(Assemblyman Jim Wheeler) – Why did we lose?
For the last few days, I have been soaking in the news coverage and the endless critiques of the Presidential Election. And believe me they have been endless. The talking heads all have their own opinions why Gov. Romney lost. I’ve heard everything from shifting demographics to voter fraud. But I think it is something completely different. I think the Romney machine made one of the most terrible mistakes in electoral history during the last month of the campaign.
During the first debate the nation got to see a completely different Romney than the one portrayed by Obama and the press. This was the guy we all wanted as our next President. He was forceful, self-assured, conservative and Presidential. He knew the facts and his views were conservative in nature. He gave as good, or better, than he got and who can forget the line he gave to the President: “You’re not entitled to your own facts”. The Romney momentum machine started right there and then. Nothing could stop him.
And stop the momentum he did. How? Let’s take a look at a little recent history. In 1980 Ronald Reagan ran on the promise of the American Dream and American Exceptionalism. These have long been conservative ideals. He ran as a conservative and he didn’t move to the middle during his campaign. He won twice and will go down in history as one of our greatest Presidents.
George H. W. Bush ran as the Reagan 3rd term. Remember “Read my lips”? He also won. Then, when he moved to the middle in his governing style, he lost. George W. Bush ran as a conservative twice and won both times. On the other hand, Bob Dole and John McCain both ran as centrist candidates. How’d that work out for them?
In my opinion, Romney didn’t learn from history. He had the perfect opportunity to advance his momentum using the conservative ideals that got him there. Instead he felt he needed to get the independent vote by moving more to the middle. Bad call.
In my own state level campaign, I was running against an IAP candidate, so I walked some nonpartisan, IAP and other doors, just to get their feedback. What I found was that a vast majority of those people used to be either Republicans or Blue-Dog Democrats. They left their parties because it wasn’t conservative enough. Let me say that again. They left their parties because it wasn’t conservative enough!
Sometimes, moving more to the middle to advance your numbers in a heavily Democratic district may be the right call (unless of course you think you should actually stand on your principles). And I do understand that in some legislative elections the best you can hope for is to boost your caucus numbers. But history has shown us that what most people want is the American Dream. It doesn’t matter what color you are. What your background is. What sex you are. You just want an equal shot. And that’s what true republican/conservative values are about; Individual freedom, or an equal shot.
(Mr. Wheeler is the newly-elected assemblyman representing District 39. He lives in Douglas County, Nevada.)