"It's the economy, stupid."
Maybe not. Mired in the worst recovery since the Great Depression, with unemployment near 8 percent, companies laying off workers over Obamacare, a $16 trillion debt and gasoline at double the 2008 price, America still re-elected Barack Obama.
Mitt Romney ran a single-issue campaign: the economy, stupid.
The missed opportunities were endless. After CNN's Candy Crowley silenced him in the second debate over the attack in Benghazi, Libya, Mr. Romney declined to expose Mr. Obama's shocking lies and transparent cover-up. He also declined to educate Americans about the administration's brazen lawlessness, especially that of the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board.
What about Supreme Court appointments? The Keystone XL pipeline? The numerous "czars" appointed without Senate approval? Obamacare? Mr. Obama's flip-flop on marriage?
Meanwhile, 42 percent of voters in the Fox News exit poll said Mr. Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy was an important factor. Of those, more than 65 percent voted for Mr. Obama. Even if those voters were unduly impressed by the photo-ops and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's fulsome praise, it means character still matters. Mr. Obama passed the last-minute leadership test, assisted by a media blackout of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's inadequate response and the scandalous non-coverage of the Benghazi cover-up.
Many policy areas in which outright lies have been the coin of the realm could have been exposed if GOP consultants had not insisted on playing only Monopoly. Mr. Romney broke through the media fog in the first debate, showing the public a decent, more rounded candidate. He wasn't the soulless, cancer-patient-killing corporate raider in the $100 million worth of smear ads that had run for months, but it wasn't enough.
What do we have, aside from a nightmare scenario involving the pending makeup of the Supreme Court, half of the American people's de facto embrace of socialism, the survival of Obamacare and the Harry Reid-led U.S. Senate, and the Republicans' continued control of 30 governorships and the U.S. House?
Well, we have some important lessons:
It's not just "the economy, stupid." If it were, Mr. Romney would have won in a walk.
A moderate Republican from the Northeast who presided over the creation of homosexual "marriage" and pioneered Obamacare in his own state is not the best candidate to counter the left's relentless promotion of moral and fiscal insanity.
Big Bird's Food Stamp Army is for real. Millions turned out to ensure that the government will support them with other people's earnings. As Obamacare hits harder and companies lay off more employees, it's hard to see how this will decrease anytime soon.
Featuring minority faces on prime time doesn't help the GOP's demographic problem. Republicans have got to get to know the communities and make the conservative case to them.
It's OK to cast your vote based entirely on race as long as neither you nor the candidate is white. Despite endorsing the anti-biblical notion of homosexual "marriage," Mr. Obama still garnered 93 percent of the black American vote, slightly less than in 2008. You could say it was "the economy, stupid," except that the black community has been hardest hit under Mr. Obama's policies.
The media, comprised mostly of unrepentant partisan hacks, continue to worsen. They suppressed, Soviet-style, anything remotely unflattering to Mr. Obama, enabling him to continue the absurd fiction that his failures are George W. Bush's fault.
I talked with a 20-something graduate student in the Midwest (she's afraid to say in print which school) who told me her female classmates were for Mr. Obama because they believed that "if a Republican gets in, he'll take away the rights of women."
None mentioned the economy, the student said. One classmate did not know the U.S. ambassador to Libya had been slain. All they knew was that Mr. Romney was out "to control their bodies," the young woman said. "The Obama campaign and the media have been able to make people believe total lies."
Indeed, single women and the "youth vote" again went for Mr. Obama. It's not surprising that, after years of school indoctrination under left-wing teachers unions and a steady diet of music, TV and films that attack faith and promote sexual license, a majority of young voters buy into government-subsidized sexual anarchy. They've come to regard church-going Christians as crazed scolds who might interfere with their limitless entitlements. Sandra Fluke is no fluke. The phony "war on women" found eager ears.
This was not inevitable. Nor were the homosexual "marriage" victories in four states. They happened because the party of traditional values hides under a green eyeshade. Being the Silent Majority worked once upon a time, but now GOP candidates must learn how to make the full conservative case. They cannot cede powerful cultural issues to the left. They need to make a compelling defense of traditional morality, without which free enterprise will die. It's not that hard. Start by noting the consequences of moral decline. The same goes for the rule of law, without which diplomats die, constitutional liberties are lost, cities are ruined and guns get shipped to Mexico with murderous results.
The Romney campaign showed, decisively, that it's a mistake to politely ignore lies and abuses of power. Maybe I don't watch enough TV, but I didn't see any political ads about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, Benghazi, Obamacare's attack on religious freedom, Mr. Obama's chilling "After my election, I have more flexibility" remark to the Russian president, or the outrageous order to Boeing Co. not to build a plant in South Carolina. "You can't build that" would have been a nice lead-in to an ad about government tyranny under Mr. Obama.
The GOP put all its marbles on the economy. It surrendered lots of marbles to people who long ago lost theirs.
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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