If ever there was an election that was not worth winning, it was the contest of 2008. While it was hard-fought on both sides, had McCain won, it might have spelled the end of the Republican Party. As it is, the party is well-situated to come back in 2010 and in 2012, if it learns the lessons of this year.
Simply put, all hell is about to break loose in the markets and the economy. The mortgage crisis will likely be followed by defaults in credit card debt, student loans and car loans. We will probably be set for two years of zero growth, according to economists with whom I talk. And the federal efforts to protect the nation from the worst of the recession will probably lead to huge budget deficits and resulting inflation. We are in for stagflation that could last for years.
Had McCain won, he would be the latter-day Hoover, blamed for the disaster that unfolded on his watch. Now it is Obama's problem. With the Republicans suffering a wipeout in congressional elections (although not as bad as they feared), the ball is now squarely in the Democratic court. Good luck!
If Obama raises taxes, the situation could get even worse. With a liberal Congress on his hands, he will be constrained to move to the left, if he needs any pushing. When Clinton was elected in 1992, the Democrats in control of Congress gave him a clear message: Either you govern within the four walls of the Democratic caucus or you won't get our support. Crossing the aisle to get Republican votes, even including the GOP in negotiations, was a no-no for which the president would pay dearly if he transgressed.
The result was predictable. Moderate initiatives like welfare reform were scrapped, the Congress passed tax hikes and legislation became festooned with liberal amendments. Faced with the need to round up every last vote in the Senate and House Democratic caucuses, Clinton had no choice but to load up conservative bills like an anti-crime measure with liberal pork (like a provision for midnight basketball courts in urban areas) to get unanimous caucus backing.
Obama will have to move left to appease his caucus. He will become their hostage, and they his jailers.
This dynamic will produce extreme-left-wing governance, which the Republicans can blame for the continuation of the recession and for any worsening. The party will recover, fed by anger at Obama's policies, and will emerge from this defeat stronger than ever.
But the Republicans must learn the lesson of MoveOn.org. Founded in the bleak days of the Clinton impeachment, MoveOn developed a grassroots Internet base. Building up its e-list of activists and contributors, MoveOn laid the basis for the incredible Internet appeal of the Obama campaign. At last count, Obama has 4.5 million donors, most online.
Conservatives cannot count on the Republican Party to fight their battles for them, and certainly cannot count on them to win. The right needs to develop cyber-roots conservative organizations to rival the power of groups like MoveOn.org. The stellar efforts of NewsMax.com and its ally, GOPtrust.com, illustrate the power of such efforts. Together, these groups raised $10 million for an independent expenditure on media in swing states featuring the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's anti-American bombast.
And their efforts worked.
Virtually all the polls agreed that Obama would win 52-53 percent of the vote, but the surveys varied in the amount of undecideds they found. On Election Day, virtually every undecided voter went to McCain, and Obama's final vote share was no more and no less than the 52-53 percent the surveys had predicted. This unanimity among undecided voters is attributable to the endgame of groups like GOPtrust.com and NewsMax.com.
These groups have to lead the way in running media to battle against the leftist legislation that will undoubtedly emanate from the Obama administration and the liberal Congress America has just elected. Then they can become the basis for a Republican resurgence, just as MoveOn.org was this year for the Democrats.