The Tea Party Got It Right, Mitt Got It Wrong

In this election the Republican Party ran two wholly inoffensive blue state Republicans on a platform of jobs at a time when the economy was everyone’s chief concern and the incumbent had absolutely failed to fix the economy. And they lost.

The Monday — or Wednesday — morning quarterbacks will have a fine time debating what Mitt Romney should have done differently. The red Republicans will say that he should have been more aggressive and should have hit Obama on Benghazi. The blue Republicans will blame a lack of outreach to Latinos. Some will blame Sandy, others will blame Christie and many will point to voter fraud. And they will all have a point, but the makings of this defeat did not happen in the last two weeks; they happened in the last two years.

Mitt Romney won the primaries because he was electable. But, as it turned out, he really wasn’t electable after all. Not when the chief criteria of electability is having no opinion, no point of view and no reason to run for office except to win. Not when the chief criteria of being a Republican presidential nominee is being able to convince people that you’re hardly a Republican at all.

Romney was a star political athlete who had an excellent training regimen and coaching staff. But to win elections, you have to change people’s minds. It’s not enough to try hard or to fight hard; you have to fight for something besides the chance to round the bases. You have to wake people up to a cause.

The Republican comeback did not begin with innocuous candidates; it began with angry protesters in costumes and Gadsden flags marching outside ObamaCare town halls. The 2010 midterm election triumphs were not the work of a timorous establishment, but of a vigorous grassroots opposition. And once the Tea Party movement started the fire, the Republican establishment acted like the Tea Party had sabotaged their comeback and cut the ties with their own grassroots movement. Separated, the Republican grassroots and the Republican Party both withered on the vine.

The stunning 2010 midterm election victories happened because a conservative opposition loudly and vociferously convinced a majority of Americans that ObamaCare would be harmful to them. And then that fantastic engine of change was packed away and replaced with political consultants who were all focused on seizing the center and offending as few people as possible. But you don’t win political battles by being inoffensive. And you don’t win elections by avoiding conflict.

Is it any wonder that the 2012 election played out the way it did?

The Democrats in the Bush years were about as unlikable a party as could ever be conceived of. They were hostile, hateful and obstructionist. They spewed conspiracy theories at the drop of a hat and behaved in a way that would have convinced any reasonable person not to entrust them with a lawnmower, let alone political power. And not only were they rewarded for that by winning Congress, but they also went on to win the White House.

Why? Because dissatisfied people gravitate to an opposition. They don’t gravitate to a loyal opposition. They aren’t inspired by mild-mannered rhetoric, but by those who appear to channel their anger.

When the Republican Party sold out the Tea Party, it sold out its soul, and the only driving energy that it had. And there was nothing to replace it with. The Republican Party stopped being the opposition and became a position that it was willing to reposition to get closer to the center. Mitt Romney embodied that willingness to say anything to win and it is exactly that willingness to say anything to win that the public distrusts.

The elevation of Mitt Romney was the triumph of inoffensiveness. Romney ran an aggressive campaign, but it was a mechanical exercise, a smooth assault by trained professionals paid to spin talking points in dangerous directions. But, what if the voters really wanted a certain amount of offensiveness?

What if they wanted someone who mirrored their anger at being out of work, at having to look at stacks of unpaid bills and at not knowing where their next paycheck was coming from? What if they wanted someone whose anger and distrust of the government echoed their own?

Romney very successfully made the case that he would be a more credible steward of the economy. It was enough to turn out a sizable portion of the electorate, but not enough of it. He tried to be Reagan confronting Carter, but what was remarkable about Reagan, is that he had moments of anger and passion; electric flashes of feeling that stirred his audience and made them believe that he understood their frustrations. That was the source of Reagan’s moral authority and it was entirely lacking in Romney. And without that anger, there is no compelling reason to vote for an opposition party.

The establishment had its chance with Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor was everything that they could possibly want. Moderate, bipartisan and fairly liberal. With his business background, he could make a perfect case for being able to turn the economy around. They had their perfect candidate and their perfect storm and they blew it.

The Republican Party is not going to win elections by being inoffensive. It is not going to win elections by going so far to the center that it no longer stands for anything. It is not going to win elections by throwing away all the reasons that people might have to vote for it. It is not going to win elections by constantly trying to accommodate what it thinks independent voters want, instead of cultivating and growing its base, and using them as the nucleus for an opposition that will change the minds of those independent voters.

The Republican Party has tried playing Mr. Nice Guy. It may be time to get back to being an opposition movement. And the way to do that is by relearning the lessons of the Tea Party movement. The Democratic Party began winning when it embraced the left, instead of running away from it. If the Republican Party wants to win, then it has to embrace the right and learn to get angry again.

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  • @tudaska

    The election was totally rigged from pre-programmed Diebold voting system to SEIU member techies hacking the tabulations to manipulation the counts. It's the Chicago underworld at work! The media was insync to quickly declare 0bama the winner!

    • amused

      yea and if Republicans won , you'd hear the same "rigged election charges " coming from the Democrats . It's cyclical , it's tradition .

