Grand Old Pessimism: Oh, No! We’re Gonna Win!

Republicans expect things to get worse. Which is why Romney will lose, right?

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illustration by timothy goodman for time

Seventy-two hours after the first presidential debate, in which it’s universally recognized that Mitt Romney cleaned Barack Obama’s clock, I started to panic. The polls began to tighten, battleground states started to seem a lot less battlegroundish, and Republicans allowed themselves to think the unthinkable: We may actually win this thing.

This, of course, isn’t supposed to happen. In debates, Republicans are supposed to fumble around looking uncomfortable and out of touch. We’re supposed to smile awkwardly and get tangled in the rich man’s lingo: capital-gains-tax reductions, carried interest, the problems with the minimum wage, that sort of stuff. For 30 years, Republicans have watched every debate with our hearts in our throats; we’re behind our man all the way, but we always know he’s going to say something weird and off-putting, and we’re going to have to do a lot of damage control afterward.

It’s a new feeling, then, for Republicans to watch a presidential campaign come to a close without that nauseating pool of dread in our stomachs. And it’s a new feeling, at least for some of us, to watch a race that seemed doomed a few months ago—a race, let’s be honest, in which our party nominated a smart and good man but one who is also a zillionaire Mormon former governor of Massachusetts who says things like “Good gracious” when he’s peeved—tighten until it’s not unthinkable that we could, you know, actually win this thing.
These are all new feelings, and Republicans hate new feelings. Giddy optimism, to us, is just a Jedi mind trick. Surging polls? The banana peels we’ll all slip on when Obama ekes out slim but decisive victories in seven states. Obama’s buying ads in Michigan? Another head fake to keep Romneyland off balance. We can’t help but feel energized and excited by Romney’s momentum, but we wouldn’t be Republicans if we didn’t worry, deep down, that we’re being punked.

It’s the chief irony of the GOP that its greatest hero, Ronald Reagan, always looked at the glass as half full, while the keystone principle of conservatives is that things are inexorably getting worse. Reagan managed to thread that particular needle, but for the rest of us, optimism is a lost cause. “Things go bad” is our motto, and the best we can do is to try to beat back the tide. Our leaders will be stilted and clumsy and barely able to slow the drift toward full-on European-style socialism—and that’s the good news. That’s if they actually win an election. What we expect them to do is lose.

That’s certainly where most of us were throughout September, when the Romney operation improvised its way through a series of lackluster weeks—explaining away the famous “47%” video, dispatching the income-tax-return business—and frittered away any possible postconvention momentum. And then suddenly Romney delivered the single best performance by a presidential candidate in a debate in 40 years at the moment his opponent delivered the single worst performance in 40 years. It’s precisely the kind of unexpected high-wire act that drives conservatives batty. We don’t like surprises like that. That sort of thing just inspires hope—and hope, well, that just leads to unrealistic expectations and crushing disappointment. We’re looking at national polls the way Wile E. Coyote looks at an unopened package from the Acme Corp.: This is going to be great!

So why not nip all this “Romney might actually win” stuff in the bud? Which is why, for the past week, most of my Republican friends have been reminding one another that doom really is just around the corner, that the polls are misleading, that Obama’s get-out-the-vote machine is impossible to beat, that the left-wing media will protect their candidate, that the current voter demographics favor the opposition—and no matter what, Do not get optimistic. Do not allow yourself to hope.

“Ohio is neck and neck,” a Republican friend texted me the other day, “and O pulling out of North Carolina.”

It was true, but he nevertheless felt compelled to follow up with this deflationary text: “We’re still prob. gonna lose.”

But what if we don’t? “What haps then?” I texted my friend. The iPhone went silent for a moment. Then it chirped a reply: “That wd be awful! Romney as prez will raise taxes 4 sure. O vs. Rep. Congress won’t b able 2.”

This was a very good—and characteristically Republican—point: things have a way of getting worse, even when they seem like they’re about to get better. Here’s hoping we can cope with our disillusionment when we win.

Long is a contributing editor at National Review and the editor of Ricochet.com

122 comments
Killbot5K
Killbot5K

I had to stop and re-read the text exchange between Mr. Long and his friend because it perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with the current Republican Party.

His friend acknowledges that a Romney administration would need to raise taxes to fix our nations problems, while openly hoping that Obama wins so that a deadlocked congress could deny him the very same solution. Again, it appears that the GOP attitude is that it's more important to defeat Obama than to repair the country, even if we clearly agree to the same solution.

It makes you wonder if bipartisansip is truly dead.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

Anytime the polls do not favor the Right, they start attacking it. After Gallup showed Obama leading in thepolls in September, they bowed to pressure and changed their polling methodology. 

From October 1, 2012, after Gallup changed its methods to emm emm more Rovish..oops I mean, more scientific methods, Romney has been leading in Gallup polls. It is all nonsense. The Far Right established so many polls, and many of their calls are absurd, and slammed many of us in the South. I guess their purpose was to grow Romney's lead in the national polls, and make Obama supporters lose heart. It did not work. 

