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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If only votes were weighted by net worth...

Okay, this may be a pointless exercise. But Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for the Romney campaign, has just published such a transcendentally stupid, transparently sophistic, willfully delusive campaign post-mortem that I found myself mouthing rebuttals after nearly every sentence. So I thought I'd bottle my indignation. In italics, below, interspersed with Stevens' text.
Over the years, one of the more troubling characteristics of the Democratic Party and the left in general has been a shortage of loyalty and an abundance of self-loathing. It would be a shame if we Republicans took a narrow presidential loss as a signal that those are traits we should emulate.

 "Self-loathing" and "disloyalty" translates to an inability to screen reality out entirely. When our candidate loses an election or debate, we acknowledge it. When she does or says something stupid or immoral, we call  her on it -- at least on occasion. Our loyalty--at least when we display the 'vices' you condemn -- is to truth or the common good rather than partisan advantage.

I appreciate that Mitt Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians. That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination.  Romney was a generally acknowledged frontrunner throughout primary season. Such judgments are never unanimous, but that was the dominant perception throughout. On paper, only Rick Perry was a viable opponent, and he swiftly disqualified himself. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters. And a preponderance of billionaires.  What began in a small field in New Hampshire grew into a national movement. It wasn’t our campaign, it was Romney. He bested the competition in debates, and though he was behind almost every candidate in the GOP primary at one time or the other, he won the nomination and came very close to winning the presidency.  "The competition" was the most absurd assemblage of fanatics, frauds, demagogues, has-beens and couldn't-bes ever to assemble themselves on a debate stage. As for the presidency: not so close. 

In doing so, he raised more money for the Republican Party than the party did. See above: nobody liked him except voters? He trounced Barack Obama in debate. Add an "s," Stevens, and repeat that with a straight face. He defended the free-enterprise system who attacked it? and, more than any figure in recent history, drew attention to the moral case for free enterprise and conservative economics. "Moral case" must mean lying non-stop about his opponent (apology tour! He made [the recession] worse!  He believes in equality of outcomes! He imposed government-controlled healthcare! He's ended welfare's work requirement! Chrysler's shipping jobs to China! ") "Moral case" also must mean having such confidence in your 'free enterprise' proposals that you're ashamed to detail them (which deductions would he close out or limit? How much would he cut Medicaid?) Romney's "moral case" struck the none-too-liberal Washington Post editorial board as "a contempt for the electorate" -- amply on display in Stevens' piece.

When much of what passes for a political intelligentsia these days predicted that the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan meant certain death on the third rail of Medicare and Social Security, Romney brought the fight to the Democrats and made the rational, persuasive case for entitlement reform that conservatives have so desperately needed. The nation listened, thought about it — and on Election Day, Romney carried seniors by a wide margin. He couldn't promise them enough that his proposed changes would not affect them. Seniors were also confessedly -- and obviously -- the most racist segment of the population, sorted by age. It’s safe to say that the entitlement discussion will never be the same. Safe indeed, because it's meaningless.

On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. Median household income is $49k and change. While John McCain lost white voters younger than 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Congratulations! You serve the notional president of White America. Obama received 4½million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain. 7.9% unemployment, and Obama came that close to matching his '08 landslide? And Romney got more votes than a candidate taking the baton from Bush? Again, congratulations!

Let's skip a little...
Losing is just losing. It’s not a mandate to throw out every idea that the candidate championed (let's hear it for Obamneycare!), and I would hope it’s not seen as an excuse to show disrespect for a good man who fought hard for values we admire. And who displayed contempt for voters and an unprecedented  disregard for truth.

In the debates and in sweeping rallies across the country, Romney captured the imagination of millions of Americans.Let's take a poll right now and ask 1000 Americans whether Romney "captured your imagination."

There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate? Uh huh... being African American in a U.S. presidential election is an unbeatable advantage. And the electorate, in which "minority" is fast becoming an obsolete concept, is now no more liberal than the Democratic party. Republicans, rejoice!

Yes, the Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right. Let's just let that one stand by itself while we stand, gaping.
Having invested an hour-plus on this exercise, I've convinced myself that it's not pointless. Stevens has gifted us with the purest display of Foxthink -- in which winning among part of the electorate trumps winning in all of it -- and Romneyspeak, in which "values" trump analyzable policies, and people's votes are morally weighted according to their wealth.  Since that very combination of self-delusion and deliberate deception did capture 47 percent of the electorate, picking a few threads in this seamless fabric of falsehood may be salutary.

Update, 11/29:  Jonathan Bernstein has some fun with a detail I'd noticed but forgot about - Stevens' absurd claim that "we came a little more than 320,000 votes short of winning the electoral college." Try 525k, perfectly distributed. I would add (as I did, in the comments) that by Nate Silver's calculation, Romney may have had to win the popular vote by 2% to overcome Obama's swing state advantage. That is, to move 100-200,000 votes in each of the needed swing states, he would probably have needed about another 6 million votes nationally.

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