State of the Union

These Girls Are Sad For Now

“You have to watch this show; the first few episodes are the most reactionary critique of sexually liberated Brooklyn possible; it’s a dystopia.”

Paraphrased, that’s what one wise friend told me last year about “Girls,” the HBO series that captured best Comedy Series at the Golden Globes last night, along with a Best Actress nod for its creator, producer, and star Lena Dunham. The show also premiered its second season last night.

The series has become something of a fixation for the overclass. It is our financial crisis era-hipster version of “Sex and the City,” but written by a woman! The boys at Slate are learning to love it. The new editor of Gawker hates it. Good grief, even Esquire has episode recaps now.

The show has been hailed as “revolutionary” but from the opening scenes it has always felt fairly inevitable to me. As it exposes a certain privileged slice of new white transplant life in Brooklyn, I feel like I’ve been observing these characters for a decade. The Girls (now, really, young women) went to Oberlin, I went to Bard. A significant portion of my friends are also new white transplants in Brooklyn with similar ambitions, though they lack access to parental reserves of cash and social capital to construct their lives. But my friends can occasionally overlap with those people in Girls. In some ways, it is a life I might have lived or at least lived around, if I hadn’t self-consciously rejected certain features of it.

There is a self-awareness about the show and its creator that is endearing. Characters utter precious modern truisms in hilariously self-interested and defensive ways. Dunham’s character is portrayed as sexually depraved and worse–kind of creepy–when she visits her hometown in Michigan in one early episode. Dunham was also hammered in some corners of the press for not having more racial diversity in her show. This season her character is dating a black Republican played by Donald Glover. It is a bit of the diversity people asked for mixed with a diversity they didn’t. The world and characters that “Girls” portrays will surely spit him out soon.

“Girls” may be impossible to watch for some people. Dunham is nude in it, frequently. Her on-off boyfriend will utterly repulse anyone with a hint of bourgeois sensibility. It isn’t delicate. It is so obviously partly based on true events, and partly fictionalized. It is difficult to refer to the characters by their fictional names rather than their identities: Dunham, Brian Williams’s daughter, David Mamet’s daughter.

Girls portrays an oddly telescoped kind of life. There are no children. The parents are far away and exist only intermittently. In the latest episode, one character’s mother shows up and talks frankly about sex, disgusting her adult daughter–ground well trod by Noah Baumbach in “Kicking and Screaming.” By comparison I see my in-laws no less than once a week, usually more times than that.

Instead the show is about 20-somethings who live in a world that seems parenthetical to  one with personal inter-generational obligations. The drama consists of the characters making demands of the world and demands of themselves, and failing to be satisfied. As with many of my friends (and myself) they invent and announce codes of ethics and conduct for themselves on the spot. “I’m doing this a different way, I’m not just going to show up on your door in the middle of the night… I’m going to make logical responsible decisions when it comes to you,” one character says.

The oddest thing about the show is that these girls are fascinated–that really is the right word here–by men who have so few qualities. And the fate of these girls is to continue these confusing sexual relationships with badly damaged men, where pantomimed rape fantasies are a feature and a bug, for perhaps a decade. Only then it may become permissible for their social set to start thinking of marriage.

Perhaps I underestimate the trials of my more suburban, married existence in comparison to those of my Brooklyn friends and their stand-ins on this drama. But for a show with the tone of wild celebration in self-discovery, enabled by so much social capital, the ambitions and possibilities for these Girls seem so small and sad, and their 20s seem tragic.

Of course, they’re all famous and will be pretty wealthy soon. So, maybe it is worth it?

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The Primary Challenge

Jonathan Martin at Politico reports on the thinking of some GOP party leaders in Washington. The problem as they see it: competitive primaries.

The intra-party contests, or threat thereof, have become the original sin that explains many of the party’s woes in the minds of GOP leaders. It’s the primaries that push their presidential nominees far to the right (see “self-deportation” and “47 percent”); produce lackluster Senate candidates (Todd Akin has almost become a one-word shorthand); and, as seen most vividly in the last two weeks, dissuade scores of gerrymandered House members from face-saving compromise while politically emasculating their speaker.

