treasury.
The number on food-stamps has grown from 17 million in 2000 to 30 million in 2008 to 46 million today, with one in seven Americans now dining at Chez Taxpayers. The regime even had local USDA offices throw parties to promote participation.
Perhaps 40% of the nation is hardcore entitlement addicts. We believe we’re entitled to have someone else buy our groceries, pay for our health care, give us college loans that never have to be repaid, and help us buy houses we can’t afford. I’m surprised there’s no Federal Plasma TV Assistance Program.
Obama knows how to work this sense of entitlement: The rich aren’t playing by the same rules as they rest of us. They just have to pay a little more so you can have your stuff. Entrepreneurs didn’t build their businesses; we all did with wonderful roads and bridges, so we can take as much of what they have as we want.
As we move from the Greatest Generation to the Boomers to Generation X-marks-the-spot to dig for buried government treasure, the sense of entitlement grows and the sense of responsibility fades.
But it’s Romney who bears ultimate responsibility for Tuesday’s debacle. When asked how Lenin and the Bolsheviks defeated democratic socialist Alexander Kerensky, the late Ayn Rand of Atlas Shrugged fame observed, You can’t beat something with nothing. Exactly.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.