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A Romney Supporter’s Lament: “It’s Different This Time”

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 [1] 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.

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48 Comments To "A Romney Supporter’s Lament: “It’s Different This Time”"

#1 Comment By IanH On November 9, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

Maybe if they had nominated somebody who promised to rebuild the American economy and promised to give them real jobs, the result would have been different.

The GOP ideology (invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world) is flawed beyond measure. Their winning issues (curtailing fiscal overreach, ending immigration, ending state sponsored discrimination) are ignored. They don’t understand who votes for them and why and seemingly have no idea how to grow that pie. Who is paying these people? (Probably a large part of the problem, actually.)

#2 Comment By Charlie On November 9, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

It’s probably a mistake to draw sweeping conclusions from a couple of anecdotes. But it was troubling to read post-election reports about the Romney team’s faith in obviously skewed right-wing polling, and about its worse-than-useless centralized get-out-the-vote technology. It’s just too redolent of how the Bush Administration walled itself off from reality and wallowed in incompetence.

It sounds like a lot of this “oh my God, what happened?” commentary is being written by people who still think the GOP has a reputation for competence and effective management. They’ve squandered that advantage, and it’s now something people associate with Democrats. If bewildered GOP partisans are looking for a simple explanation for why Obama voters preferred the Democratic candidate, they could start there.

#3 Comment By GBH On November 9, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

Every time someone like Scott goes off like this I find their position incomprehensible–if we are now going to go around talking about incomprehensible events. What exactly are they talking about? Obamacare, which often seems to be at the center of things, was originally a republican idea, at least in a general structural sense. Millions of people do not have insurance in this country, and their need for acute care in emergencies is a terrible drag on the economy, as is the need to stay with one employer a drag on the labor market. What is the issue? But the worst is now the Hegelian/Marxist sounding accusations of false consciousness. When did more than half the population suddenly fail to truly understand their actual objective interests? That is the really nutty part of the response to Obama’s election, and it seems to be a large part of why the Republicans, including Romney, could not even imagine the possibility of a defeat.

#4 Comment By Michael Tracey On November 9, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

Much of this has to do with the apocalyptic vigor with which many on the Right perceived the election’s “stakes”. They believed Obama posed such a dire threat that America literally would not survive another four years of him.

Obama is a conservative technocrat with good oratory skills, not a secret jihadist.

#5 Comment By Daryl Davis On November 9, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

The Republicans didn’t lose because George W. failed to stick to small government policies. Obama wasn’t punished for bailing out Wall Street. Nor was Romney abandoned by small government supporters: he was simply outvoted by big government supporters.

Granted, the American people are war weary. But Obama doesn’t represent a clear alternative on that issue. The two opposing candidates put forth largely the same policies.

The sad truth is that demographics are now trending away from conservatives — with no end in sight. Ex-hippie Baby Boomers will soon require Social Security and Medicare — and bestow support upon the party offering the best promises. And Hispanics and Blacks will invariably become a larger percentage of the electorate in four years.

Thus, if the Democrats are smart enough to nominate another minority in 2016, either Hillary Clinton or an Hispanic for example, it probably won’t matter much who the Republicans nominate — not that they have an impressive track record there anyway.

It’s time for fiscal conservatives to realize that within the current political system they no longer enjoy much influence. And so it’s time for a new system, one in which conservatives can live according to their values; and the rest…can make a go of it with their own.

[2]

#6 Comment By Sands On November 9, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

Scott: ” Those of you who know me, know my basic moderation. You know I wasn’t always a conservative, that I voted for Dukakis, for Clinton twice, and for Gore. You know that like Obama, I attended meetings of the Democratic Socialists of America in the 1980s.”

Well guess what bud? Your conversion is too late. You, along with millions of your fellow cry babies, were warned a long time ago about where things were headed. You slipped the milk back then, so stop crying about it now.

#7 Comment By W.E.B. Dupree On November 9, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

Beyond parody.

#8 Comment By Paul Cox On November 9, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

Don’t kid yourself. Everyone can see the reason this time it’s sooooo different. It’s because Obama’s half black.

That’s why there’s so many people convinced, for example, that he’s a socialist. His healthcare plan was basically drafted by the Heritage Foundation and initially proposed by Republicans- doesn’t matter, it’s evidence he’s a socialist. His foreign policy is quite close to Bush- he hasn’t even formally repudiated the Bush-era change to the notion of using pre-emptive force against someone we THINK might want to do us harm in the future. Doesn’t matter, Obama’s a socialist.

