by Ron Brzoska
There are a lot of post mortems going around today concerning what happened in yesterday’s election for president, and I’ve seen many others specific to my home state of Illinois. I’ve read a few and put a few others aside to read later as I wanted to type this blog before I was further influenced and would be incapable of distinguishing any of my original thoughts from what I have read.
To recap, as expected, Barack Obama carried the vote for president by a wide margin. The actual margin of victory fell into line with every prediction I had seen and discussed with others. The Republicans lost all four congressional seats targeted by the Democrats. On the state level, Democrats increased their advantages to what are now veto-proof majorities in the general assembly. Democrats have now managed to get foot-holds in traditionally Republican DuPage County.
So what happened? Regardless of arguments over comparisons to 2008, the economy is terrible. We are still at war in the Middle East. Benghazi is fresh in our national memory. In Illinois, we are a national laughing-stock. The Wall Street Journal writes articles about our woes. We are ranked 49th or 50th in almost every quality of life metric ( I think we are 47th in one category) with the Democratic Party in charge and getting just about everything it wants. Chicago has a Democrat mayor and EVERY single alderman is a Democrat. How were Republicans not able to capitalize? I believe it was a combination of factors.
First, I believe we got flat-out beat. Democrats got out to the streets first and they didn’t stop. As a precinct committeeman, I notified my area chair and my township chair the day in July when AFSCME was walking my precinct stumping for Bill Foster. I was told that the Judy Biggert campaign was notified. The Biggert campaign took weeks to react with their own walks. The radio and TV ads were dominated by attacks on Republican candidates. Republican responses were either late or non-existent. Republicans were playing defense instead of offense.
Second, I believe that Democrats were successful in linking their candidates to President Obama. Obama voters then voted straight ticket and brought the other Democrats with him. This would explain how a race that looked to be extremely close in the pre-election polling, like the Biggert/Foster race, would turn into a landslide on election day. I didn’t see Republicans trying to catch any of the Romney “magic.” Yes, it was no secret that there was no hope of Romney defeating Obama in his home state, but we should at least make an effort and fight. I talked to several people in my precinct that were so discouraged by Romney’s prospects in Illinois, that they saw no point in voting. Even after telling them how important it was to get to the polls and ensure that center-right candidates got in office, who knows if they showed up? In short, I’m describing the opposite effect of what the Democrats did. Discouraged Romney supporters may have stayed home, and their votes for other Republican candidates may have stayed home with them. Remember, elections are decided by swaying the undecided voter. These people are not typically partisan, they likely vote on emotion (Remember “It’s the economy, Stupid?”) These voters are also apt to vote straight ticket for that particular election. Is it possible that the IL GOP inadvertently kept these people and their votes home with their “Don’t worry about Romney” strategy? I think it is.
Republicans also have another problem that I think is somehow in our DNA. I have this problem also, even though I have this blog. We don’t proselytize enough. We think that our message and arguments are so obvious that we shouldn’t have to try to win over converts. It’s so simple that people should just get it. It’s freakin’ obvious! But people don’t “just get it”…
…as a result, we don’t appear to have a message. The left is free to define us. Again, we are playing defense.
Please note that I am not blaming the conservative wing, or the moderate wing of the party like some pundits have. I feel that is a hollow argument. Joe Walsh lost. Bob Dold lost. You have both extremes of the Republican party there. Republicans lost. Conservative and moderate both.