Has the nation gone irreversibly blue? Did intraparty disunity sabotage Mitt Romney's presidential quest? Or is there some other explanation for the nation's re-election of a president with the worst record in decades?
I received an email from a brilliant conservative friend who wonders whether Republicans can ever win another election and thus whether the nation is forever lost. I ran into a college student at church the Sunday before the election, and despite his strong conservatism and high intelligence, he admitted confusion about the candidates' respective positions after the presidential debates.
My first reaction after the election verdict was to fear both that America's financial collapse is now inevitable and imminent and that America's implosion is inevitable because the election seemed to reveal that the majority of Americans no longer embrace America's founding principles.
Even with such fatalistic fears, I was exhorting my fellow conservatives on Twitter not to give up; no matter how bad things seem, we can reverse this. We must quit feeling sorry for ourselves; we must not accept this death sentence; and we must fight on.
After sifting through the evidence and reading everyone's ideas, I am feeling somewhat more optimistic but nevertheless recognize that the task before us is enormous.
I think we can break conservative post-mortem opinion into roughly three camps. The first is composed of the defeatists, who believe we have passed the tipping point because America now has more takers than producers. European socialism is here to stay.
The second is convinced that mostly demographic changes did us in but we can adapt. Minority groups are voting in greater percentages, and the Democratic Party is getting most of their votes. We have to alter our approach to immigration and develop other strategies to reach the Hispanic and African-American communities.
I worry that "outreach" could be a euphemism for pandering to identity politics instead of figuring out ways to convince all people, including minorities, of the superiority of conservative ideas. Unless we do that, we will have won the battle and lost the war.
The third group is conservatives who believe that Romney and the GOP didn't do a good enough job making the conservative case and rallying the base.
The second and third groups, at least, are not defeatist; they haven't given up on the party or, more importantly, on the country. They disagree in their diagnoses and thus in their solutions, but at least they see some light at the end of the tunnel.