There are a significant number of people who will never, ever, ever accept Obama. When you ask them why, their answers will defy logic. Those people are the ones who cannot simply admit it- it’s because of race. Plain and simple.

#9 Comment By cecelia On November 9, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

this to me is an example of the GOP’s problem – hysteria, hyperbole, drama queens they are all.

And they believe he is this socialist anti american ruin the republic demon. So that is who they ran against – failing to understand that the American people do not see Obama this way because he is not this way. Only in their fevered imagingings is Obama this “turn the country to socialism” guy. In the real world he is pretty moderate.

It is this loony stuff which damages the credibility of the GOP – and I see it as part and parcel of their unwillingness to recognize what a terrible disaster BushII was. How hard is it to admit what we all know – that waging trillion dollar wars whilst lowering taxes may be part of why we have such a huge deficit? That there was no reason for said war? The GOP has become the know nothing party.

#10 Comment By Peter H On November 9, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

Carl Scott seems to have forgotten the election of 2004. If there had been no second term for George W. Bush, there would have been no first term for Obama.

#11 Comment By SFBay On November 9, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

It seems to me that Repubican party is more like a cult these days. The power center lies with FOX news and right wing talk show hosts these days. Massive pressure to conform is applied to follow the conservative line. Those who question are excommunited – think any moderate Republican. It’s crude but effective. That’s why we see Republicans now in shock as they try to maintain the obviously false dogma they have been taught.

#12 Comment By Informant On November 9, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

This is certainly one of the things that has most baffled me about this election: the number of seemingly sane people who somehow have managed to convince themselves that Obama is at minimum the worst president since Carter, if not the worst president of American history.

#13 Comment By icarusr On November 9, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

It strikes me that Romney’s sense of entitlement to Presidency – for no other reason than he was Romney – has infected the Republicans as a whole. Why, they positively feel, er, victimised.

#14 Comment By Aron On November 9, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

Good people can disagree. Until the right realizes and internalizes this most basic of moral premises, it will continue to wander at length in the wilderness.

#15 Comment By J DeSales On November 10, 2012 @ 12:13 am

I feel like this line “And, you still voted for him and Joe [Biden], even in a situation where the Democratic Party did not stand to lose many decisive policy points, since there was no way it could get below a filibuster-sustaining number in the Senate” really defines what is wrong with the current Republican Party. They see the Senate as an all-or-nothing place where fanatics should fight to the death over every bit of objectionable legistlation. This sentence assumes that the Democrats, like the Republicans, would instantly go to the extreme and attempt to block every bit of legislation through the formerly extreme means of the filibuster. Frankly, it’s absurd that Mr. Scott immediately assumes that the enemy party would behave like petulant children rather than responsible adults and refuse any attempt at moderation or compromise.

There’s also the first line of the last full paragraph: “Perhaps in another post I will labor to spell out why I judge that the Obama-voters this time have made such an irresponsible choice.” The author is not really concerned with explaining his opinion, just throwing a tantrum. It’s really absurd that a magazine, even an online one, would publish something so utterly empty of content.

#16 Comment By Leo On November 10, 2012 @ 4:58 am

If the electorate really thought Obama was not a “failure” and things are improving, then Romney’s loss was probably not because of malevolent Bush spirits ? Or is Obama a disappointing mediocrity winning the politics of resentment? Who would have beaten Obama? Go on and name the challenger and you can participate in the autopsy. As to the GOP, it certainly needs reform, and you can begin now by constructively suggesting candidates to Mr. Scott that would have disproved his analysis and won. Otherwise, you seem to be the misusing the term “ranting”. On a friendlier note, the best and most memorable and true ranting is coming from the Obama camp. Have you read Howard Fineman? I’m saving that one.

#17 Comment By Victory over Eurasia On November 10, 2012 @ 6:12 am

The new meme, it’s not the poor GOP policies, it’s the poor judgement of the voters. Probably not a winning tack…..

#18 Comment By Cliff On November 10, 2012 @ 8:53 am

I never thought, at any time this year, that Obama was in any danger of losing the election, not even after his debate melt-down. If I had, I would have voted for him.

#19 Comment By Anderson On November 10, 2012 @ 9:10 am

The surprise is how hysterical so many Repubs turn out to be. It’s a matter for psychology, not politics.

