If we want to know which way the Republican Party is headed after its big losses on Tuesday, it helps to look at how conservatives are explaining Mitt Romney's loss to themselves. "This should have been a slam dunk," Rush Limbaugh said on Wednesday. "But it wasn't. There are reasons why. We're gonna have to dig deep to find them and we're gonna have to be honest with ourselves when we find the answers to this." From Republican pollsters to talking heads to activists, the reactions are on a continuum from analytical to thoughtful to insane. Here's a guide to the digging deep and not-so-deep:
How can we make minorities like us?
Because most of the pre-Election Day poll denialism was focused on demographics -- that there was no way the portion of the 2012 electorate that was black and Latino would be as high as in 2008, much less higher -- much of the post-Election Day soul-searching was focused on why the Republican Party is so unpopular with those groups.
At The Daily Beast, David Frum, who was outsed from the conservative movement for saying Republicans should have negotiated with President Obama on Obamacare, says that just being pro-immigration won't help the party. "It's necessary of course to refrain from insulting Latinos, or, for that matter, anybody," Frum writes. "But the crying need in the GOP is for a more middle-class orientation to politics, one that addresses concerns like healthcare as well as debts and deficits."
However, many prominent conservatives still in good standing failed to meet Frum's first requirement -- the no insults part -- even as they were talking about their unpopularity among those groups. On election night, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said if Romney loses, it's because non-whites want free stuff.
"The demographics are changing. It's not a traditional America anymore. And 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. Whereby 20 years ago, President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority."
Rush Limbaugh, too, was at a loss to explain why minorities don't like the GOP. After all, he can name some black and Latino Republicans:
Let me take you back to the Republican convention. We had Suzanne Martinez, female Hispanic governor, New Mexico. We had Condoleezza Rice, African-American, former secretary of state. Both of those people imminently qualified, terrifically achieved... We had Marco Rubio. We had a parade of minorities who have become successful Americans... Now, why didn't that work, folks?
He continued with this theme later in the show:
It doesn't count with Obama voters about whom it is said that stuff matters most. It doesn't count. Why not? Why, putting it somewhat coarsely, why doesn't the Republican Party get credit for Condoleezza Rice?
People voted for Obama because they want free things.
In the minds of some conservatives, like Bill O'Reilly, this, unfortunately tied to their explanations for why Republicans are unpopular with minorities. But others don't make it a race thing. The whole country has gone to seed, Ann Coulter says. "If Mitt Romney cannot be elected, we've reached the tipping point. We have more takers than makers," a forlorn Coulter told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday. America "no longer is interested in conservative ideas. It is interested in handouts." The Israeli paper owned by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who blew so much money on the election, ran the headline, "America Chose Socialism."
Limbaugh hit on this theme too. "It's just very difficult to beat Santa Claus," he said. "People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus." He continued that Obama supporters "think the Democrat Party's gonna punish the people who have unfairly gotten stuff that they shouldn't have. They got more stuff than other people have stuff and that stuff's gotta be redistributed."
It's not entirely about free stuff, says John Hayward at Human Events. "It’s really a battle of irresponsibility vs. freedom." He writes that conservatives must explain the true cost of free stuff, "A good portion of the middle-class 'free stuff' crowd, including quite a few of the working poor, would be much less receptive to Big Government if they appreciated that its financing is not a painless skimming of loot from bulging treasure vaults."
Was one of our own lying to us?
It's taken for granted that any campaign would feed a bunch of… let's call it malarkey to the press. But was the campaign feeding malarky to donors, too? Where does the malarkey line stop? Politico's James Hohmann and Anna Palmer report that Romney's loss "shocked many who had heard self-assured projections about voter enthusiasm and turnout in private conference calls and meetings in the campaign's final stretch."
Romney backers bought the poll deniers' argument that white voters would be a bigger portion of the electorate. But that didn't happen. In Ohio, for example, blacks were 15 percent of the electorate, up from 11 percent in 2008. Romney wasn't close to turning Pennsylvania red. Politico reports an anonymous Republican operative said, "I think Republicans are split right now between confused and shocked, and also I think they are wondering did the Romney campaign have numbers we didn’t have... Was last week a head fake, or were they just not that smart?"
Karl Rove's super PAC Crossroads USA spent $100 million this election, and couldn't win Senate seats or the presidency for Republicans. Rick Tyler, who worked for Todd Akin, told BuzzFeed's Rebecca Berg, "Rove spends more for Republican candidates than the NRSC and the NRCC. He's running things... Rove is definitely a problem." Of that $100 million wasted, Tyler said, "It's either malpractice or it's corrupt."
The solution is to hurt myself to spite people who might have voted for Obama.
A Las Vegas business owner immediately fired 22 people after Obama's election in anticipation of economic hardship. The anonymous businessman told radio host Kevin Wall on 100.5 KXNT that he'd warned his employees he'd have to take drastic measures to prepare for the costs of Obamacare.
"Well, unfortunately, and most of my employees are Hispanic — I’m not gonna go into what kind of company I have, but I have mostly Hispanic employees — well, unfortunately, we know what happened and I can’t wait around anymore, I have to be proactive. I had to lay off 22 people today to make sure that my business is gonna thrive and I’m gonna be around for years to come. I have to build up that nest egg now for the taxes and regulations that are coming my way. Elections do have consequences, but so do choices. A choice you make every day has consequences and you know what, I’ve always put my employees first, but unfortunately today I have to put me and my family first..."
And the award for the most far-out reaction goes to Eric Dondero, a former Ron Paul aide who leaked tales of Paul's not-so-open-mindedness about gays during the Republican primary. Dondero said he was quitting blogging at Libertarian Republican so he could devote himself full-time to "outright revolt." This will start small, by unfriending all Democrats on Facebook. Then he will sever ties to Democratic friends and family.
Do you work for someone who voted for Obama? Quit your job. Co-workers who voted for Obama. Simply don't talk to them in the workplace, unless your boss instructs you too for work-related only purposes...
Have a neighbor who votes for Obama? You could take a crap on their lawn.
Every moment when you think he's definitely joking, the next sentence shows he's not joking. Not because of like a lot of swears or exclamation points, but because he's thought through the consequences of his actions.
If I meet a Democrat in my life from here on out, I will shun them immediately. I will spit on the ground in front of them, being careful not to spit in their general direction so that they can't charge me with some stupid little nuisance law.
Dondero's every human interaction will be dedicated to his cause.
When I'm at the Wal-mart or grocery story I typically pay with my debit card. On the pad it comes up, "EBT, Debit, Credit, Cash." I make it a point to say loudly to the check-out clerk, "EBT, what is that for?" She inevitably says, "it's government assistance." I respond, "Oh, you mean welfare? Great. I work for a living. I'm paying for my food with my own hard-earned dollars. And other people get their food for free." And I look around with disgust, making sure others in line have heard me....
What I plan to do this week, is to get yard signs made up, at my own expense, that read, "EBT is for Welfare Moochers." I will put the signs out on public property off of the right-of-way so it's entirely legal, in front of every convenience store or grocery store that has a sign out saying "EBT Accepted Here." I may even do some sign waving in front of these stores, holding up my "EBT is for Welfare Moochers," sign, and waving to passers-by.