I was asleep in Rome on the night of the election. At five am, the tiny room of my hostel exploded with noise as my alarm went off; I turned it off and grabbed my iPod Touch to check how the election was coming. I had a multitude of emails. The first two, from my brother and a friend of mine, read, “Alex, just stay in Europe for the next four years”, and “Not looking good across the pond. Don’t turn on CNN.” I turned my iPod off, rolled over, and fell back asleep.
As I figured then and as we all know now, Barack Obama was—in the face of the worst economic recovery in nearly 100 years—re- elected. Knowing that my brother was unhappy with the outcome, I took some time that morning to send him and the rest of my family a quick message about what the election meant. In the most 1950s way possible, it went viral, with my aunts printing it out and taping it to their refrigerators. Like so many other conservatives around the country, they were upset with what had transpired, and were pessimistic about the country’s future. That’s the wrong mindset, I told them, for six simple reasons.
First, conservatives won. I can almost see the heads of the staff at The Daily exploding after reading that, but let me explain. Conser- vatives grabbed the third rail of politics—enti- tlements—and came out with the true mandate of the people, ownership of the House. From here, we can implement true reforms to Medicare and other entitlements if we’re savvy. Second, let’s get real. Obama didn’t win because people loved his economic platform.
Obama won because he has a cult of identity and because he made the election about social issues. Economically, Americans tend to sup- port free-market principles (for good reason, as world history and basic human rights can attest). On social issues, Republicans have been too wont to push their views on others. It’s time to modernize and compromise. To paraphrase a Northwestern alum, gay marriage is not the cross that conservatism should crucify itself on, but that’s a big part of what happened in this last election. Third, politics at the state level don’t seem all that liberal. Thirty of the fifty states have Republican governors. Republicans owned 54% of seats in state legislatures before the elec- tion. In Wisconsin and a host of other states (including Ohio, Florida, and Arizona), we’ve seen a thoroughly conservative—and largely successful—push to change how governments operate.
Fourth, sometimes winning is the worst thing that can happen to a party. Remember George W. Bush in 2004? With Iran, the fiscal cliff, and a host of other issues coming up, this will not be an easy next four years for President Obama. Handling these issues adeptly will be challenging and may give conservatives the ability to present themselves as credible alternatives.
Fifth, conservatives need to get their ship in order. This goes pretty much without saying. The party is disjointed; a defeat and some soul-searching should help.
Sixth, conservatism will win in the end. A party founded on individual freedoms and liberties will never go out of style.
So, take heart conservatives. All is not lost. The world has not come to an end. At the end of the day, our happiness isn’t affected by who is in the White House. At the end of the day, we will still live, love, laugh, and breathe the same way we did in October. As one famous conservative has said, “In Washington, there are no permanent victories or permanent defeats, just permanent battles.” Our response to this election will define our movement and our vision for the future of this country. Let’s make sure we get it right.