Conservative Reaction To Election ’12, Part I: Despair Not Denial

By and large, I’ve been surprised by the relative docility with which conservative voices have accepted their defeat on Tuesday. Once the deal went down, there was relatively little talk about “voter fraud” or stolen elections. Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox over its call of Ohio (and the presidency) for Obama was probably the most visible sign of disbelief at the actual results, which were, after all, showing up Rove himself as a gigantic failure. Yes, Donald Trump raved on Twitter about the need for a “revolution” and people marching on Washington, but as always, he spoke only for himself.

There was, however, a lot of talk, not among pols and conventional Republicans, but in the conservative ideological commentariat, about America’s choice of a second term for Barack Obama reflecting a systemic corruption of public morals and institutions that has made the election of a conservative president very difficult if not impossible.

Here’s Jay Nordlinger at National Review:

The voters had a clear choice. Each presidential nominee was a good — very good — representative of his point of view. The voters had plenty of information, no matter how biased the media are. They had plenty of good, solid information. Conventions, debates, etc.

And they chose.

The Left is winning, in more than the electoral sense. The Left is winning culturally — psychologically, spiritually, if you will. They control education, the entertainment industry . . . need I give the whole list?

Here’s Mike Flynn at Breitbart.com:

Andrew always pointed out that politics was far downstream from media and pop culture. By ceding the media and pop culture space, conservatives were always at an extreme disadvantage whenever a specific political debate arose. They could occasionally win certain battles, but they would always be fighting against extreme headwinds. Last night was a brutal reminder that Andrew was right.

Here’s John Hinderaker at PowerLine:

To me, the most telling incident of the campaign season was a poll that found that among young Americans, socialism enjoys a higher favorability rating than free enterprise. How can this possibly be, given the catastrophic failure of socialism, and the corresponding success of free enterprise, throughout history? The answer is that conservatives have entirely lost control over the culture. The educational system, the entertainment industry, the news media and every cultural institution that comes to mind are all dedicated to turning out liberals. To an appalling degree, they have succeeded. Historical illiteracy is just one consequence. Unless conservatives somehow succeed in regaining parity or better in the culture, the drift toward statism will inevitably continue, even if Republicans win the occasional election.

There’s a lot more talk just like that out there, and in a way it’s just as corrosive of any real rethinking of conservative ideology or Republican policies as denial that adverse election results are legitimately occurring. How could the Mitt Romney campaign, or the Republican Party as a whole, or the conservative movement and its Tea Party shock troops in particularly, have produced a different result if a majority of the American people have been trained since childhood to become vassals of the all-powerful state and enemies of free enterprise and religion? The problem isn’t with conservatives; it’s with America!

As we have seen throughout history, cultural despair can lead to quiescence–to the withdrawal from politics and the building of counter-cultural institutions–or to hyper-activism–to the building of self-consiously counter-revolutionary political movements that exhibit contempt for democracy and treat opponents as enemies on an almost existential level. Maybe the kind of stuff I quoted above just reflects an emotional hangover from an election conservatives convinced themselves they were going to win. But it’s hardly new; much of the Tea Party Movement and its “constitutional conservative” ideology has involved a strange sort of anti-Americanism cloaked in super-patriotism. It wouldn’t be surprising if the same people reacted to the re-election of Barack Obama by taking their hostility to America as it is to another level.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.