Reflections on the late disaster, a month after November 6…
When disaster strikes, it is easy to see only the negatives, and easier still to cry out “All is lost.” Negativity rules the day, all the more so in politics after a national election.
But there are lessons to be learned in every defeat, and if we objectively view these election results, we will see a foundation upon which a wise movement can build, to save this country from its current path of destruction.
This won’t pretend to be an exhaustive list, but perhaps there will be a few points here that others aren’t mentioning, or at least, aren’t emphasizing enough. Some points may seem unkind, but no offense is intended. We just have to be able to learn from our mistakes.
The Wrong Candidate for 2012
First, a personal comment: I grudgingly supported Mitt Romney in 2008, after it was down to him, Gov. Huckabee, or Sen. McCain. Of the three, Mitt Romney seemed most conservative (this being a very relative use of the term), and his various major flaws, such as career flip-flops on guns and abortion, and his support for Romneycare, would be minor in comparison to the clear risks of an amateur like Barack Obama, who had never held a major role in his life.
Mitt Romney’s experience and moderation could play neatly against an inexperienced extremist. Even being a member of a minority religion like the LDS should not be a hindrance against a man raised in islam with Hussein as a middle name. But we never got to find out if Romney would have won in 2008; Senator McCain won the nomination, admitted on camera that he didn’t really understand economics, and went down to ignoble defeat.
2012 was sure to be a different matter. Despite Obama’s utter failure in office, he’s a known quantity now, with experience, and there is a certain judgment flaw in a certain branch of the electorate that says “he’s held the job before, so he’s qualified.” This makes it harder to derail an incumbent, even if the incumbent is awful. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that we didn’t have the wiggle room for compensating flaws in 2012 that we had in 2008.
Against a known quantity who specializes in class warfare, we nominated a venture capitalist. Against a man who claims to be a normal Christian protestant (however untrue we may think his pretense to be), we nominated a Mormon. Against the founder of Obamacare, the nation’s most hated new crippling government program, we nominated the only other politician in the country whose last name ends in “care,” effectively minimizing our ability to make Obamacare the keystone of the election that it should have been. The day Obamacare passed, way back in March 2010, sensible conservatives knew that we could not – must not – run Mitt Romney in 2012.
On top of all that, Mitt Romney “speaks conservatism as a second language,” to use Charles’ Krauthammer’s succinct election night evaluation. However competent Romney is in business, however good a manager he would have been in cabinet meetings, he cannot win over an audience by articulating his political philosophy, as a successful candidate must.
Those of us who, in the primaries, supported “anyone but Romney” – a senator from Pennsylvania, a congressman from Minnesota, a governor from Texas – were accused of being too doctrinaire, too troublesome, too prejudiced.
In the end, it turns out, we weren’t being right-wing, we were just being right. We believed that Mitt Romney could not win against Obama in 2012, and while he came closer than most of us conservatives expected him to at the time, we were correct. The Republican party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, by nominating perhaps the only possible politician in America unable to defeat a man who has presided over so much obvious failure as this incumbent.
The party establishment tells us “Romney came as close as anyone could have.” We would argue the opposite, that just as only John McCain could have lost to Barack Obama in 2008, only Mitt Romney could have lost to him in 2012.
The Primary Process
We have screamed for years that the primary calendar must change. Nothing against Iowa and New Hampshire – they’re lovely states full of lovely people, and nice trees, and verdant cornstalks too – but they simply shouldn’t be the first in line to pick our nominee, because they allow non-Republicans to vote in their primaries and caucuses!
Think about it: what other group in America allows non-members to select the group’s leaders? Can members of the Elks Lodge select the leaders of the Moose Lodge? Can atheists appoint Catholic bishops? Can hip-hop performers and acid rock screamers tell the Academy of Country Music who to nominate for “Country Entertainer of the Year?”
These open primaries are a cancer on our nation; every cycle it gets worse. Independents, Greens, Libertarians, even outright Democrats are allowed to make up what is often a majority of the Republican primary vote in the early states, so the party nominates someone who doesn’t really represent the party’s philosophy at all. It’s no accident that Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater are the only two Republican nominees since 1924 who could honestly be called conservative. It’s because of a warped primary process.
We need one simple rule for future presidential years: Only states that hold truly “closed” primaries and caucuses – that is, states that limit primary/caucus participation to those who have been declared Republicans for at least a year or two – can send delegates to the convention. (or if we must capitulate on that, at least mandate that only closed primary states can be in the first half of the schedule.)
The fact is, we may not have lost the presidency after all. We probably actually won it in a squeaker. But we’ll never know.
There is massive vote fraud in this country, but it’s not a single famous type. It takes many forms. For example, here are just a few of the most commonly used methods:
- Buying votes: One at a time, or a family at a time, a candidate provides lunch or whiskey for their absentee ballots.
- Dual residency: Known as snowbirding, this is most common with people who own or rent in both Florida and the north, and vote by absentee in one while voting in person in the other. Yes, in the same election!
