The most hotly debated question in American politics right now is who will win the Republican civil war between the face of the establishment, Karl Rove, and the conservative grassroots.
But while that question may be generating tons of media content at the moment, it’s also irrelevant. That’s because there’s no possible way for Rove and the establishment to win, for even if they “win” they will still lose.
See, Rove and the GOP establishment propping him up are really modern-day versions of King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Though he defeated the Roman Empire, King Pyrrhus’s forces suffered such unsustainable casualties in the process they eventually lost the war. The ancient historian Plutarch famously quotes Pyrrhic as saying, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans we shall be totally ruined.”
Similarly, if Rove and the Republican Party establishment is victorious in one more battle with their own base, the Republican Party shall be totally ruined. But don’t just take my word for it. The data from the 2012 election doesn’t lie.
Rove and his soulless technocratic ilk sanctimoniously claim the key to winning elections are those nebulous independents. I’m guessing that if he’s truly honest with himself, Mitt Romney begs to differ. Romney won independent voters in the crucial battleground states of Virginia and Ohio, two of the three states he had to win to win the presidency. In Florida, the other battleground state Romney had to have, he actually got 3% more votes among independents than McCain did in 2008, and Obama received 2% fewer. In Colorado, Romney won independents by four points, which was 14 points better than McCain performed there four years ago.
As an aside, when was the last time you saw liberals lamenting the potential to lose independents? Answer: never. That’s because Democrats aren’t embarrassed by their base and/or loathe them as the Republican Party does theirs.
Chasing these voters is like chasing after unicorns. The whole paradigm of betraying conservatives is largely a figment of ruling-class imagination. What kind of business puts together a marketing plan of betraying its most loyal clientele in order to seek after those who may never buy its product? A losing one. Just ask Presidents Dole, McCain, Romney, and the second terms of Ford and H.W. Bush.
It’s not that winning independents and new voters isn’t importamt, because it is. But it’s not the end-all, be-all. You have to win over your base first, and you won’t do it by communicating a message to them that you are entitled to their vote just because you’re not the Democrat. You know, like the last two GOP presidential losers did.
The conservative base is mobilized on issues, not simply party affiliation. Rove used to know this when he was George W. Bush’s political guru, and even though Rove’s old boss delivered on almost nothing of substance policy-wise for conservatives in eight years, he at least knew enough to speak to many of our issues. Now the wolf is removing the sheep’s skin and brazenly showing Red Riding Hood his claws and fangs. The Republican Party isn’t even trying to patronize us anymore. Instead they’re saying the same things about us we used to only hear from the left. With friends like these, who needs Democrats?
The numbers from the last election prove I’m not the only one noticing.
Remember the promises of 17 million evangelicals going to the polls that didn’t in 2008? Or perhaps you were sold on that Catholic voter backlash to Obamacare and its threat to religious freedom turning out values voters in a way Romney was incapable? Well, it turns out that neither happened.
The reality is 2.5 million fewer evangelicals voted in 2012 than 2008. Fewer Catholics voted in 2012 than 2008 as well, despite the presence of two Catholic vice presidential candidates. 6.4 million evangelicals actually voted for Obama. In the crucial battleground state of Ohio, Obama actually improved his white evangelical turnout by 8% compared to four years ago. That’s probably because of the automobile bailout but also pro-choice television ads Romney was running in Ohio that angered some pro-lifers. Romney also ran those pro-choice television ads in Virginia, and CNN’s exit polls found the evangelical turnout declined by 7% compared to 2008.
Lest Rove and the establishment simply want to blame this on Romney’s religion and not his record and rhetoric, I offer into evidence the fact that Romney even did worse among his fellow Mormons than George W. Bush did in 2004. Meanwhile, Obama stayed left his entire first term and gave his base everything it wanted. They rewarded him by turning out in droves, and Obama became just the third president in American history to be re-elected despite getting fewer popular votes and Electoral College votes than he did in his previous campaign.
Romney did everything with independents he needed to win but did worse with his base than even McCain. And it’s not because Romney was a worse candidate than McCain, which I believe is a low even Romney couldn’t sink to. It’s because the GOP is self-hemorrhaging its own base by its very actions.
Case in point, look at my own Congressman Tom Latham. FreedomWorks says he voted for freedom 95% of the time when the GOP was in the minority from 2008-2010. But look what happened after we gave Republicans control of Congress. In 2011, Latham’s score dropped to 64% and then last year plummeted to 29%. In other words, he got less conservative once given the power to actually govern on conservatism.
Sadly, Latham’s story is not unique but an epidemic, and a conservative base tired of being betrayed and casting votes for candidates they know will make them regret it later on is increasingly having enough of it. They simply won’t be shamed into voting for the lesser of two evils anymore, because they’ve realized they’re really voting for the evil of two lessers.
That’s why if Rove and his cabal win this internal party battle, they’ll still lose the war. If their cynical brand of winning for winning’s sake and standing for nothing wins the day, they’ll simply finish off whatever is left of the Republican Party.