To state the obvious, the Republicans lost because they didn’t get enough votes (specifically, electoral votes based on states’ popular votes). For the most part, this wasn’t because people were particularly fond of President Obama’s positions on the economy, foreign policy and social issues. The Republican Party systematically worked to alienate many of its own natural supporters and focused on trying to make everyone believe it wasn’t the worst of the two major parties.
Many young people were first attracted to the Republican Party because they believed the party offered fiscal common sense that the Democrats lacked. Growing up in a devout Republican household, I was told that “the Republicans are the party of responsibility, and the Democrats are the party of irresponsibility.” But increasingly, when Republicans say “responsibility,” they mean spending government dollars on wars and Medicare, and when they say “irresponsibility,” they mean welfare and the Affordable Care Act. “Responsibility” is the drug war and foreign aid, and “irresponsibility” is Planned Parenthood and green energy.
As a candidate, Ron Paul defined these terms very differently. He said that responsibility means not spending money you don’t have. He pointed out that our entitlements and wars are financially unsustainable, and that the federal government has a terrible track record of keeping costs in check. He questioned US involvement in other countries, and whether it’s really in our best interest to have a military eight times larger than any other country’s. He called on the Republican Party to focus on real spending cuts instead of on how people conduct their personal lives.
Many people thought these ideas made a lot of sense, but the GOP went beyond ignoring them, actively pushing Paul and his supporters out of their party. Some Paulites held out and voted for Romney, in the hope that his business savvy would translate into a marginally more balanced budget. Others, feeling frustrated and defeated, voted for Obama, because at least he told them the truth: he wanted to keep spending and borrowing. Many looked to the Libertarian Party as a way to send a message that the two major parties are so corrupt that another group needs to come in and clean up after them. But I think that many of Paul’s supporters ultimately chose not to vote at all, feeling like the system is rigged against them and in favor of people who promise not to cut anything, and instead project rosy budgets for the future, when growth is higher than ever and taxes produce more than enough revenue to pay for everyone’s everything.
As America’s debt problem becomes progressively more impossible to ignore, it seems obvious that one of the current major parties will recognize the need to embrace common sense budget solutions. But since that seems unlikely, I hope that the Libertarian Party, which has often been plagued by infighting, will pull together to incorporate a broad range of ideas about how to allow free people and free markets to solve the country’s problems.