What Were All of You Thinking?
Add me to the list of people who have harsh words for shocked conservatives. As it turns out, talking endlessly about the economy and the Constitution is a great way to lose elections, because people find the economy and the Constitution boring. Sorry to say it, but that's the way it is.
Conservatives have great, stirring human stories to tell: the tragedies of abortion and a sexually unraveling culture, the need to exalt the sacrifices and dedication of married couples who stay together for their children, and the courage of the faithful to defend religion and decency in an increasingly vacuous, untethered, secularized world.
Unfortunately, those wonderful stories were kept out of the discourse by supposed pragmatists who thought such sentimentality embarrassing. So instead, for several years, America listened to conservatives talk about corporate tax rates, the deficit, and the Federalist Papers. To millions who felt their souls being drained by a corporate consumer culture that treats humans like products and reduces people to animal urges, the Republicans quoted Hayek and offered free markets. In other words, "go sell your soul on eBay; if you're worth anything, you'll fetch a decent price."
Meanwhile, the Democrats pulled at the voters' heartstrings by caterwauling about bullies, weeping about the poor, and making everyone feel bad for Sandra Fluke....
....By now it's clear that "it's the economy, stupid" is not a timeless nugget of wisdom.
Rather, we ought to start saying, "It's got to be more than just economics, idiots."
Mitt Romney was a decent man in all outward ways, but he didn't seem all that concerned with the indecency of America's rotting culture, and particularly the indecency resulting from untrammeled consumerism. He didn't even seem to know that the culture is rotting at all, because he lives far removed from the effects of promiscuity, broken families, drug wars, pornography, and godless schools. He talked a lot about Bain Capital and investment strategies while people were secretly contending with far more personal demons like loneliness, sexual guilt, addictions, sadness, and self-hatred.
Many, like me, voted for Romney despite our relative poverty (I am in the lower middle class) and despite the fact that Obama's social program could benefit us financially. On the other hand, many wealthy people who stood to gain from Romney's promises of lowered capital gains taxes pulled their levers for Obama. Homo economicus is not as powerful as is our humanity. We Americans care about higher things.
So, about those higher things...let's be honest. We had little reason to believe that Romney was truly dedicated to improving our social and cultural conditions -- indeed, that all-important thing called the human condition -- because he talked endlessly about his business experience. Most Americans don't like their bosses and have trouble with landlords and creditors. Talking about one's business experience is not usually a good way to win them over.
On election day, it became clear to me that the Republican Party had been led into Purgatory by the Laodicean wing. In case you aren't familiar with Revelation 3:14-17, here is what God says in that text:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked[.]
Here's the simple version: stand for something important, damn it. Articulate human values. Be about something more than numbers. Be hot. Be cold. Be a flavor. Don't be Mitt Romney: lukewarm, milquetoast, centrist. The Laodiceans were warned -- God will spew thee out of His mouth. So it came to pass....