Yesterday I wrote that our failure to elect Mitt Romney could not be blamed on the man's candidacy, as so many are now doing. I blamed the vanity of the country, that they would rather elect a pop-culture icon than a proven, tested leader.
I still stand by that being the primary cause of our defeat, but there is also the disheartening fact that Republican turnout this time around was three million short of John McCain's numbers in 2008. If those 3 million people had voted in this election, Romney would have won the popular vote, though it is still unlikely that he would have won the electoral vote. So we cannot blame this statistic for his loss.
The only conservatives whom I have heard saying they would stay home on Election Day were Evangelicals who refused to vote for Romney because of his religion. It is likely that the majority of the 3 million who stayed home lived in heavily evangelical states--states Romney won regardless. For that reason, I do not think those three million absent voters cost us the election.
However, what we can blame these non-voters for is the disgraceful fact that Romney lost the popular vote. The popular vote does not elect a president, but it does create a perception. Had those three million Republicans sucked up their sanctimony and gone to the polls, Romney would have won the popular vote, and it would have been a harder case to make that conservatism is a lost cause.
Our loss of the popular vote really damaged perceptions, for it now appears that voters prefer socialism to conservatism, even though the three million voters who stayed home were conservatives.
A more troubling case is that of Florida. Romney lost Florida by a mere 0.7 percentage points. And third-party candidates--by which I mean third-party candidates officially on the ballot and those who received write-in votes--received 0.9 percent of the vote. If those wasted votes (as indeed all third-party votes are a waste) had gone to Romney, he would have won Florida. This still would not have given Romney an electoral victory, but the perception would not have been so damaging.
If it were not for Libertarians and people voting third-party on some mutation of a principle, then there would not currently be as big a perception that conservatism and Libertarianism is so wildly unpopular when the other option is socialism.
At this point I would like to extend a hearty congratulations to Libertarians and non-voting conservatives: my friends, you've contributed to your Libertarian and conservative dreams now having no chance of ever being realized.