Conservative resistance to Mitt Romney’s nomination increasingly emphasizes electability as much as ideology, concentrating on his perceived weaknesses as a candidate along with his inconsistent approach to the issues. In headlining a typical blog-posting, Erick Erickson of RedState.com laments: “Mitt Romney as the Nominee: Conservatism Dies and Barack Obama Wins.” Such desperate projections of impending doom inevitably portray Romney as the dreary second-coming of John McCain – a hapless moderate foisted on the disillusioned rank and file by the GOP’s country club establishment, and with no real chance to rally the conservative base or draw clear distinctions with Barack Obama.
This analysis (endlessly recycled and earnestly embraced on talk radio, FOX News, and right wing websites) relies on utterly groundless, ignorant assumptions about recent political history that have taken on a destructive life of their own and threaten to push the conservative movement toward increasingly irrational decisions and strategies. These three toxic myths demand point-by-point rebuttal and rejection as a prerequisite to GOP success in 2012 and beyond.
1) Analysts who never bother to examine the numbers mournfully (and fatuously) blame Republican defeat in 2008 on the millions of dispirited conservative true believers who allegedly stayed home rather than vote for the notorious “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) John McCain. In fact, the Exit Polls showed that the 34 percent of all voters who described themselves as “conservative” in 2008 precisely matched the portion of the electorate that saw itself as conservative for the triumphal Bush re-election drive in 2004. Because of the much larger overall turnout in 2008, this meant that far more self-identified conservatives (44,627,000) showed up at the polls for the McCain-Obama battle than in the prior duel between Bush and Kerry (41,571,000). McCain lost because he performed more feebly than Bush among moderates (winning only 39 percent, down from 45 percent) and particularly among Hispanics (31 percent instead of 44 percent), not because right wingers refused to vote or capriciously abandoned the Republican cause. Election Day 2008 actually saw the biggest turnout of conservatives in American history, and McCain drew an even larger portion of those voters (78 percent) than did Ronald Reagan (73 percent) in his landslide victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980.