The Republican party’s brutal defeat in yesterday’s presidential and Senate races offers at least one clear, abiding lesson: Republicans can’t win without making their case.
For all of the worthiness of his campaign, which (to his great credit) was so much more honorable, classy, truthful, and responsible than the president’s — and the extraordinary effort that he devoted to it after so many other Republicans refused to enter the contest during their nation’s time of need — the unfortunate fact is that Mitt Romney too often didn’t prosecute the case. He didn’t really make the case on Obamacare (and especially on the federal individual mandate), on Libya, on our debt crisis (hitting it only intermittently), or on this president’s demonstrated willingness to circumvent the rule of law to achieve his desired ends (“recess” appointments when the Senate was in session, the steady stream of flagrant actions by this administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, the ongoing actions of its Justice Department, the president’s unilateral decrees gutting welfare reform and asserting that — regardless of what the law says — young illegals are hereafter free to stay in this country, etc.). How much did the majority of Americans, who primarily get their news from the mainstream press corps or The Daily Show, have any of these concerns on their minds as they entered the polling booth?
As a result, an election that should have been about Obamacare wasn’t really about Obamacare — and a president who might well be further outside of the American ideological mainstream than any other president to date, amazingly came off looking (again!) like a moderate. To make matters even worse (and more unjust), the president portrayed Romney as the extremist. The lesson should be clear: When Republicans don’t fight, they simply allow liberal Democrats to appear to be centrists.
After decades, however, of entrusting subsequent generations’ education to our left-of-center public schools, it’s not enough for Republicans simply to prosecute the case against specific policies or even specific violations of our legal forms. Republicans also need to make the broader case. They need to make the case on behalf of our founding ideas of limited government and respect for God-given, unalienable rights. They need to paint the picture of the dangers of funneling almost unfathomable amounts of power and money into Washington, D.C. — where such power is exercised (and such money is spent) by elites eager to pass rules governing nearly every conceivable action that every individual American might ever conceive of undertaking. To put it simply, Republicans need to make the case against coercion, and on behalf of liberty — and they shouldn’t shy away from using those words.
Certainly, Republicans need to balance principle with prudence. For example, a more nuanced position on illegal immigration, like the one that Newt Gingrich took in the GOP primaries, would almost certainly have served the party better than the position taken by Romney. In general, however, Republicans don’t need to be any more or less "extreme"; they need to be more assertive. If they continue not to make their case, they’ll continue to be at the mercy of the educational system, the press corps, and the winds of fate.
It’s no accident that the only recent Republican who made any real headway in changing the nation’s course was willing to make the case on behalf of that change. Yes, from Reagan back to Lincoln, the great Republicans haven’t been afraid to give voice to America’s timeless ideals or to use the language of the Founding in doing so. The Republicans of today and tomorrow will either need to follow their laudable example, or else get used to nights like last night.