Now, their latest target is Nate Silver. NUT JOBS!!!! Hang on  Nate. Do not be intimidated or worried. Just do your job. No prediction is absolute, and the bed wetting Far Righties are looking for someone to blame for their weak bladders!! The HELL with them. In a few short days, I PRAY that those of us who are waiting to roar in joy about a Romney loss, will be doing so. 

My neighbor's Romney Ryan signs ARE GALLING. They are HUGE and totally unnecessary. This is a red state, and those signs are very very annoying, especially as I DETEST AND REMEMBER ALL that Romney did to us in MA, and all that he STILL stands for!! Anyway, after Obama wins, by God's grace, I will be on my neighbor's lawn, just like I was in 2008--doing my victory dance and making my loud war cries. :)

americanfirst
americanfirst

Mitt Romney will prove to be one the VERY BEST Presidents this country has ever produced. He will cause many to redefine their terms for the better. The nation will once again fall under the leadership of a principle-centered man the likes of which we haven't seen in this office in decades.

Mitt Romney will be a fantastic President and he will serve us and by extension, the whole of the human family greatly.

ahandout
ahandout

Liberal loons.  Here is the mindset of liberals.  They actually believe that FIVE bicycles can start a nationwide trend.  Hey, why not?  They can save the world by voting for a fraud like Obama.  So five bikes should do the trick.  You can't make this crap up.

Santa Monica officials hope that five loaner bicycles bought for just $3,500 can accelerate a national trend.

 http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/28/local/la-me-santa-monica-bikes-20121028

ahandout
ahandout

What is the liberals drug of choice for Obamanxiety?  Nate Silver.  Take a big swallow of Nate's BS and you'll feel better.  Too bad Nate is a pure partisan, shilling for Barry.  But, we wouldn't want liberals to lose their beauty sleep and not be able to work out in their home gyms.  My God, they are using electricity staying up late.

Uncomfortable 1st debate

Edelman hosted a bunch of friends to watch the debate over dinner. But after the first five minutes unfolded, nobody ate. Few spoke. "And right after it ended, everybody just got up and left," she said.Berkeley resident Jim Blume yelled at the television while he watched the debate with family and friends. 

"C'mon! Say something! That's wrong what he (Romney) is saying," Blume recalls telling the leader of the free world. Alas,Obama didn't respond to Blume's pleas. And for the next two nights,Blume didn't sleep. A man who has voted for only one Republican in hislife - when the Beatles were touring - found himself questioning Obama and the state of the campaign."What was happening? Who was this guy?" Blume asked. 

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/joegarofoli/article/Dems-nervous-GOP-upbeat-as-vote-nears-3989238.php#ixzz2AzfYSQWa

ahandout
ahandout

This is perfect; even Dems call themselves betwetters.

Liberals so freaked out about the prospect of President Obama losinghis re-election bid that they can't sleep at night. Can't talk aboutanything else. Can't stop parsing the latest polls. David Plouffe, one of President Obama's top campaign strategists, has a word for supporters he feels are needlessly fretful: bed wetters. "Oh, I think I'm worse than that," Kay Edelman said.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/joegarofoli/article/Dems-nervous-GOP-upbeat-as-vote-nears-3989238.php#ixzz2AzeXVvSf

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@americanfirst He was a LOSER as governor in our state and was totally INEPT. He was also disconnected and horribly unsuited for public office. Your dreams about what Romney could be as president are founded on nothing but dreams and baseless conjecture.

The facts show that Romney is a LIAR who will say and do anything to get elected. History also shows that he almost decimated our GREAT Commonwealth!! He will lose.

Vote Obama/Biden 2012

NOTMITTENS
NOTMITTENS

@americanfirst The guy can't even keep consistent with his views on the issues.  He's changed his views to whatever he thinks people want to hear at the moment.  He is the opposite of a leader. He's probably the most blatantly dishonest politician I've seen in my life time.  Apparently he has no shame.. I pray he does not get elected.. if I want someone to lie to me I, I can go see a used car salesman... I don't need to watch Romney for that.  He does have nice hair... other than that, he's a stuffed suit.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@americanfirst How did Mitt Romney do as Governor of Massachusetts? You know that state he lied to get elected in and which is now voting against him by 30 points if not more.

anon76
anon76

@americanfirst 

Um, not to get too technical on you, but "principle-centered" men usually don't shake their etch-sketch at every turn in the election season.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@americanfirst 

That's certainly the case he's been arguing for eight years now; unfortunately for him most Americans don't buy it.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@ahandout 