- Busload voting: Known as the New Orleans method, the Democratic Party fills a few buses with patronage workers or other volunteers and buses them from polling place to polling place all day, and late into the evening, so they can cast the vote of a registered voter known to be deceased, moved, or fictitious. The same person can cast twenty or more votes per day this way.
- Illegal voting: America is a nation of immigrants, and one of the proudest moments for a new citizen is the day he casts his first ballot. Certain ethnic communities, however, tell their members not to wait for citizenship, to just show up and vote anyway, despite having only a green card, perhaps not having even that. Fear of prosecution for “profiling” keeps election officials from tackling this one. There are tens of millions of illegal aliens in the USA, millions more here legally but as noncitizens, not yet allowed to vote. It doesn’t take a large percentage of such a population to change the results in a close race. And more and more states are considering granted legal state IDs and drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, enabling vote fraud even more.
- Felon participation: Most states still forbid felons from voting, some only while in prison, others while on probation, others for life. Many states can’t or won’t enforce such laws, enabling people convicted of breaking major laws to select our lawmakers.
- Polluted registration lists: This country is very mobile. People move across town or across country, children move away from home, people die… so even without conscious fraud, the registration lists are a gold mine to be harvested by a criminal if they aren’t purged every cycle. Add to this the conscious registration of fictitious names by registrars paid by the page, and the willingness of villainous politicians to exploit these opportunities, and you have a system that facilitates fraud far more than it facilitates freedom.
- One-Party Cities: The law usually requires that polling places be staffed by a mix of representatives of both parties, but in many areas, there are simply no Republicans to hold the jobs, so the elections are run entirely by Democrats, some of whom wear a Republican badge to keep up the fiction. They don’t all have to be corrupt for this fissure to be exploited, in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Cleveland…
- Touchscreen Computer voting: The touchscreen computer is easily hacked, and reports have come in from all over the country, in every cycle in which they’ve been used, that they record votes for the opposite candidate than the one intended. There is no substitute for a paper ballot. With the ease and security provided by the modern optical-scan ballot (the one where the voter fills in an oval or completes a line with a thick marker), there is simply no excuse for using something as corruptible as a touchscreen.
There are many, many more such techniques, but you get the idea. In addition to these, there’s the clear Democrat party suppression of America’s military overseas, by either failing to deliver absentee ballots at all, or setting the process so late in the cycle that timely arrival of voted ballots becomes impossible.
Some states cracked down somewhat on vote fraud in the past two years – Kansas, Indiana, Georgia, and more – but not enough. And even they didn’t go far enough. Most just mandated the display of a “real ID card,” which certainly helps reduce some of these techniques, but doesn’t even touch many more.
If we’re going to hold elections as full of holes as the old Soviet Union, we shouldn’t be surprised when Soviet-style politicians win the count.
The Lone Wolf syndrome
Why have political parties at all? The idea was for groups who agree on the issues to endorse a platform and run for office as a team. Their brochures, flyers, television and radio ads would all promote the party’ brand, its full slate of candidates. And this used to work.
But ever since the 1970s, when the first Federal Election Campaign Acts started to restrict donating and campaign spending practices, the Republicans have failed to roll with these punches and develop alternative ways to meet the continued need. The Democrats run as a team; the Republicans are all on their own.
In 1980, the GOP won a landslide, with Reagan’s coattails carrying congressmen and senators along to victory in his wake, because Reagan’s campaign, and the party, and the conservative movement, all cooperated (yes, legally) to nationalize the election. But the GOP hasn’t done that since. The presidential campaigns have instead become so focused on “battleground states” that an Illinoisan can’t even get a bumper sticker or lapel pin without buying them from a website!
In 2012, Mitt Romney campaigned in Ohio and Florida, and to a lesser extent in a few other borderline states, instead of nationalizing the election in a way that would have carried some more senators and congressmen along. Illinois went down by 800,000 votes because of this neglect. Sure, even with a better campaign, Romney might still have lost Illinois, but if that 800,000 margin were trimmed, the GOP would have held two or three of the congressional seats we lost in Illinois.
In future elections, the GOP must nominate candidates who represent their party’s platform… candidates who don’t have to fake conservatism to win the nomination, but who really believe in conservatism without faking it… candidates who have the experience to convince independents and even reasonable Democrats that their methods, their viewpoints, their positions are indeed the right solutions for these troubled times. Not candidates who think that a resume and an opponent are enough to rest on, just to coast into a win.
But most of all, the GOP must do what a party is really for: ensuring that the process is fair (by ending vote fraud) and the foolish practices that facilitate it, and by providing the unity of message that enables all strong candidates to help pull up the weaker ones on the ticket. The GOP should never again allow a penny of its money to be spent on ads for a single candidate that don’t even name the party. This should go without saying, but a hundred thousand dollar ad buy that says “Vote Republican” helps every candidate in the district a heck of a lot more than a hundred separate one thousand dollar buys for “Joe Schmoe for State Rep” or “John Smith for Congress.”
The GOP has a lot to fix before the next elections. Let’s hope the people at the top are learning the lessons that are so obvious to those of us at the grass roots.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade lecturer. He served as county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party back in the mid-1990s, but has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years.
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