Maybe there isn’t much purpose served by marveling at the rantings of some Romney supporters this week, but I think Carl Scott’s meltdown at First Things is useful as a window onto the thinking behind many of the bewildered reactions to the election result:
We look at the disaster the election of this man represents, the casual abdication of the basic citizenship duty to assess success or failure, bad character or good, math or bankruptcy, and we cannot honestly say that this loss is like 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1960, 1964, 1976, 1992, 1996, or 2008. All of those losses, in many of which there was much more at stake policy-wise, remained within the realm of understanding our fellow citizens’ reasoning. Not this one.
Note that this is coming from someone who says in the next paragraph that he voted for Gore, Dukakis, and Clinton both times. So this isn’t simply a straightforward partisan lament. It is something much stranger than that. Scott acknowledges that there was much more at stake in all of these other elections (including some where he voted for the winner), but somehow he finds the outcome of the 2012 election so much more incomprehensible than any of the others. Earlier, Scott tells Romney voters that they were kidding themselves about the likelihood of victory not because they will deliberately ignoring all of the evidence that told them it wasn’t going to happen, but rather because they had too much faith their fellow citizens. This is useless flattery. Scott fails to come to terms with the fact that most Americans don’t consider Obama a failure, they don’t regard his re-election as a disaster, and they perceive people who do as more than a little odd.
As completely unacceptable as I believed Romney to be, I understand that there were reasonable and principled arguments in favor of putting him in office. I couldn’t bring myself to agree with those arguments, but they existed. It should be equally easy for Romney supporters to grasp why their preferred candidate fell short. It’s not beyond the “realm of understanding.” This is what was likely to happen all along, and that’s because the public typically rewards incumbents when conditions are improving, and they are unlikely to favor the challenger when the opposition party continues to be haunted by the legacy of the previous failed president. Unless and until the GOP understands the extent of the damage caused by the Bush era and begins to repair it by distancing itself from Bush-era policies, these losses will keep happening. The rest of the country isn’t betraying anyone by refusing to give an unreformed GOP control of the Presidency just four years after its huge failures, and the sooner that Romney supporters understand that the better off they’ll be.