In looking for a silver lining, conservatives seem to be spinning the election result as follows: the electorate still supports small government (as in exit polls reported all night by Fox News and cited, for example, by Investors Business Daily) and believes that the country is going in the wrong direction (same exit poll results).
So Romney lost, the explanation goes, because the Obama campaign did a better job turning out its supporters, boosted by demographic trends over the past decade that are unfavorable to the Republicans. Maybe a few voters held their noses and stayed home or voted Obama anyway for a variety of reasons ranging from evangelical anti-Mormon bias (VA and CO) to long lines at the polls (FL) to memories of George W. Bush (OH and MI and PA).
These issues are fixable by [somehow] redoubling focus on the ground game (see the comments by the “sick” Florida campaign), by [somehow] increasing appeal to Hispanic voters, and [somehow] taking advantage of different demographic trends that fracture the Democrat coalition (such as insatiable appetites of over-65s to appropriate more of their children’s, grandchildren’s, and future descendants’ money, e.g., as cited by Taranto). Yet these solutions are analogous to running a tight draw play as if it were fourth-and-goal from the one, when it’s actually more like fourth-and-twenty from the Republicans’ own territory.
Our take is that respondents who tell pollsters that they favor small government are lying, perhaps even to themselves. Democrats’ electoral strategy has always been to assemble coalitions of people who depend on government in one way or another, but 2012 is perhaps unprecedented in the nakedness of this approach. Maybe they favor small government in the abstract, but voters—from those whose jobs were saved by the auto bailout in Michigan and Ohio, to upper-middle-class women in Colorado and Virginia who want free birth control pills, to young slackers who can now stay on their parents’ health insurance—apparently responded to the campaign’s explicit appeal to their greed for other people’s money. Obama has been laying this groundwork since he was inaugurated. Of course Democrats’ ideology drives them toward redistribution anyway, but this administration has concentrated the largesse on swing constituencies with an expert focus (which, sadly and perhaps reassuringly, no Republican administration could know how to achieve).
The incumbent might have won the turnout battle, but it’s not because of demographics per se, but rather that enough Americans were afraid of losing their government-provided goodies. Even worse, we are losing the aspirationalism that has been perhaps America’s most exceptional cultural trait: most Americans, especially young people, don’t even have a favorable view of capitalism anymore. This problem is only going to get worse as the strain on entitlements grows, as Ron Paul points out. It is now certain that our government will pay for them with taxes on the upper-middle-class and wealthy and with more debt, probably until such time as the dollar collapses, inflation explodes, and the economy is in depression.
This election proves the grotesque poignancy of Mitt Romney’s “47%” remark. Democrats have now succeeded in their 80-year effort to increase that percentage high enough to institutionalize the government-centered society.