Um, I hate to break this to you but this is done in many other cities across the US, and it is a noble goal.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout Yes idiot it can. In urban areas it can certainly reduce pollution and traffic congestion. The fact that you think this is something to be attacked merely helps explain why the Republican party has all the appeal of the Spanish Inquisition for anyone with a brain or interest in helping the environment.

anon76
anon76

@ahandout 

For those who don't like Silver's electoral calculus:

Real Clear Politics, republican-leaning site:  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/2012_elections_electoral_college_map_no_toss_ups.html

(Obama 290, Romney 248)

Election Projection, republican-leaning site:

http://www.electionprojection.com/index.php

(Obama 290, Romney 248)

Huffpo election dashboard, liberal-ish site

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map#map

(Obama 277, Romney 206, 55 toss-ups)

Electoral Vote, democratic-leaning site:

http://electoral-vote.com

(Obama 299, Romney 206, 33 toss-ups)

TPM poll tracker, liberal site:

http://core.talkingpointsmemo.com/election/scoreboard

(Obama 285, Romney 191, 62 toss-ups)

Princeton Election Consortium, academic site:

http://election.princeton.edu/

(Obama 316, Romney 222)

Votamatic, academic site:

http://votamatic.org/

(Obama 332, Romney 206)

Note that regardless of political affiliation, they all predict Obama will win, and most of them predict Obama will win even if he lost Ohio.  That is not good news for Romney

MrObvious
MrObvious

@ahandout 

Who's freaking out? So far you have 4-5 ranks about liberals freaking out yet you bold it, post it often, come across like a screaming DB and then runs away after your carpet bombing.

Maybe you need to read up on what 'freaking out' means.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@ahandout 

"Silver, who correctly predicted 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 election, frequently updates the probability of which candidate will win the presidency. As of Friday, Silver predicted that Obama had a 74 percent chance of winning."

I love it when you post articles that work against your narrative because you never read past the opening.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout As opposed to guys like you stock piling guns and canned goods like you did after the last election?

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

Big net??? Your effort at sarcasm was totally lost on me.. As for my neighbor, his daughter will probably join me as we dance and sing our loud war cries. 

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout Not attacking: MOCKING.  The elitist liberals in Santa Monica are buffons who believe that FIVE bicycles are going to start a nationwide trend.  Of course, in LA you might survive a few days on a bike before an unlicensed illegal runs you down and drives away.  But, then you actually would be saving the earth with your self sacrifice.  Perhaps it's not a bad idea after all.

ahandout
ahandout

@MrObvious @ahandout  Yeah, I had to DRIVE a car into LA.  Didn't see one idiot on a bicycle, either. Sorry you missed me. 

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@ahandout  No, I am no nut, You are a SUPER LOON. Your vocabulary also needs a boost. Here is the definition of "war cry", you sad Right winger fanatic.It does not mean WAR and FIGHTING!! Here is the meaning in the context of my initial comment.

"A slogan, phrase, or motto used to unite a political party, rally support for a cause, etc." (Source-Dictionary.com)

Get a life ahandout!!  Extolling ignorance as the Far Righties do is BAT CRAZY. Santorum stating that the educated elite will never vote for the FAR RIGHT, is further evidence of the vast practice of extolling ignorance, a practice that continues to dominate within the rank and file of the Republican party. SAD SAD SAD people.

Vote Obama/Biden 2012

ahandout
ahandout

@BenevolentLawyer  War cries?  Are you going to kill?  Are you violent when off your meds?  Who does a WAR cry over a Democratic election?  On the scale of 1-10, 10 being bats-hit crazy you sound like a 20.  But, thanks for making all my points that I posted today about liberals being a bit off.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@ahandout @DonQuixotic 

As futile as posting meaningless articles about nothing, and then changing the subject when you get called out on it.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout  LA, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood all havens of the elite leftist that think you should ride a bicycle while they cruise past in the their Mercedes. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 We aren't talking LA idiot but Santa Monica which is fairly compact. Yet again have you actually been there or are you merely flapping your gums to cover up for your kneejerk post?

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout  Of course MD.  LA is spread out with commuters coming from 60, 70, 80, 90 miles away.  A bicycle is a grand solution.  

So, where do you ride your bike to in LA, MD?  The local liquor store?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 Have you ever been to Santa Monica? How about any of the urban centers in Europe. Only idiots and trolls mock thing they know nothing about. Which one are you?

bobell
bobell

@ahandout: That's because the Republicans' supporters keep stealing the Obama signs.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I don't think he even knows who McCarthy was.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @DonQuixotic  Yet again troll. Do you even know what a communist is? You seem to throw that word along with socialist at anyone who disagrees with you.

ahandout
ahandout

@DonQuixotic @ahandout  Silver is a former blogger from the Daily Kos.  A communist website is hardly impartial.  Keep the dream alive.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@ahandout @DonQuixotic 

Hey you're the one that posted an article that supports his work.  He's the most impartial pollster around.  I know you don't like the numbers he presents to you but he's totally non-biased.