Random Notes on the 2012 U.S. Elections

I am sure that many of you must be thinking: "Boy, Brian must be really depressed today." And maybe even embarrassed after hanging himself out on a limb predicting a 53% to 47% Romney victory. 

Not at all. With regard to the second, I am happy to be in the company of many others, notably Michael Barone and George Will, who equally predicted the kind of Romney landslide I did. Obviously, I am disappointed with the results. But am I depressed?

No. I woke up this morning and, after making sure it was really November 7th and not November 6th following a really bad dream, felt strangely... energized. I have a lot of reactions to the elections, but cannot tie them all together in a single coherent essay. I will therefore simply list them paragraph by paragraph, in the order they randomly pop into my head.

I see many immature conservatives declaring that the problem was not running a campaign hard enough to the right. Mitt Romney the moderate was the problem. News flash: that kind of thinking assumes that there are more conservatives than liberals in this country. That assumption died last night. And it is best to leave it buried. Going harder to the right is to dream you can turn the Titanic on a dime. Delusional.

I admit that I get a bit irritated by Christians whose insta-reaction is to brush it all off, glibly posting Facebook updates that communicate, in effect: "It doesn't matter." Yes, in the ultimate, grand scheme of things, the God who will be openly vindicated at the end of time is in control and our political contortions are not of ultimate concern. But it does matter, nevertheless. The stuff in the middle matters: culture, the material world, real people, real problems matter, and they matter to God. The sting of defeat is not salved by Gnostic cliches.

I admit that I also get irritated by Christians whose insta-reaction is to interpret "Honor the King" as a mandate to engage in a big group hug and proclaim our love of Barack Obama and liberals. The title of this Russell Moore piece gave that impression to me, but I found its content very, very good anyway. I recommend reading it. We must be the political opposition, yes. But the loyal opposition.

Mitt Romney ran a really fine campaign and became a very fine candidate for President of the United States. I think he is a fine, classy man and would have been a very fine President. I will completely ignore all Monday morning quarterbacking. We did not lose because Romney committed some sin of omission. Or a stupid hurricane. Or because he didn't press Benghazi. We lost because 50 million people love the idea of Barack Obama. Deal with it.

Far too few people have a coherent worldview. People in Missouri, for example, enthusiastically voted for Mitt Romney but threw Todd Akin into the electoral trash heap. Flawed candidate? Of course. What candidate isn't? Should he have stepped out of the race? Of course. But you vote on election day with the candidates you have, not the ones you wish you had. Trying to send Mitt Romney and Claire McCaskill to Washington on the same day should have a diagnosis in the DSM-IV. Certifiable mental insanity.

After spending $2 Billion on a campaign, the complexion of the U.S. Government remains exactly the same. This is an Empire grinding. The gears are locked and not turning. Or, perhaps a better metaphor: the brakes are locked and we are skidding. Skidding off an economic cliff. Is there enough time to delay this? Probably not. Hard times are ahead, and the capital markets are showing it quite clearly this morning.

Fairly or unfairly, Chris Christie will never be a rock star in the Republican Party again. I think it is moderately unfair, even though I do find his braggadocio and arrogance off-putting. Bruce Springsteen noticed him. I think all his rock star dreams have been fulfilled. Enjoy being Governor, Mr. Christie.

Conservatism is stronger and more robust than it has been in generations. The scholarly output by groups like National Review, Heritage, American Enterprise Institute, Claremont, and Acton is astonishing. This work is not reaching and persuading the common voter. Time to redouble the efforts at translating the ideas into everyday terms that will persuade the unpersuaded. To that end, will you consider financially supporting my work at the Center For Cultural Leadership? That's how I make a living. Drop me a line in my Contact page and I'll give you more details.

How do we make inroads in an electorate not warm to conservative ideas? 

Well, maybe the country needs to get slapped upside the head with fiscal and cultural realities. Very probable, but not something I've been praying for. Or ever will pray for. And that is not something we can control anyway. The biblical stance is always, "Lord, we deserve your judgment. Please, please delay it!" Never: "Lord, judge us!"

I look at the electoral map and I see a sea of red and tiny pockets of blue. Those pockets of blue are major urban population centers, filled with young millennials bewitched by the mind-numbing, soothing language of Progressivism: tolerance, compassion, social justice, etc. They are persuaded by the likes of JayZ and Katy Perry, as depressing as that is. Politics is downstream from culture. We have a lot of work to do persuading these voters that a culture of life, strong civil society, free market enterprise, and the impartiality of justice (i.e., not identity politics) leads to human flourishing and Progressivism does not. We cannot simply assume they'll grow out of it as they get older. They may, and often do. But we need to be more proactive because these people obviously vote before their eventual enlightenment. I have some ideas of my own and I'm open to suggestions.

But these ultra-liberal urban centers are also filled with upper-income elites who seem utterly entrenched in political liberalism. What is so amazing about this is that these rich liberals are not engaging in free sex or aborting their babies (a major campaign pitch of the Obama campaign in the final days). They are getting married, staying married, and having kids. Yet they seem to think the Republic is at stake if those young millennials don't get free contraceptives or abortifacients. My point? Upper class liberals live more conservatively than they vote. This is a fact, and you can read all about it in Charles Murray's Coming Apart. We need to start persuading these people.

I look at these blue urban pockets and something else strikes me. How would these electoral areas look if large evangelical church pastors had not stubbornly refused for the past few decades to teach and preach anything politically related? I think of Tim Keller, of whom I have the greatest admiration. I believe he is under-serving his people in New York City if his teaching never translates into political matters. And he purposely makes sure it never translates into political matters. Upper income elites need to be encouraged to vote the values they actually live (by and large), and young millennials need to be encouraged to make the connections between the Christian Faith they get on Sunday and the ballot booth they enter on Tuesday. (I've written a book to do just that, by the way. Buy it now. More than ever. Give it to your children and all their friends.)

I looked at the electoral map last night and wondered: can we move all those pockets of blue east of the Mississippi and all of the red west of the Mississippi and call it good? In other words, my natural reaction, and the natural human reaction, is to huddle. One headline today put it this way: the two sides of the country aren't on speaking terms. We must firmly resist this impulse. This is why I am allergic to the idea that we need to be more hard right in our electoral politics. It is an attitude that the other side just doesn't matter; let's just talk among ourselves, ramp up the "base," and all will be well. Well, no. Loving our neighbors means loving our liberal neighbors, too. Picking up our marbles and going home is not an option.

I am also convinced, now more than ever, that the conservative movement in America will be a minority party as far into the future as the eye can see if they continue to spout the rhetoric of rounding up Hispanics and Latinos and shipping them back to lands of poverty. Just one word: Stop. Building a fence is fine and necessary. Denying citizenship is fine and probably necessary. Mass deportations? Get a grip on reality. The Hispanic and Latino communities are largely Catholic and socially conservative. That is, natural allies of the Republican party. They will never vote for a party that talks about busing their loved ones back to poverty. Again: Stop.

There is much to do. The world became a more dangerous place yesterday. Our own fiscal and economic health took a serious hit. The security of Israel took a serious hit. The Mullahs in Iran are among the most overjoyed at Obama's reelection. Our culture took a hit, with marriage undermined in four states. We're taking fire, and in combat you always move forward to the fire. No self-pity. No curling up into the fetal position. No huddling. The King of kings, Lord of lords, President of presidents, is on the cosmic throne. We must be sober and serious; but we must also be happy and cheerful warriors, for the ultimate victory is his and, therefore, ours.


Brian Mattson