What to do about the primaries has become Topic A in many a post-election Republican soul-searching session, and now the first steps are being taken to address the issue. For Senate Republicans, that means a modified return to their 2010 posture of openly playing in primaries. A retiring House Republican is starting a super PAC to help House members challenged from the right. And an RNC commission is mulling over changes to the party’s presidential primary.

The easy response to this is to say that this is just the Establishment trying to rein in the grassroots. It is an excuse to get rid of the infusion of new libertarian-minded officeholders like Justin Amash and Rand Paul. And that is true, if the GOP got much better at “clearing the field” we might have Senator Trey Greyson from Kentucky rather than Paul.

At the same time it is obvious that many of the primary challengers and winners have been dolts and kooks; they have all the vices of the Establishment, but that they have them more intensely. Just because the Establishment was horrified at Christine O’Donnell doesn’t mean that she’d be making principled stands like Paul. Her critique of the party Establishment was simply that it wasn’t partisan enough.

The party wants to clear the decks during primaries because it wants to enjoy the fruits of gerrymandered safe-districts without the associated risks. If it can achieve this we’ll be swiftly returned to the days of Majority Leader Tom Delay. Instead of the odd nut, we’ll have more opportunities for entrenched corruption.

Many of our readers can be confused about what TAC’s aim really is. Sometimes we complain that the GOP isn’t conservative at all. At others we complain that the party is in an ideological straitjacket. In fact, both can be true.

And so the system of gerry-mandered districts and competitive primaries really is a double-edged sword both for the Establishment and for those of us who’d like real conservative reform. At once it allows an opening for more principled and creative minds like Paul, but it also encourages the straitjacket to get tighter elsewhere, when the primary challenger fancies himself “principled” by merely being a more belligerent ideologue.

The presidential primaries have had the same effect. The same mechanism that allowed Ron Paul to build a movement that helped elect a few others like him, also allows Herman Cains and Newt Gingriches to make their speaking fees fatter while fitting the straitjacket on the nominee.

I don’t claim to have a ready-made technical fix for Republican party or one that favors  TAC-friendly reformers. But those who want a sane and sensible conservatism to succeed shouldn’t one-sidedly throw their weight to the populists and the self-interested avatars of the grassroots in order to stick it to the RNC and the Establishment. Having a majority leader like McConnell may be bad, but creating the conditions where Todd Akins and Christine O’Donnells run a future Senate may be worse.

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How Far Are People Willing to Go for Hagel?

Ever since the news came out that former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel may be Obama’s preferred choice to head the Department of Defense, I’ve had difficulty developing what we call a “strong take” on it.

I never exactly warmed to Hagel as a champion of foreign policy realism. What good is this realism if its contribution to the debate is only a set of sad faces and “grave concerns” voiced years after it endorsed the disaster? In the Iraq debacle, Hagel’s function was to eventually embody the troubled conscience of a foreign policy establishment that could no longer ignore its own failures. The absolute best case for Hagel is that he somehow “learned his lesson” and was truly committed to a gradual demilitarization of America’s foreign policy. There are data-points to support this view, but Hagel hasn’t connected them in a speech or a book.

One is tempted to throw in behind him merely to deny the neoconservatives the scalp they so desperately want. Frankly, their campaign against Hagel is shaping up to be more sophisticated than I expected. First they charge that Hagel smells like an anti-Semite. Or they quoted a number of unnamed sources saying he was a jerk. The crudeness of the attack inspired a wave of liberal support for Hagel. Now he is being accused of being too anti-gay in the 1990s. My guess is that liberals will fall silent before this one until Hagel comes out as “evolved” on the issue.

It is pretty dangerous for conservative outlets like the Washington Free Beacon to help make 1990s era pro-gay rights views a litmus test for Cabinet appointments. Presumably that is why no one there was willing to byline that post. They’re inadvertently excluding many of the people that would be most amenable to their views in the next Republican administration.

