Much of the focus of the pundit class in America in these post-election days is on the need to overcome the divide between the sides and achieve compromise for the good of America. Let us hope the President is under no such delusions.
If the last four years have taught us anything, they have taught us that in spite of this defeat Republicans will not become more moderate, they will not move to the centre, they will not be ready to compromise.
The failure of eight years of Republican leadership and the scale of their loss were both much greater in 2008, but there was no soul-searching, no rejection of failed strategies, no forging of new coalitions and compromises. The response to their defeat was to double-down through unprecedented obstruction in Congress and an open dedication to the advancement of no particular agenda at all except to blame that failure on Obama and make him a one-term President.
There is every indication and every reason to believe they will pursue the same strategy over the next four years.
In this remarkable conversation between Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter, a despondent Coulter can only lament America's great loss in not having Romney as a President, in spite of his having run a "magnificent" campaign. Even utterly defeated it does not occur to her that any element of what they were selling was simply not palatable to most Americans.
Ingraham represents the segment of Republicans that have recovered from their unimagined defeat. She is already on the double-down strategy and thinks Romney never really explained core conservative principles.
She compares picking up a couple in the House with losing a couple in the Senate and concludes that this was a vote for "the status quo... for gridlock." A vote for gridlock! Far from considering that any of their policies or principles were rejected, she thinks America is craving conservative leadership and it was only Obama's charisma and campaign that filled that void. She concludes by saying that the problem isn't their values, but that they haven't had a conservative candidate that could articulate those values in the last 15 years!
Ingraham is far from alone. Two days after the loss Grover Norquist had already penned an article pointing out how much worse Obama did in the popular vote as compared to last time, painting this loss as a win.
Rush Limbaugh is reported on the BBC saying "Conservatism, in my humble opinion, did not lose last night. It's just very difficult to beat Santa Claus."
Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, told CNN that it "should have been a landslide for Romney, had he embraced a truly conservative agenda."
Marjorie Dannenfelser of the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List criticized Romney for failing to make abortion a central campaign issue.
According to Fox News, in spite of the billions spent on extraordinarily simple messages, the problem was a failure to follow the examples of Reagan and Gingrich who shrank government "not by pulling punches or papering over the differences between left and right, but by explaining conservatism in simple language." Never mind, of course, that during Reagan's leadership spending grew every year and the deficit grew in six out of eight years.
It seems that no pundits or politicians of note on the right have admitted that in spite of a relentless campaign that has about 50 per cent of Americans opposed to "Obamacare," a clear majority of Americans favour the actual policies contained in it. In spite of losing even at the conservative dominated Supreme Court they are incapable of admitting defeat and still plan to fight its implementation and even try to repeal measures in Congress.
None have said "it's clear our agenda of no new taxes, simple and clear and well-funded as it was, simply was not accepted by most Americans, and we are prepared to have tough negotiations with the president about balancing the budget with spending cuts AND revenue increases."
On the contrary, John Boehner asked the President to "lead" them to a compromise that would have no new taxes, e.g. a "compromise" in which the victorious president surrenders completely the hard-line of the Republican right, and Mitch McConnell agrees that attempts to let the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 expire would be rejected in the Senate.
While too many to note have recognized that the Republican Party needs to reach out to Latino voters in particular, it does not seem to have occurred to any of them that draconian policies on foreign workers, immigration, and citizenship might present a bigger problem then "communicating" to them simply about the conservative idea of the American Dream. That fallout from broader policies like the failed war on drugs or virtually uncountable legitimate unresolved historical grievances across the region might contribute is, of course, unthinkable.
Equally unthinkable would be admitting that America has rejected their calls for more military adventurism and the spending it would entail, and sitting down to a real discussion about scaling back the overseas empire to save American lives and American money.
The Republicans lost the Presidency by seven points in 2008, along with both Houses, and two months later had formed the Tea Party to focus the efforts of the next four years on trying to make Obama a one-term President. Which is to say: they lost big time in 2008, and they doubled down, and the result was the most obstructive Congress in history. Voters did not punish them, and they have not accepted defeat on a single point except the actual vote counting.
They will follow the same strategy this time, and therefore we can expect to be subjected to four more years of obstruction and hyper-partisanship.
That does not mean all is lost: far from it. The Democratic majority in the Senate could press for Filibuster reform immediately on convening in January. The President could wield the power of the bully pulpit in offering moderate policies to Americans, while accepting that few to no Republicans will vote for it.
But mostly it means that the far right of the Republican Party may well continue to shoot itself in the foot. The reason most losing parties go through a period of soul-searching is because it is a necessary part of learning from what went wrong and finding some new ideas to offer the public. As Thomas Friedman predicted, the Republican "center-right has got to have it out with the far-right, or it is going to be a minority party for a long time."