It was a rough and bitterly disappointing week for conservatives with the re-election of Barack Obama. After all, many conservatives had reason to believe that Mitt Romney would be in 2012 what Ronald Reagan was in 1980. Instead Romney ended up with fewer votes than John McCain received in 2008. Obama was no Jimmy Carter. This resulted in both record levels of smug amongst liberals and the depths of despair amongst conservatives. This despair was perhaps best summed up by Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review Online in an essay appropriately titled, “Why I Despair”:
In 1980, when faced with a set of policies that demonstrably hadn’t worked and a president who wanted to take America leftward, America chose a different path; in 2012, it doubled down. That says a lot about a people. The central problem, then, is not that Obama will be president for the next few years, but that the American people — knowing him — chose to reelect him….That this was not a clear-cut repudiation of the president should sound the alarm.
I was certainly not immune from this despair. Following the election I wrote that “conservatives must recognize that the American electorate has changed and that 1980 has come and gone, never to return.”
While it could be said that America once again got the President it deserved, conservatives must resist the temptation to embrace this argument. The simple reason for this is that conservatives can’t give up.
Not now, not ever.
Let me put it this way. What if conservatives had decided to pack it in after Barry Goldwater won only six states in 1964? Well, it’s quite simple. If conservatives had given up in 1964, Ronald Reagan would never have triumphed in 1980. The last thing we should be telling young conservatives is that it’s all over and that this country isn’t worth the fight anymore. I hate to say that this is for the children but this is about the future. What kind of example would we be setting if we threw in the towel, took our ball, hung our heads and went home?
That doesn’t mean we should be under any illusions that things are going to be easy over the next four years. They won’t be and it may very well not be for many years. It also doesn’t mean conservatives won’t have tough choices to make. We conservatives are going to have to choose our battles wisely. The course of choosing those battles will no doubt be bruising. But as the old saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
The upside of this is that the liberal euphoria over Obama’s re-election will recede. If America continues to lose the respect of it allies, the fear of its enemies and if the economy continues to stagnate while the deficit continues to increase, Obama’s legacy is that he will have spent eight years in the White House blaming George W. Bush for his failures while presiding over the decline of the greatest country in the world. Since President Obama is unwilling to accept the responsibility for a mess of his own making that means someone else is going to have to clean it up because that mess will still be here after he leaves office in January 2017.
While his policies will leave America worse off than when he took office there will be life in America after Barack Obama. While his policies may very well transform America beyond recognition it must be said that America is far more than the sum of the cult of personality that is Barack “I…Me” Obama. No man, no President is forever.
Nevertheless, Barack Obama will be in the Oval Office for another term. If one is need of inspiration then consider the words of 17th century English poet John Dryden, who wrote:
Fight on, my merry men all,
I’m a little wounded, but I am not slain;
I will lay me down for to bleed a while,
Then I’ll rise and fight with you again.
And if that doesn’t work for you then we can always look to what George Gipp said to legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne on his deathbed (as famously portrayed by Ronald Reagan in Knute Rockne, All American):
Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.
Well, America is surely up against it and there’s no guarantee conservatives will win. But one thing I know for certain is that conservatives can’t win one for America unless we go in there with all we’ve got. So don’t give up.