So how do we feel about the Hagel nomination? Of course it is the nature of things that you embolden a bully by not standing up to him. But letting the outsized and hysterical reaction of neoconservatives dictate my judgement of him seems just as counter-productive. He’s much more important to them than he is to me. I’ll be happy to see them embarrassed if he gets the post. But I don’t see his appointment as changing Obama’s foreign policy for the better. If anything it helps to further entrench a foreign policy establishment that still needs to be chastised.

I’m not going to the wall for Chuck Hagel.

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Reevaluating Huntsman

So Jon Huntsman. How is that going?

He joined No Labels, a group that has no constituency beyond a few elites who dislike partisanship and want “problem-solving” in Washington. I’m reasonably certain this  decision has a lot to do with Huntsman’s personal friendships with people in the group. But the move absolutely makes it seem like he is conforming to a caricature of himself, a jilted moderate in search of a constituency.

He also gave an interview to the Huffington Post and there is a mixed bag in there. He calls for immigration reform, compromise on fiscal issues, and for dismissing the neoconservatives and the GOP’s recent militarism.

Last year TAC gave me the chance to profile him. I spent a decent amount of time following him around New Hampshire and then interviewing him in his D.C. home. I went in to the experience prepared to stick a few journalistic blades in him. Here was a guy who seemed to be badly misreading the mood of the party. He had promised a friendly and respectful campaign against Obama. His media team was making sure that Esquire and Vogue got good access to him. His campaign manager, John Weaver, seemed to have one very counter-intuitive idea in his head: you win New Hampshire and the GOP primary by running your campaign as if it were a blood-vendetta against conservatives. There was that whole to-the-manor-born affect, too.

But as I did my research I was surprised. There was a conservative case for Huntsman–a good one. No, he doesn’t speak in the kind of populist anger that has spread throughout the whole party. But he signed all the pro-life bills that were sent to his desk in Utah. And he had enough clout that he could have made sure they never landed there in the first place. He liberalized gun laws. He lowered taxes. He had a knack for getting good “buy in” on his policies, even shepherding the LDS Church to accept liberalized liquor laws in Utah. He participated in Western state climate talks, but rejected the simplistic and uneconomical “solutions” on offer.

In his talks and in his interviews with me it was clear Huntsman separated himself from the neoconservative consensus. No he wasn’t a non-interventionist, but he emphasized that the future for America was not in Libya or the Middle East, but in the trade routes to Asia. He refused to say much about the Iraq War beyond a politic “no comment.” I leave it open to more uncharitable interpretations. But my thinking was that this answer came at precisely the moment when it was easy for Republicans to say, “The surge worked, and Obama is going to pull us out too quickly.” Although I would have welcomed him to say something more clear about Iraq, giving a much more explicit anti-Iraq War answer to a journalists at TAC would have been perceived as pandering, and probably misread.

Daniel Larison will be quick to remind us of his statements on Iran which seem too hawkish. I think Daniel is right to criticize the statements but I took them as the aberrations of trying to campaign in the GOP primary. You emphasize that all options are on the table for Iran to balance the dovish direction of your criticisms of Obama in Afghanistan. I didn’t love the “nation-building at home” line he used. But I’m not the GOP electorate, am I?

Total it up and you had a realist Republican, with massive and credible foreign policy experience, who was also pro-life and untouched by the pathologies of conservative movement politics. On paper that is the candidate I dreamed of having in the GOP within a two decades of the Iraq War. As an opinion journalist, I guess I felt free to share my high opinion of him. I was probably his most convinced supporter within the conservative press, broadly defined.

To me he looked like a mature choice, not just a howling protest vote. He was self-possessed in a way that I have never once encountered in a major politician. And the substance of his campaign was substantive. He endorsed the Ryan plan as a step toward reforming entitlements (a risky but smart move, in my book). His policy shop came up with a daring plan for financial reform to end the Too Big Too Fail guarantee that is distorting our banking sector and Wall Street.

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Why Can’t Catholics Speak English?

It is an odd thing to go to the Bible section of the few remaining big box booksellers. You can get Bibles in metallic covers with notes directed at randy teenagers. You can get your dispensationalist “Left Behind” style Bibles, with equally appalling notes. You can find Bibles for law enforcement officers, or for nationalists seeking prophecies about America in the book of Daniel.