  • Free

    I hear alot about "Romney being defined " by the Obama Campaign . If one looks back to the Republicans in the race for the nomination , it was in fact Gov.Perry and Gingrich , who painted the picture of Romney /Bain ?Corporate Raider / Killing jobs etc. That definition was created by Republicans themselves.
    Why was Romney short on funds in the late start ? Because Adelson said he would give 100 million for a Republican win , however he gave half to Gingrich , Mitt got the remaining 54 mill. too little too late , the Obama campaign had a Republican painted portrait of Romney , which Obama picked up and ran with it. In addition people like Murdock , Aiken [on rape ] West [on the 33 card carrying commie bit ] Trump with his birther B.S. xs2 and then his 5$mill bet ,alienated women , blacksand most importantly the Independents and undecided and the reasoable voters .Add Bachman's go nowhere witch hunt for muslims running the White House and Republican AND Romney's credibility was destroyed , the final nails in the coffin being Romney47% and getting outed on whether Obama said terrorist the day after Benghazi ,and the Jeep Lie which got CEO's of Chrysler and GM to publicly repudiate Romney .

  • lv99

    Kiss good bye to the good old United States of America! There is no country in the world goes to socialist and returns back to capitalism. The handout will demand, expect benefits for life. Those idiots do not cast their vote and expect miracle? What is good about TEA party if you do not cast your vote?

  • Tatersalad

    Brothers in Arms! Your vote did NOT count and here is why:

  • Len_Powder

    "What if they wanted someone who mirrored their anger at being out of work, at having to look at stacks of unpaid bills and at not knowing where their next paycheck was coming from? What if they wanted someone whose anger and distrust of the government echoed their own?"

    If so they would have picked Newt Gingrich to run against Obama. But the Tea Party and the Republican Establishment disagreed again and the Establishment won. If Romney had expended as much money and energy to vitiate Obama as he did to do the same to Gingrich he probably would have become the President-Elect.

    The Tea Party may be able to rescue this country but the Republican Establishment most definitely cannot and it's time we all told them to go to Hell!!!

  • Ian

    Paragraph after paragraph and not a sentence of substance to be found.

    It was not simply Mitt Romney that lost, but the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Unlike this author, I will at least attempt to give you facts to back it up instead of spouting catchphrases.

    The Tea Party organizations backed Todd Akin, Allen West, and Joe Walsh, all of whom lost. Bachmann, the Tea Party Caucus leader residing in a substantially red district, only one by the skin of her teeth, thanks in part to some of the most desperate fundraising I've seen (it took me forever to actually get to her campaign's website after dodging all of the donate popups).

    Despite this author's innuendo, the fact remains that Ryan had a ton of support among the Tea Party. He was backed by Tea Party Express, Club For Growth, and tons of smaller Tea Party groups all backed him.

    This is just getting sad.

  • amused

    20/20 hindsight is not as good as 20/60 foresight .

  • 1389AD
  • amused

    Romney lost a substantial amount of women voters .How ? Loose canons Aiken and Murdock making RIDICULOUS PUBLIC STATEMENTS regarding rape .The Republicans got hit with their own mud and it stuck . Tea Party ? It is not a third party , it is percieved as the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party . Centrists and Independents whom I predicted would decide this race , were driven to the other side by these " displays " . Attempts by Republican State Governors to institute new voter ID rules so close to an election backfired and brought out the vote for the opposition .

  • BlueCollarCritic

    The Republican party destroyed its chances and ensured the re-election of Obama when it screwed over the non-democratic voters by pulling every dirty trick, deed and con job it could during the Republican primary to prevent Ron Paul from wining the primary.

    The leadership in the Republican party as in the Democratic party is corrupt and works for elite Wall Street corporations and international bankers who get rich of the pain of the rest of the world thru the funding of wars as they did when they pushed for WW1 & WW2 and made billions from selling overpriced military goods to America to keep it in the war (see the best seller “War Is A Racket” by Smedley Butler, one of the highest decorated Marines ever in American History and the man that Wall Street interests tried to get to overthrow President Roosevelt in what became known as the Business Plot in the 1930s)

  • Candy

    The tea party got it wrong with Richard Mourdock. He lost while Romney won big in Indiana. (I voted for him though.) Conservatives who stayed home because Romney didn't throw them enough red met need to get over themselves. We are all disappointed with the results of the election. The country moved to the right compared to four years ago, just not quite far enough.

  • amused

    Me and Mr. Jamison , had a party election night . I wouldn't watch it on any other station but FOX , where the biggest liars and misfits reside . I woud have paid to see the Karl Rove meltdown , and that Madlyn Death Stare as she spoke with fists clenched and lips curled …priceless man ….all the lies and spin and slander of the past four years had come to numbing disappointment .To know all your efforts of the past 4 years had come to naught ,must have been a punch in the gut [well deserved ] Waking the next morning , without a hangover I watched as Doocey and partner along with the Two bubbleheaded Blonds who squirm in their short skirts to make sure they've got the audiences attention [on their crotch ] weren't smiling this morning . The country took a step to Center ,the idiots like West , Trump , Beck ,Limbaugh , Murdock , Aiken, Bachmann , were repudiated by th vote .Bachmann the only survivor made it by the skin of her teeth . So I guess now we'll see another 4 years of Republicans and Teebaggers trying to teardown this country, who knows they may succeed so they can rule over the rubble .

  • wilson

    For those that are fans of the Regan Revolution (I was not) — the republican party built its populist base by running competent conservative politicians for every office from dog catcher to president and by giving the constituancy a vision of a principled stance on issues. It is not enough to know the details you must always execute the dream that you envision.


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