Mona Charen
Our large cruise ship sailed within view of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a gathering of conservatives sponsored by National Review magazine considered the wreckage of the 2012 election. Most of the writers and commentators on board agreed with Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition that the last thing conservatives need to do now is to form a "circular firing squad." But lessons must be learned.

Was Mitt Romney, as some suggested, "our best foot forward" -- a highly intelligent, photogenic, generous, public-spirited, articulate man of great integrity whose loss can only be chalked up to the poor judgment of 2012's voters? Or was he, as Midge Decter described him, "the sort of person you'd love to have as your next door neighbor," but who couldn't inspire political passion?

Certainly Romney lacked the common touch. Exit polls showed that voters gave him high marks for "leadership" and for having a vision for the future. Yet on the question "cares about the problems of people like me," he was crushed by 81 to 18. Even Republican-leaning voters were influenced. The secretly recorded "47 percent" video will likely go down in history as the most consequential tape since Watergate -- sealing as it did Romney's image (already unscrupulously distorted by the Obama team) as a cold elitist.

The Romney campaign, moreover, seemed dazed and deflated by the 47 percent episode, unable to recover and offer damage control. Romney might have responded, for example, with a speech emphasizing that in Obama's economy, dependence on Food Stamps and disability insurance had reached all-time highs, while good jobs with benefits were disappearing. Or he might have showcased actual Americans who got off welfare due to the business promotion of Bain Capital. Surely among the thousands of employees of Office Depot and Staples, some could be found who fit that profile.

Democrats, many in attendance on the NR cruise, noted bitterly, suffer no penalty for being wealthy. Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Obama himself, among many others, aren't penalized politically for being rich because they favor broadly redistributionist policies. There are two ironies here. First, the very rich, which includes all the previously named, along with Warren Buffett, who did so much to propagate the falsehood that "the rich" pay fewer taxes than their secretaries, can easily afford an increase in tax rates. But the definition of those who must, to satisfy Mr. Obama's sense of "fairness," surrender more of their incomes, includes everyone earning more than $200,000. For them, a tax increase can be personally painful, especially if they have children in college.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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