More seriously you can lose yourself in debates about translation style. “Formal equivalence” seeks to translate the Scriptures word for word and gives you phrases that can seem obscure. What is it to “cover his nakedness?” On the other side “dynamic equivalence” tries to go thought for thought but will usually desecrate Genesis with Clintonian phrasings like “have sexual relations with.”

But if you are an earnest Protestant you can junk all the cruft and debates, buy unbotched versions of the New American Standard or the English Standard Version and encounter the word of God. And there is always the King James.

What you can’t find is a good Catholic Bible in English. Well, let me explain.

When it comes to novels, journalism, and apologetics, modern English-speaking Catholics really have fielded an A-team over the last century. Hilaire Belloc, Flannery O’Connor, Muriel Spark and many others you’d name; we’ve done well. But I’ve often wondered, centuries after Trent and decades after Vatican II, whether I’ve encountered the faith in the vernacular either in the liturgy or in Scripture. Let’s review the options.

There is the New American Bible. This is an insipid translation overseen by the bishops according to the same rules that govern modern liturgy. Usually it is accompanied by baldly heretical study notes. The NAB privileges clarity in the way police reports do: it gives you a vague idea about the dead described therein, while working hard to cover the ass of the writer. The modern euthanized liturgy deserves a Bible this Xanaxed.

My fellow Latin-chanting Traditionalists urge on me the Douay Rheims, an English translation that beat the King James to print by three years. The Douay is based on St. Jerome’s Vulgate which in turn, they presume, was based on better manuscripts than we have today. In truth the DR is a Latin text cross-dressing as English. And a bad English get-up at that. Look at Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Couldn’t be bothered to work a verb in there, I guess.  These clangers, and much worse, run side-by-side with the Latin in the hand missals of traditionalist Catholics. They spoil our prayerbooks.

The mainstream option for believing Catholics is found in the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, which is descended from the King James, but adds a few Romish flourishes like “Hail Mary, full of grace” in Luke. Like the NAS and other “formal equivalence” translations it has a kind of dignity and is usefully accurate. But I find it unmemorable and unexciting. You wouldn’t read it but for an intense feeling of religious duty to do so.

Enter Baronius Press, an English publisher heretofore firmly in the Douay camp. They’ve just reprinted the Knox Version of the 1940s, a “dynamic equivalence” translation produced by English Catholic litterateur and apologist Fr. Ronald Knox. This witty priest was asked to to complete the task that never was successfully forced on Cardinal Newman, though many tried.

Knox wanted his translation to be useful for approximately two centuries; it barely made it twenty years. Although it gained a wide readership and liturgical approval in the 1950s, the upheaval of the Church in the 1960s and 70s made Knox into a premature relic. But it is very useful for precisely this reason. He worked from the Vulgate but corrected with the Hebrew and Greek. He wanted a version that was 1) accurate 2) intelligible and 3) readable. And it was the last point that really exercised him.

In his series of short essays “On Englishing The Bible” helpfully packaged together with this edition, Knox explains, “We are in an odd situation. Nobody reads the Bible; popes and bishops are always telling us we ought to read the Bible and when you produce a translation of the Bible, the only thing people complain about is your rendering of the diminutive snippets that are read out in church on Sundays. ‘Of course,’ they add, ‘the book is all right for private reading’–in a tone which implies that such a practice is both rare and unimportant.”

Too right. Judging a Bible translation, particularly a “dynamic equivalence one,” the reader will jump immediately to their favorite passages and dismiss Knox instantly. In truth I’m a little uneasy with his Prologue to John’s Gospel, “He abode, at the beginning of time, with God.” But I adore Knox’s Psalms: “He gives me a resting-place where there is green pasture, leads me out to the cool water’s brink, refreshed and content.” Until finding Knox, I had assumed all dynamic translations of Scripture were semi-literate gimmicks, that they were necessarily unfaithful to text.