#20 Comment By Fast Jimmy On November 10, 2012 @ 10:17 am

The path to understanding of these things is, at this point, nonexistent. Very little mention of the Iraq war and its damage to our budget and our security in the Middle east is to be found. George W. Bush himself is a phantom. I can’t recall even hearing his name mentioned once in spite of policies that he could have drawn up himself at the beginning of term 2.

The idea that people who disagree with them are lesser Americans, or not ‘real’ Americans at all is straight from the more base and silly proclamations of Sarah Palin from four years ago. No learning, no wisdom, no balance, and little chance of any of these things infecting today’s nihilistic GOP.

#21 Comment By Roland Kayser On November 10, 2012 @ 10:54 am

I read on this very website that Obama is more conservative than Richard Nixon, an opinion on which I agree. The Fox News version of Obama as a scary socialist is simply divorced from reality. Unfortunately, that’s the version of Obama that many on the right seem to carry in their heads.

If it was that scary alternate Obama that had been elected, it would be truly disastrous. Fortunately it is the real Obama who will be president, a moderate pragmatist.

#22 Comment By CitizenE On November 10, 2012 @ 11:03 am

Romney presented himself as the ultimate politician. A weather vane in other words, a hologram, an etch a sketch. Even among his supporters, those to the far right presupposed he would kowtow, as he did through the greater part of the campaign, even in his selection of running mate and his endorsement of Senate candidate Mourdock, to their interests if elected. Those more moderate would tell themselves in an act of self-mesmerization, he only did all those things because that is what all politicians have to do, and his truer perspective, a moderate one, would win the day once elected to govern. He presented nothing actual or concrete in terms of policy proposals, so no one could pin him down about anything, and to the degree he did discuss policy, on one day of the week he would say one thing, the very next day, the exact opposite. And he managed to insult a majority of the voting electorate with a political tourettes, nowhere better exemplified than out of the country, when he assured the city of London, a city that famously rebuilt itself after being bombed to smithereens, that they were of course likely to screw up the Olympics somehow (of course, this was, and here’s the kicker, based on his own experience–the ironies abound). Romney was a horrible candidate, that won one round out of the fifteen, the first debate when he caught the President napping by basically aggressively arguing for things he had heretofore opposed.

If our economy were not foundering, and if Barack Obama were white, Mitt Romney would have lost the election by double digits. He overperformed at the polls, not underperformed.

#23 Comment By Ross On November 10, 2012 @ 11:15 am

Dear Mr. Larison, I enjoy your blog, but could you please post a warning when you link to posts such as this, perhaps on the lines of “You are leaving reality and entering an alternate universe. Proceed?” Honestly, it took me an hour or two to get that out of my head.

#24 Comment By Franklin On November 10, 2012 @ 11:23 am

Is Mr. Scott’s claim that romney’s plans were more mathematically sound? If so, I find that beyond the realm of understanding.

#25 Comment By Reasonable 4ce On November 10, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

I laughed out loud when I clicked the link and found Scott writing under the byline of “post-modern conservative.” That says it all, doesn’t it?

#26 Comment By CharleyCarp On November 10, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

IanH, I agree with your first paragraph with this addition: ‘and articulates a coherent plan to get keep these promises.’ This is a huge hurdle, and one which the funders — primarily interested in cuts in their own taxes, and unlimited opportunities for making money through lay-off and outsourcing, or wasting/degrading natural resources — simply cannot get behind.

#27 Comment By Chris On November 10, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

I don’t know what’s more pathetic: The GOP’s inability to understand simple math, or the morning-after analyses which put absolutely none of the responsibility for their historic loss at the feet of the GOP’s policies.

The sign a political party has made itself irrelevant is when its response to losing is to say “We’re still right; What’s wrong with America is Americans.”

Democrats said the same thing in the wake of Reagan’s 1984 reelection.

#28 Comment By IanH On November 10, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

For once Charley, I actually agree with you.

The sad irony of this election is that many of the votes Romney lost were downscale whites. There are so many communities throughout the Midwest that would love to hear an economically protectionist message. Globalization and free trade have hurt the party in countless ways.

I suspect that’s part of the reason why Ron Paul and his supporters were so thoroughly denounced and hated by the establishment. The punditocracy’s hatred of the Paul movement far exceeds any dislike they have of Obama or the Democrats. My guess is because they know he’s an honest man who would actually do what he says he’d do in office.

