I understand what it is like to be deeply disappointed by an election, and to be gravely worried about the country's future. My formative years were dominated by the Reagan presidency - I proudly served as the "Reagan" in my junior high mock debate and election in 1980, and again as a high school senior in 1984. When Bill Clinton won in 1992, I was stunned by the choice my country made and I was scared about the future.
But what I have seen on Facebook over the last week, and in the news this week, goes far beyond rational, reasonable disappointment. I have received several emails from friends declaring that we have come to the end of our Republic, that we are now the United States of Socialism, that the ideals of America are dead. This hysterical response to the President's re-election not only betrays a complete lack of historical perspective, it also reveals what is wrong with the conservative movement.
And hysterical is the only way to characterize what's happening. In the first place, based on this reaction you would think that President Obama won in an FDR-like landslide. The fact is that he eked out a narrow popular vote win of two percent, and a modest electoral college win. A shift of just a few thousand votes in a handful of key states would have given the election to Romney. And while the GOP lost a few seats on Congress, it retains firm control of the House and the power to block Democratic moves in the Senate (as a point of reference, when FDR won his first re-election in 1936, the Senate composition was 76-16 Democrat, and the House was 334-88 Democrat).
Further, the results of last Tuesday's election do no spell the end of the values of our Republic, or the Republican Party. It is true that 49% of Americans receive some sort of government benefit - but that hardly qualifies them as "takers." Most of those people (over half) are the elderly, who receive Social Security or Medicare after years of paying into the system. A fifth are the disabled, and another fifth are the working poor.
And while it is probably the case that our country is shifting to the left on some social issues like gay marriage, it is also true that most Americans describe themselves as pro-life, and among the Democrats elected to the Senate this year were pro-life candidates in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Indiana.
I would suggest that instead of blaming the American people for their loss, the Republican Party and the conservative movement needs to take a hard look at who it is who is shaping the message of the movement. Conservatism has been hi-jacked by ideologues who prefer their own set of facts over reality. Nothing illustrates this more readily than the assured belief that all the polls were wrong, that Romney was going to win going away.
It is this same mentality that has steered the movement into extreme positions that simply deny reality:
- That the debt problem can be solved without raising taxes.
- That comprehensive immigration is "amnesty."
- That climate change is a hoax.
Over and over again I could list examples of ideas that were championed by conservatives a few years ago (like cap and trade, or the individual mandate for health insurance) that are now decried as socialism. It is a sad testimony to how far conservativism has drifted - not to the right, but away from reality.
It is time for secession on the part of conservatives. It is time for common-sense conservatives to secede from the ideologues on talk radio and Fox News and emphasize thoughtful, prudent, reality-based solutions to America's problems.