Instead of finding English word equivalents Knox asks “How would an Englishman say this?” Unlike committees which often make silly pre-fab decisions to always translate Greek word with English word y, Knox transposes the idioms, the formality, and tone.  And while it may seem like a silly thing to say, Knox is actually fluent in English the way few other translators seem to be. He understands slang as well as poetry. This allows him to remain much more faithful to the original and to English simultaneously. The results can be sumptuous. Consider Lamentations 2:18 “Round those inviolable defenses, cry they upon the Lord in good earnest. Day and night, Sion, let thy tears stream down; never rest thou, never let that eye weary of its task.” Prophetic and ancient-sounding as the text demands, but also recognizably English.

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The Party of Big Business

National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru has one of the better election post-mortems out there, and I think it ties into some of the themes running through my piece earlier this week on how to understand Patrick J. Buchanan’s political thinking and career.

After running through a compendium of indicators that the GOP has become a weak party (lost popular vote in five of six presidential elections, never achieves a hold on the Senate, etc), Ponnuru comes to the point that the upheaval of the late ’60s that tilted so many Southerners and ethnic Catholics into the GOP’s presidential coalition never resulted in these middle-class and working-class white voters trusting the GOP with their economic interests.

What they did not do is make the Republicans the party of middle-class economic interests. Most Americans associated the party with big business and the country club, and did not agree with its impulses on the minimum wage, entitlement programs, and other forms of government activism designed to protect ordinary people from cold markets. Americans came to be skeptical of government activism mainly when they thought it was undermining middle-class values (as they thought welfare undermined the work ethic). And even when voters thought Republicans were better managers of the economy in general, they thought the GOP looked out for the rich rather than the common man.

Precisely. While the GOP successfully internalized the cultural backlash of the 1960s, they never actually adopted the economic interests of this social base. And that is why it seemed so tin-eared to appeal to this base at the 2012 GOP convention as if they were all heroic entrepreneurs held back by government red-tape.

Wrong. Most of the GOP base are people that look for employment as a means to providing for a family. They see their economic interests threatened by Republicans who want to expose their retirements to the stock market, who want them to pay for their health-care out of their take home wages, who give massive bailouts to connected corporate interests, while singing about self-reliance to the working man. Social issues and the Great Society pushed enormous blocs of the New Deal coalition into the GOP. Eventually this transformation of the party transformed some of the people in it. The GOP used to be in league with family planners and the birth control movement, now it is mostly pro-life. But weirdly even as this new coalition changed the GOP on social issues, the party remained fixed to its 1930s style anti-New Dealism.

Now Ponnuru has disagreed (to put it mildly) with the remedies that Buchanan recommended in the 1990s. But it was impossible to read Ponnuru’s post-election analysis and not think of the 1992 Republican convention in which the bulk of Buchanan’s speech was about reconnecting with “conservatives of the heart,” the middle-class people who formed the New Majority. This would be the first of the six elections that Republicans would be unable to win a popular vote. After describing factory workers threatened by globalization, and a secretary who recently lost her job, Buchanan said:

My friends, these people are our people. They don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they come from the same schoolyards and the same playgrounds and towns as we came from. They share our beliefs and our convictions, our hopes and our dreams. These are the conservatives of the heart. They are our people. And we need to reconnect with them. We need to let them know we know how bad they’re hurting. They don’t expect miracles of us, but they need to know we care.

As Ponnuru points out, the overwhelming majority of voters say that Republican candidates do not understand people like them. Republicans made fun of Clinton for saying “I feel your pain” about the recession of the early 90s. Well, it worked. So too did George W. Bush’s protest that he was a “compassionate conservative,” although many movement conservatives absolutely hated this rhetorical concession to the fact that average people think of conservatives as ugly frat boys, wild ideologues, and aloof country clubbers.

I am actually surprised Republicans aren’t faring worse. When Republicans are asked how they will create jobs, they reference to-be-signed free trade agreements with South American nations. What does that mean to working-class whites in Ohio, people who might be uncomfortable with Sherrod Brown’s social positions but who voted for him anyway? Does anyone out there seriously hear about a free-trade agreement with Colombia and think “That’ll help us.”

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A More Diverse GOP

As I said in my post election wrap-up, I don’t think the primary problem for the Republican Party is that it isn’t “reaching” enough voters. The problem is that voters are rejecting the party and its ideology.