Of course, there’s also foreign policy, which is also very unpopular. I can guarantee that the party will never even consider re-examining it’s support of the Iraq war, regardless of what else they decide to do.

#29 Comment By Mr. Patrick On November 10, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

The big change is that Republicans have lost, at least in Presidential politics, their advantage as America’s Natural Governing Party. We’re not longer post-Vietnam, we’re post-Iraq. The GOP will still win elections, but they cannot depend on the benefit of the doubt any longer. Romney ran on little but that benefit, from an ever-evolving and devolving foreign policy driven by the most vicious neocons that would somehow push relentlessly for peace, to a bathroom glass economic and tax agenda. We had no idea what was behind the frosted haze, but we were to see it was bright, somewhere out there.

The Democratic gains are still shaky, and held this year by a personally charismatic president. The GOP doesn’t need to work on the message of its ideology, it needs to work on policy. If the think tanks are still anything more than money sinks, this should be their hour.

#30 Comment By MikeS On November 10, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

“Obama is a conservative technocrat with good oratory skills, not a secret jihadist.”

That’s true, of course; and one of the reasons I cannot vote Repub is that they are so unhinged as to think Obama is some kind of would-be tyrant. They are simply disconnected from reality, and I don’t want people like that in power.

#31 Comment By Jack On November 10, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

“The big change is that Republicans have lost, at least in Presidential politics, their advantage as America’s Natural Governing Party.”

This is part of the problem. The Republicans are not “America’s Natural Governing Party” at all, but they think they should be. So they proceed from a faulty premise…that they belong in control and anytime they don’t win it is something wrong with the voters, not themselves. Some on the right are portraying this as a terrible loss for America, but it is really just a terrible loss for the GOP.

It did not need to be this way. Obama was easily the most vulnerable incumbent since Carter. Yet instead of running a candidate that could win over the people in the middle or even Democrats who were disappointed with Obama, the GOP ran a guy who lost to a guy who lost to Obama four years ago.

#32 Comment By NRF On November 10, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

Michael Tracey: if you claim that someone is “conservative” who racks up as much debt in four years than all previous presidents except W Bush — combined — and proposes more federal power and debt without end, then you are either a fool or a liar.

#33 Comment By Jack On November 10, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

NRF, I’d counter that the patron saint of conservatives – you know who I’m talking about – quadrupled the debt in his time in office. That would be the equivalent of Obama inheriting a 10 trillion dollar debt and leaving us with 40 trillion.

#34 Comment By IanH On November 10, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

Michael Tracey isn’t a conservative.

#35 Comment By David On November 10, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

Republicans, and Democrats as well, but primarily Republicans have been pushing the toxic brew of globalization and trade liberalization down the throats of the American people since Reagan. They have made excuse after excuse for why their failed economic policies have made for good governance. To say that the old arguments have worn thin would be an understatement at best.

Now the American middle class is no more and the best people can hope for is a social safety net that the Republicans promised to dismantle to pay for a tax break for the plutocrats who do little more then move money round and round a system that is completely rigged.

The American public voted their economic interests. Case closed.

#36 Comment By jeaeva On November 10, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

The only thing that was “different this time” was the astonishing spectacle of voters putting their faith in fairy tales about Romeny landslides when the truth was right in front of them, perfectly obvious and available.

#37 Comment By Angus On November 10, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

The reality is that the modern GOP has abandoned the interests of the middle class. Middle class incomes have stagnated since the 1970s, but top Republicans see this as a good thing — it reduces “costs” for businesses and ramps up corporate profits. Sure, Romney said he wanted to create jobs, but voters suspected those jobs would be for the minimum-wage and with no benefits.

#38 Comment By Stan On November 10, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

Romney came very close because the electorate is closely divided. He did not get over the hump, despite the bad economy, in part because he is a rich guy from finance when finance and its excesses sank the economy, in part because the conservative GOP has been a zoo from the primaries with alienating statements and a deluge of ugly negative ads, in part because Obama is a cautious and attractive moderate who eloquently articulates American aspirations and not the Marxist Nazi Moslem Black Nationalist conservatives depict, and it part because the Reagan era demographic and message no longer describe America. Perhaps most importantly, Romney could neither articulate what he would have done differently nor what he would do better in the future. If conservative Republicans really believe they are “the natural governing party” and this allows them to self-motivate in the unreality generated by the Fox-Limbaugh propeganda axis, this may be part of their problem. Conservative Republicans may have a leg up because they are closest to the hearts of the corporate capitalists whose contributions determine what and who can be on the table for American voters to consider. However those same capitalists also fund the Democrats in order to keep the Republicans in line. America faces serious crises if employment, debt and expectations in a consumer society. These will probably result in divided and unstable government, but unless conservatives come up with convincing solutions that work for America they will lose as often as they win, or perhaps more.

