I’ve been reading a lot of analysis these past few days by people trying to figure out how Mitt Romney could have lost to Barack Obama.
Much of the analysis blames me for Romney’s defeat. Well, me and people like me. Meaning people who did not vote.
Obama actually received 9 million fewer votes last week than he received in 2008. Problem is, Romney received 2 million fewer votes than John McCain received in 2008, and McCain was one of the weakest Republican candidates in modern history.
As Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, put it:
Obama lost an incredible 9 million voters from his 2008 haul. If told on Monday that fully 13 percent of the president’s support would vanish, the GOP establishment would have stocked up on champagne and confetti.
McCarthy goes on to explain why he thinks so many people did not vote. I think his may be the best analysis of the non-voters I’ve read. I think it’s the best because he hits many of the chords I struck after The Heartland Institute asked me and some other people for our reaction to Obama’s victory. Here’s what I wrote:
I’m not surprised. The biggest ‘achievement’ of the Obama presidency has been Obamacare, which was modeled on Romneycare in Massachusetts. So the election came down to a choice between the man who gave us Obamacare and the man who gave Obamacare to the man who gave us ObamaCare. There was no compelling reason to change president.
I’m being only a little tongue in cheek. Romney is a big-government Republican. Obama is a bigger-government Democrat. Democrats and Republicans get all worked up over what really are minor differences. For instance, Obama wants to slightly raise tax rates on top earners. Romney wanted to lower tax rates but limit deductions, credits and exemptions in a way that might have resulted in higher tax bills on many earners. Romney himself said his plan would be ‘revenue neutral,’ meaning the amount of money pouring into the federal government would be the same.
When the choice is six of one, a half dozen of the other, why get so worked up? Maybe because of the potential Supreme Court nominations? The abominable ruling upholding Obamacare was written by Chief Justice Roberts, who was appointed by that compassionate conservative Republican president, George W. Bush. He may as well have been appointed by Vladimir Lenin. Plenty of justices who have shrunk freedom and grown government have been appointed by Republicans.
I stopped getting excited about elections long ago. I don’t understand why people put so much stock in what politicians say during political campaigns — or any other time — when nearly everything they say is mendacious or flat-out lies. Actions really do speak louder than words, and the actions of politicians in both major political parties show them to be in favor bigger and more abusive government.
The only presidential candidate who garnered any appreciable number of convention delegates and who really believed in shrinking government and upholding the Constitution was Ron Paul, and the Republican establishment loathed him more than Obama.
An acquaintance emailed asking me to “talk me off the ledge” after the Obama victory. I haven’t heard from him since, so my answer might have pushed him off. Here’s what I wrote:
Even if Romney had won and the entire Ryan budget plan had been put into effect, the country would have seen more trillions of dollars of debt and federal spending. There would have been slightly less than under Obama, that’s all.
This was a race between a big-government Republican and a bigger-government Democrat. And remember, the Obamacare ruling upholding the law as a tax — even though the Obama administration argued it is not a tax, and the “tax” for not buying insurance is called a penalty 18 times in the law — was written by Chief Justice Roberts, a so-called ‘conservative’ who was appointed by compassionately conservative Republican George W. Bush. Bush also gave us No Child Left Behind (the largest and most expensive intrusion of the federal government into state and local government in national history) and the Medicare drug expansion (then the single largest expansion of entitlement spending since the 1960s). The Republicans gave us warrantless wiretaps, two undeclared wars, cops turning into paramilitary units, the TARP bailouts, thousands of spending earmarks for things like the Bridge to Nowhere, etc.
On October 15 a book called ‘A Nation of Takers’ was released. I have a copy. Among other things, it has this tidbit: From 1960 to 2010, growth in entitlement spending ‘was on the whole over 8 percent higher if the president happened to be a Republican rather than a Democrat.’
Federal spending during the eight Clinton years rose 32 percent. During the following eight GW Bush years, it rose 83 percent.Republicans repeatedly voted to raise the debt limit under Bush. It was $5.7 trillion when he took office. It was $10.4 trillion when he left office.
Most Americans believe bullshit. They believe political caricatures and blind themselves to facts because they define themselves as Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, whatever. Everyone ‘knows’ Democrats are for wild spending and income redistribution. Everyone ‘knows’ Republicans are for fiscal responsibility and against income redistribution.
Republican Richard Nixon ended the last tie to the gold standard, imposed wage and price controls, created the EPA, signed off on massive increases in Medicare spending (even though Medicare was barely off the ground before he took office). Republican Ronald Reagan signed off on huge payroll tax increases to ‘save’ Social Security. For nearly 30 years the government had been collecting far more in SS taxes than needed to pay benefits. We were promised the ‘surplus’ money would be set aside for our retirement. Every penny of the SS ‘surplus’ has been spent. There is no money set aside. This is probably the largest theft in world history. And now SS has begun paying out more than it’s collecting in benefits, and SS solvency is again threatened.