I’m not a political strategist or coalition-builder, but I’ve been hearing a lot of nonsense about how the GOP can revive itself.

My first thought is this: don’t panic or freak out. The Democrats lost two 49-state landslides not all that long ago, and they survived. The GOP was competitive in the popular vote, even with a candidate who was always going to be a tough sell during a recession. The GOP is also still recovering from a disastrous presidency of its own. Even if the Democrats are building a majority coalition, it is such a diverse coalition that it may tend toward instability.

There are two prevalent ideas on how to revive the GOP, and they conflict with each other. The first is that the GOP needs to ditch its own base of voters and reject social conservatism, to become a party that is about fiscal responsibility. That’s less a strategy of addition by subtraction than outright subtraction by subtraction.

Younger voters tend to be slightly more pro-life than older ones. But they are massively more in favor of gay marriage. I expect there will be some adjustment on these issues from the GOP, but the first priority should be to train its politicians not to sound like idiots when talking about them. Evangelicals and conservative religious people of all types (even Muslims) are natural constituents for a conservative party. Telling them to drop dead isn’t going to help you build a majority.There are not enough country clubs to elect a president. Further, the people advising you to tell social cons to buzz off also hate your other policies.

The second idea is that somehow Republicans need to become the party of mass Hispanic immigration. And that they can attract Hispanic voters with their family values messaging (You know, the same thing they have to ditch because of younger voters.) This is a complete dead end. Read More…

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It’s Over; The Republican Party Hasn’t Recovered From Bush

As I write, Barack Obama has been declared the winner of the 2012 election. He will compile an impressive victory in the Electoral College. By my projections at least a 313-213 victory. And it could be larger than that when Florida and Ohio are finally counted. But Romney made a respectable showing in the popular vote, one that would have been surprising before the first debate made a Republican comeback victory seem temporarily possible.

We’ve already gone over the reasons Romney lost. The Republican coalition is shriveling, the Democrats are growing. Romney was an unliked nominee who failed to compete for the very voters that powered Republicans to re-take the House in 2010.  I think he is an admirable guy in some ways, but harnessing the passions of the GOP and riding them into the White House was a task beyond the abilities of the hyper-competent, hard-working moderate.

It’s a bad night for social conservatives, in fact it is almost a complete reversal of 2004. Same sex marriage won on the ballot in Maryland and Maine. Obama did not really propose anything new on the economy or foreign policy fronts, but he did make contraception, rape, and Roe v. Wade a large part of this campaign. He constantly portrayed Romney as a man with “the social policies of the 1950s.” Apparently this worked. If there is one thought that comforts me (and perhaps some readers), it is that the chances of courts striking down the “contraceptive mandate” that impinges on religious freedom seem very good. However, Obama’s second term will mean that a future American judiciary may be more open to that sort of thing.

Because changing demographics are such a huge part of Obama’s formula, it is going to cause Republicans to discuss how they can attract a more diverse pool of voters. Inevitably this will focus on Hispanics. I expect tonight’s results will be used as an argument for automatically nominating Florida Senator Marco Rubio for 2016.

But in reality the more pressing problem is that Republicans are still a party badly damaged by the George W. Bush years. The GOP has traditionally held huge advantages on foreign policy and the economy. That advantage is gone now. And Mitt Romney was the wrong candidate to give the party a refresh on those issues, particularly when the gettable voters were downscale whites. It isn’t that Republicans aren’t reaching enough voters; voters simply don’t believe the GOP is competent to govern.

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The Encouraging Sign For Romney

I may have pre-written the post-mortem on the Romney campaign, but I thought I’d point to the one sign that he is going to be okay.

So far, Romney is performing well in Prince William County and other Northern Virginia exurbs beyond Fairfax county. These are the kind of voters Romney is going to need to win in Ohio, Florida, Colorado and (potentially) Wisconsin to win the election.

UPDATE 9:50 PM Eastern: But it looks like it is not enough. Romney needs to win an absolute squeaker in Florida. And he needs Ohio.

