President Obama was such a weak candidate that one unalloyed good moment by a weak Republican candidate – the debate of October 3 – almost threw the election to the latter. As a result, I don’t see that the election results presage much about American conservatism. I recall repeatedly lamenting the insipidness of the Republican primary field throughout the summer and fall of 2011. In serial fashion, Republican primaries sequentially propelled different, fatally flawed candidates ahead of the ultimate winner.
Romney then capped his primary performance with a dismal summer, a merely adequate convention, and a dismal September. To be sure, the October 3 debate provided Romney with a tenuous lead in national polls. His strategy was promptly to sit on that lead, and it slowly eroded. I don’t think that Sandy was the cause of Romney’s defeat as much as it was the exclamation point at the end of the decay of the one-time effect of Romney’s October 3 performance. That one good moment almost resulted in the defeat of a sitting president underscored the president’s electoral weakness. But that Romney could generate only one good moment of unalloyed electoral quality underscored his problems as a candidate.
There are important issues that divide the nation. But this election was not about those issues, especially for the small set of voters in the middle over whom Romney and Obama contested.
This is not to say that I’m satisfied with the current state of conservatism or with the role of Christians in modern American politics. Both have reduced themselves to movements of sterile reaction. So I continue to think that there is a lot for both conservatives and Christians to muse over. But Romney’s defeat is a side-show in this bigger, and more important, story.