I'm not in a very good mood this election season. An Obama victory tonight, which now seems almost certain, will make it less likely that we will repeal ObamaCare. As someone who remains vociferously opposed to the law, I can't say that makes me very happy. And all-in-all, I probably prefer GOP judges to Democratic ones, since conservatives at least sometimes vote on the side of the angels on issues of criminal justice, while the Democratic justices are pretty much a lockstep vote against any and all forms of economic liberty. But Mitt Romney has other drawbacks. And as I've remarked before, both men are essentially technocrats, not radicals; no matter who wins tomorrow, life is going to go on very much as it has been doing.
But despite yesterday's sterling advice to remember that government actually still plays a very small role in most peoples' daily lives, many of my friends and acquaintances are getting very worked up. Republicans, in particular, seem increasingly desperate for the satisfaction of an electoral outcome that does not, let's face it, seem particularly likely. Let me see if I can offer a cheery word.
Assuming that Romney does indeed lose, I advise Republicans to accentuate the positive. Obama is not going to end up with much of a mandate; for one thing, he will almost certainly win with fewer votes and a much narrower margin than he had in 2008. And for another, he wasn't exactly playing against the varsity. I actually like Mitt Romney much better now than I did when I started covering this campaign; reading his writing and trying to track down information about the man has convinced me that he actually is a good manager, and that he thinks about economic problems sensibly.
However, as a candidate, he's had some critical weaknesses. He has been apparently running his own campaign, a big mistake. He didn't put forward the kind of human interest stories about himself that President Obama excels at--even though his stories of ministry arguably make a better story than Barack Obama's brief stint of community organizing. He has always seemed stiff, his best moments coming in the relatively formal venue of the televised debate. This may be why Romney never really connected with the base (most of whom might as well be voting for "Generic Republican), or with the general electorate.
In a different year, there would have been candidates with more political (as opposed to managerial) skills. In that case, Barack Obama might well have lost his re-election bid. The electorate is well aware of this--my mother, aka "The Swing Voter", is voting for Obama, but only with extreme reluctance.
Democrats will have no mandate to do much besides tread water for four years. Oh, and come up with a plan to patch the ugly holes in our budget. Yes, that probably means a budget deal would contain slightly more tax hikes than you'd like. But so would any deal cut by a hypothetical President Romney. Unless you believe that we can somehow just shut down Medicare, the range of possible compromises is really quite limited. And if you are interested in the long-term future of your party, you'll really be quite glad that a Republican president wasn't the one who had to suture up the fiscal equivalent of an arterial geyser.
And if historical patterns prevail, an Obama victory tonight makes it extremely likely that come 2016 we'll get eight years of Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, or Bobby Jindal. Any of these men is more deeply committed to conservative philosophy than Mitt Romney, who at his heart is a consensus building manager, not a firebrand. Losing tonight means a more conservative president not so far down the road.
The wheel goes round and round, and sooner or later the fly on top will be the fly on the bottom. If your guy loses, it's best not to dwell on how flat you feel right now.