Political losses are interesting to watch. Generally speaking, the left and the right handle them differently.
Too often, the tendency of the right is to talk about how certain groups are holding the rest down. Primarily the debate is between those who favor social conservatism and those who favor economic conservatism. Each group insists that its approach is the correct one to get back to a ruling majority vote.
There certainly are quite a few larger problems facing the conservative movement. Right now, particularly among Hispanic, black, and Asian voters, the conservative side has a number of trends that do not favor it. The electorate remained, as it has been historically, more Democratic than Republican.
Fundamentally, however, fingerpointing is not the correct approach. For that, conservatives would do well to learn from their rivals on the left. Liberals handle political losses quite differently. Generally speaking, left-wingers focus on what they did wrong and how to fix it rather than try to cast off who is to blame. Aside from some quibbling between the hardcore communists and the New Democrat types, you simply do not see people calling for expulsion of Hispanics, chastening of gays, or repudiation of government unions. This communitarian approach has been a core part of how leftists have operated for centuries. The old French leftist phrase “pas d’ennemi à gauche,” no enemies on the left, has been something they live by to this day.
Not only is this approach more rational and free from acrimony, it is also actually more likely to lead to productive outcomes.
The primary challenges for the right are ones of messaging, demographics, and market penetration. The specific issues do not really matter that much to most people, largely because they do not care about policy. If you can get the larger societal trends moving in your favor, politics becomes much easier.
The left has long harbored a built-in advantage in the American system due to greater numbers of Americans identifying with its party. Historically, the GOP has been able to overcome this through maxing out its base vote. That happened once again in 2012. Conservatives of all varieties showed up and voted. The difference this year was that Democrats finally seem to have developed a real ground game. Mitt Romney did not lose the election. Barack Obama won it.
Policy is an outcome of the political process, it is the end. If conservatives wish to obtain that end, we should focus on the beginning of the process rather than fight over whose end is best. Before we can get to that point, however, we must focus on changing hearts and minds of those who disagree. Making speeches and TV ads does not do that.
Discussing and debating ultimate objectives is both necessary and entertaining but now is not the time for it, particularly when lashing out is the easy thing to do. Our challenge is not whom to expel but whom to invite in. The next four years are going to be very interesting for conservatives. Will we learn the lessons we need to, though?
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