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How to Explain Romney’s Loss to Shocked Conservatives

If Romney loses tonight, there are going to be a lot of shocked Republicans and conservatives. If you’re a reader of the Greek New Testament (and who isn’t?) the appropriate word is “skandalon.” Such a result will be a “scandal” or a “stumbling block” to your friends who were sure that good Ohioans would vote for Mitt Romney and that this Nate Silver guy at the New York Times was cooking the books on the polls, along with the rest of the media.

Conservatives will say, with some good reason, that unemployment is unacceptably high. Obama didn’t bring hope or change. And there is no way all those flaky college kids and minority voters could be excited enough to show up to the polls this year. So how did this happen?

Here are some things to remind them:

Lots of Republican voters died, and lots of Democratic voters came into being: The winning modern Republican coalition goes back to Richard Nixon. It includes lots of white ethnic Catholics, Southern Evangelicals, and the odd country clubbers. This coalition is much older and whiter than the America that is rapidly coming into being. About two and half million Americans die every year. That means something like 10 million Americans died since 2008. More of them would be Republican voters than not. And at the same time, younger voters are much more likely to take President Obama’s side on the culture war. They are more likely to be non-white and secular. About 16.8 million Americans turned 18 between the last election and this one. So, yes, Democratic enthusiasm may be dampened, but demographic changes make it easier for Democrats to turn out the same number of voters year after year.

Romney could not take advantage of Obama’s weaknesses with the working class: Since his primary run in 2007 and 2008, it has been obvious that Barack Obama has distinct problems with white working class voters. Republicans gained congressional seats from Scranton to Des Moines in 2010, the exact area where Romney needed to do well. But Mitt Romney was almost exactly the wrong kind of Republican to reach out to these voters. He looks like upper management, the guys that get bonuses for laying you off. In fact, Obama successfully painted him as just such a vulture capitalist in these states. Romney’s “47 percent” remarks also demonstrated that he has no natural feeling of solidarity for “working Joes.” Meanwhile, Obama had been making amends with this group of voters by claiming to have saved the American auto industry, and portraying Mitt as the man who wanted to destroy it. When Mike Huckabee said Mitt looked like the guy that fired you, you nodded in agreement.

You heard lots about Benghazi on talk-radio and Fox News, but Mitt Romney botched the issue then ditched it. So hardly anyone else heard about it. Romney was always going to have a tough time on this issue because he wants to position himself as “tougher” than Obama. But Obama’s error in Libya may have been being too promiscuous with the use of force. There is almost no doubt that the president’s administration made poor decisions when our mission in Libya pleaded for more security. There is almost no doubt that the administration stuck with a bogus story about a YouTube video causing a riot that killed the Ambassador to Libya long after they had good reasons not to believe it. There is almost no doubt that the president’s decision to intervene in Libya made America responsible for the chaos in the region and an unwitting accomplice in the rise of Al Qeada in Mali and elsewhere. But when our ambassador was killed, Romney held a press conference implying that Obama sympathized with the attackers. Not only was this wrong, it was easy to rebut. Instead of letting the press go after the president, Romney strode out like a matador and waved a big red flag at them. He got gored for “jumping the gun.” At the second debate, Romney didn’t lay out his own views of what happened in Libya, but tried to get into a semantics debate about when Obama used the word terror. It backfired and became a disastrous moment for Romney. By the third debate, Romney just ignored the question on Libya.

America isn’t what you thought it was: Please remember, in 2008 Barack Hussein Obama absolutely trounced Republicans in Virginia. Virginia! The Old Dominion that is littered with landmarks dedicated to Robert E. Lee voted for the first black president overwhelmingly. You have been saying that Obama was going to change America. It turns out that America had changed already. That’s why you got Barack Obama in the first place.

Finally: you didn’t like Romney that much either. So are you really surprised? The entire Republican primary was a search for a “Not-Romney” candidate. In fact, you probably once contemplated voting for Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, or Rick Santorum precisely because Romney was a flip-flopper who invented Obamacare in Massachusetts. Just a year ago, my dear conservative friend, you were likely very much against the idea of Romney being your nominee. So how can you be surprised that other Americans never warmed to him as a choice for president?

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