Republicans and conservatives — who are not always the same people — are stunned that they lost the election after running a candidate highly competent for the office of president against an incumbent whose policies have led to high unemployment and economic stagnation. And they are realizing that if they can’t win against an opponent who is as bad as his job as Obama is, they’re doing it wrong.
And they are. Conservatives have two big blind spots. First, conservatives can’t see that when the GOP tries to sell austerity, doom and gloom, voters don’t want to buy even though it would be prudent. It flabbergasts them that what does sell is the Democrats posing as Santa Claus (when they really are more like Stalin).
Second, and more importantly, conservatives have a blind spot when it comes to how they espouse traditional values. To wit, they seize the coercive powers of government to impose their religion on everyone. Conservatives can’t see that as much as they hate the nanny state, liberals hate Big Brother churchism even more.
This blind spot means conservatives can’t see they have a fundamental disconnect in the conservative message regarding individual liberty. They’re for it, except when they are against it. So individual liberty is the conservative argument against the tyranny of a nanny state that would limit the size of a soft drink cup. But when individuals assert the liberty to be governed by their own consciences and religion with regard to a woman’s right to choose or equality for lesbians and gays, including marriage equality, social conservatives are opposed.
The tyranny of the churchist is infinitely more comprehensive than that of the statist. The statist is content to control behavior. This leaves individuals with some autonomy. In contrast, the churchist demands absolute control not only of behavior but also of heart, mind and soul.
In the 2012 election, Americans had a choice between the economic totalitarianism of Obama and the threat of social totalitarianism by Romney, in particular the prospect of the loss of a woman’s right to choose through naming Supreme Court justices as well as equality issues for gays (repealing DOMA, passing ENDA and ensuring no return to DADT). With no clear understanding of how the conservative candidate’s policies would translate into their own prosperity, but the absolute certainty that a conservative president would do everything in his power to undermine or end a woman’s right to choose and oppose gay equality, voters rejected the conservative candidate.
The thing is, conservatives don’t need to change any of their values to address the problem of being perceived as Big Brother churchists. All they need to do is limit their activism to all the tools available in the realm of persuasion. This will make the conservative message more coherent and compelling. People will be able to vote Republican for prosperity without fearing the loss of what should be unalienable rights.