#39 Comment By Clint On November 11, 2012 @ 9:44 am

Many voters stayed home and didn’t vote for either Frick or Frack.
About 11 million fewer Americans voted for the two major-party candidates in 2012, down from 130 million in 2008, even though the population has steadily increased.

#40 Comment By stephen matlock On November 11, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

I’m a former Republican. Voted straight Republican ticket for 40 years. Would have voted for Nixon in ’72 but missed the franchise by one month.

I abandoned the Republican Party shortly after 2010, and voted for my first Democrat for President.

The Republican Party has simply gone insane. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure this out, but it is insane.

I have lengthy explanations elsewhere why I made the choice. And I get a lot of pushback from people who cannot imagine why I abandoned the party I served and donated to and walked the districts for.

These are people who think Obama is a Muslim and an atheist and a socialist. They tell me completely insane theories of how he’s going to take away guns and become world dictator.

Some of them are nice people. Nearly every single one of them flatly believes and spreads lies, mostly in the name of Christ. That is reprehensible, but that is what they do. There is not other term for it except maybe shameful.

Whether you like Obama’s policies or not (and I largely like them), the way to oppose an argument is with reason and facts.

The Republican Party has become an organ of FOX News and Rush Limbaugh and all the rest of the rich white males who want to keep their privileged position.

It’s greed, it’s wrong, and the Republicans need to take a cold hard look at the facts, that they have become the party of the Confederacy when it comes to race and the party of the oligarchy when it comes to money and the party of Ayn Rand when it comes to social benefits.

I regret the decades I wasted thinking the Republicans were a solution. I do not regret for a moment my decision to leave, and do not regret a single lost friendship, as a friend would listen to me and not lecture me.

#41 Comment By Ken T On November 11, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

Romney lost because he spent the entire campaign running against Clint Eastwood’s chair.

#42 Comment By James On November 11, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

“Invade the World, Invite the World, in Hock to the World.” This about sums up today’s Republican Party and fully does explain why Romney lost in 2012. For over thirty years the Republican Party has promoted (with many a Democrat’s help) an economic policy that has undermined the American middle class, especially the White American middle class, leaving many of them dependent on the state to a greater or lesser degree. Work a low wage job and compete with illegal immigrants or join the Army to fight in Republican lead imperial wars. These are your choices. Then, Romney comes out an calls them all a bunch of leeches for doing what Republican, free-trade economic policy has forced them to do to survive. When they don’t vote for them, then the Republicans get all astonished. Its no surprise at all.

#43 Comment By J.D. Rhoades On November 11, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

Maybe if they had nominated somebody who promised to rebuild the American economy and promised to give them real jobs, the result would have been different.

They did. It’s just that the way he proposed to do it had been tried–and failed disastrously.

#44 Comment By Sean Scallon On November 11, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

It’s not surprising First Things is the dumping ground for post-election articles like this one. Wasn’t it after 1996 after Clinton won they question the whole notion of democracy itself?

#45 Comment By sjay On November 11, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

Honestly, in reading Carl Scott’s post, I was reminded of Wilde’s comment about Old Curiosity Shop, that “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”

#46 Comment By Greg T. On November 12, 2012 @ 10:43 am

I will be curious what Obama’s approval will be in 2016. Considering he’s at about 50%,or Bush’s approval when he was reelected.

#47 Comment By sal magundi On November 12, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

“Everyone can see the reason this time it’s sooooo different. It’s because Obama’s half black.”

i try to resist this explanation, and yet i keep coming back to it too. what program of obama’s administration was not initiated or prefigured in bush’s administration? how can so many millions lie themselves into believing that there’s any fundamental difference in the policies of the two?

#48 Comment By Jon q public On November 12, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

The problem is when those who are takers are allowed to vote, they vote for the promises. Need to go back to the founders, only landowners(ie taxpayers) were allowed to vote(yes white and male back then) once non taxpayers were allowed the vote, the country was doomed.