If Election Day is about picking winners, the morning after is for post-mortems. That's when we slice open the losing campaigns, set aside the hundreds of millions of dollars that gush out, and pick apart the cause of death.
Why did the Romney campaign fail? Maybe the country is now GOP-proof. That is, maybe a Constitution-guided, free-market, limited-government candidate no longer can "appeal" to the majority of the electorate. It could be that the death knell rang early this year once 67.3 million of us, or one in five Americans, had come to depend on federal assistance, formerly known as "the dole."
This nearly takes us back to the level we hit in 1994 (23.1 percent), before President Bill Clinton and the GOP-led Congress "ended" welfare as we knew it. After a noticeable decline, the percentage skyrocketed during President Obama's first term. So, too, did the percentage of Americans who pay zero federal taxes, now a shocking 49.5 percent. Right off the bat, half the country listens to Mitt Romney promise to relieve taxpayers of the onerous burdens imposed by the federal government and either fears for its livelihood or hears static.
It was exactly such an economic message that formed not just the core of Romney's campaign, but all of it. On one level, this exclusive focus on economic issues to the point of tunnel vision marked a campaign determined to play it safe. On another level, it was a huge gamble, a roll of the dice on which Romney staked everything.
Why? I think this risky strategy evolved from the defensive crouch the average center-right politician assumes even to enter the intensely hostile environment our mass media have made of the public square. Seeking to avoid media retaliation, Romney advanced a cramped line of attack. For example, we have in Barack Obama a president more demonstrably socialist than any since FDR, but if Mitt Romney were to have mentioned that or called Obama a socialist -- with fact-based backup from, say, Stanley Kurtz's scholarly book "Radical-in-Chief" -- the media catcalls would have begun.
If he had asked Americans if they applauded their president's ongoing efforts to undermine the First Amendment to appease Islam, the press would have painted him as "Islamophobic," or a "hater."
If he had pointed out the fact that Obama's political mentors include a Communist Party organizer once on an FBI watch list for arrest in the event of war with the USSR; an ex-terrorist leader of the Weather Underground; a former spokesman of the PLO; and an anti-white, anti-American, black separatist minister, it's a sure thing the press would have decried "personal attacks."