I posted all this to set up the analysis by McCarthy. You may read the whole thing here, but I think the meat of his argument is this excerpt:
The brute fact is: There are many people in the country who believe it makes no difference which party wins these elections. Obama Democrats are the hard Left, but Washington’s Republican establishment is progressive, not conservative. This has solidified statism as the bipartisan mainstream. Republicans may want to run Leviathan — many are actually perfectly happy in the minority — but they have no real interest in dismantling Leviathan. They are simply not about transferring power out of Washington, not in a material way.
As the 2012 campaign elucidated, the GOP wants to be seen as the party of preserving the unsustainable welfare state. When it comes to defense spending, they are just as irresponsible as Democrats in eschewing adult choices. Yes, Democrats are reckless in refusing to acknowledge the suicidal costs of their cradle-to-grave nanny state, but the Republican campaign called for enlarging a military our current spending on which dwarfs the combined defense budgets of the next several highest-spending nations. When was the last time you heard a Republican explain what departments and entitlements he’d slash to pay for that? In fact, when did the GOP last explain how a country that is in a $16 trillion debt hole could afford to enlarge anything besides its loan payments?
Our bipartisan ruling class is obtuse when it comes to the cliff we’re falling off — and I don’t mean January’s so-called ‘Taxmageddon,’ which is a day at the beach compared to what’s coming.
As ZeroHedge points out, we now pay out $250 billion more on mandatory obligations (i.e., just entitlements and interest on the debt) than we collect in taxes. Understand, that’s an annual deficit of a quarter trillion dollars before one thin dime is spent on the exorbitant $1.3 trillion discretionary budget — a little over half of which is defense spending, and the rest the limitless array of tasks that Republicans, like Democrats, have decided the states and the people cannot handle without Washington overlords.
What happens, moreover, when we have a truly egregious Washington scandal, like the terrorist murder of Americans in Benghazi? What do Republicans do? The party’s nominee decides the issue is not worth engaging on — cutting the legs out from under Americans who see Benghazi as a debacle worse than Watergate, as the logical end of the Beltway’s pro-Islamist delirium. In the void, the party establishment proceeds to delegate its response to John McCain and Lindsey Graham: the self-styled foreign-policy gurus who urged Obama to entangle us with Benghazi’s jihadists in the first place, and who are now pushing for a repeat performance in Syria — a new adventure in Islamist empowerment at a time when most Americans have decided Iraq was a catastrophe and Afghanistan is a death trap where our straitjacketed troops are regularly shot by the ingrates they’ve been sent to help.
Republicans talk about limited central government, but they do not believe in it — or, if they do, they lack confidence that they can explain its benefits compellingly. They’ve bought the Democrats’ core conceit that the modern world is just too complicated for ordinary people to make their way without bureaucratic instruction. They look at a money-hemorrhaging disaster like Medicare, whose unsustainability is precisely caused by the intrusion of government, and they say, “Let’s preserve it — in fact, let’s make its preservation the centerpiece of our campaign.”
The calculation is straightforward: Republicans lack the courage to argue from conviction that health care would work better without federal mandates and control — that safety nets are best designed by the states, the people, and local conditions, not Washington diktat. In their paralysis, we are left with a system that will soon implode, a system that will not provide care for the people being coerced to pay in. Most everybody knows this is so, yet Republicans find themselves too cowed or too content to advocate dramatic change when only dramatic change will save us. They look at education, the mortgage crisis, and a thousand other things the same way — intimidated by the press, unable to articulate the case that Washington makes things worse.
Truth be told, most of today’s GOP does not believe Washington makes things worse. Republicans think the federal government — by confiscating, borrowing, and printing money — is the answer to every problem, rather than the source of most. That is why those running the party today, when they ran Washington during the Bush years, orchestrated an expansion of government size, scope, and spending that would still boggle the mind had Obama not come along. (See Jonah Goldberg’s jaw-dropping tally from early 2004 — long before we knew their final debt tab would come to nearly $5 trillion.) No matter what they say in campaigns, today’s Republicans are champions of massive, centralized government. They just think it needs to be run smarter — as if the problem were not human nature and the nature of government, but just that we haven’t quite gotten the org-chart right yet.
That is not materially different from what the Democrats believe. It’s certainly not an alternative. For Americans who think elections can make a real difference, Tuesday pitted proud progressives against reticent progressives; slightly more preferred the true-believers. For Americans who don’t see much daylight between the two parties — one led by the president who keeps spending money we don’t have and the other by congressional Republicans who keep writing the checks and extending the credit line — voting wasn’t worth the effort.
Those millions of Americans need a new choice. We all do.