The presidential election of 2012 was no ordinary contest. The University of Colorado’s political-science department had developed a model, based on the state of the U.S. economy, that had accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election between 1980 and 2008. This year, the model predicted a Romney victory. The explanation for Obama’s victory lies not in the economy, but in the enormous changes America has undergone since the University of Colorado model began predicting elections. According to a Pew poll, Mitt Romney won the white Protestant vote by a crushing 69-30 percent margin, and he won the white Catholic vote by a substantial 59-40 percent. In 1980, these numbers would have translated into an enormous landslide. Indeed, Romney received the same margin of victory among white voters that Ronald Reagan received in 1980. But Romney lost among every other racial and religious group, except Mormons. For years, Chronicles has warned that Republicans were ignoring mass immigration and the culture war at their peril; 2012 was the election that brought home the prescience of those warnings to even the dimmest members of the Stupid Party, as the consequences of mass immigration and secularization helped propel Obama into a second term.
It is true that second terms often become disappointments. But Obama’s second term certainly threatens to be a disastrous one for conservatives, both because of what Obama might do and because of how conservatives are reacting to Obama’s reelection. Unlike Bill Clinton, who took pains to portray himself as a centrist, Obama unabashedly ran for re-election as a leftist. Obama’s re-election will thus push American politics to the left, even though Romney’s record is not a conservative one, and Romney spent the critical month of October running away from conservative positions, especially on social and cultural issues. The leftward pull of Obama’s re-election was made clear the day after the election, when House Speaker John Boehner indicated that he would support “comprehensive immigration reform,” otherwise known as amnesty for illegal aliens. House Republicans have been stalwart in their rejection of amnesty, despite the cajolery of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. If Romney had been elected, we have every reason to believe Republicans would have ignored any plea by Romney for amnesty. But Romney’s defeat is causing something of a panic, and some House Republicans may now heed the many calls for the party to make itself attractive to the portion of the electorate that has just endorsed Obama’s leftism by abandoning the portion of the electorate that hasn’t.
Typical of these calls was the complaint of Al Cardenas of the American Conservative Union, the day after the election, that the GOP is “too old and too white and too male.” David Frum, forgetting his past as a Bush cheerleader and warmonger and rebranding himself as a conservative reformer, popped up at Newsweek to declare that “the GOP is rapidly becoming the party of yesterday’s America,” by which Frum meant the older and whiter one. Frum warbled that
21st century conservatism must be economically inclusive, environmentally responsible, culturally modern, and intellectually credible. . . . Those who seem to despise half of America will never be trusted to govern any of it. Those who cherish only the country’s past will not be entrusted with its future.
At least Frum wrote that the Republicans only seemed to despise half of America. The editor of The American Conservative, Dan McCarthy, wrote, “what does the [Republican] party have to say to the increasing number of non-Christian and unmarried Americans—other than, quite literally, ‘go to hell.’” McCarthy also quoted approvingly foreign-policy analyst Leon Hadar’s observation that Republicans are losing the votes of Asian-Americans because they feel “less comfortable with a political party perceived to be dominated by white politicians that many see as being intolerant toward minorities, gays, women and, yes, immigrants.” Not to be outdone, former American Conservative editor Scott McConnell (who was so thrilled about Obama that he went door to door campaigning for him in Virginia) argued that the time to restrict immigration has passed: Obama’s reelection means that “America is clearly, irrevocably moving past its Europeanist stage.” Cardenas, Frum, McCarthy, and McConnell each want conservatives to embrace multiculturalism, succinctly defined by Sam Francis as the belief that “there is something wrong with being too white, too male, too Christian, and too straight.”
Conservatives would be wise to reject the counsel of capitulation offered by the multiculturalists of the right, though one of the dangers posed by Obama’s re-election is precisely that some conservatives will begin to heed such advice. The GOP has hardly sought to rebuff women or minority voters. Instead, Republicans have adulated such figures as Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, J.C. Watts, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell, though this effort at minority outreach did not even succeed in retaining the vote of the ungrateful Powell. The convention that nominated Romney focused on assuaging the concerns of female voters, and, as Aaron Wolf pointed out, not one of the six clergymen who gave an invocation at the convention was a white Protestant, and two of them—Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Sikh clergyman Ishwar Singh—were not Christians.
Nor does it make sense to change the substance of the policies attacked by the left for demonstrating intolerance “toward minorities, gays, women and, yes, immigrants.” Romney lost the election because he received fewer votes than even John McCain did, and he did particularly poorly among working-class whites in the industrial Midwest, who were put off by Romney’s record of outsourcing jobs at Bain Capital and his close identification with Wall Street, not by the Republican Party’s stand on gay marriage, abortion, or illegal immigration. Of course, working-class whites are far less fashionable than are gays and minorities, which is why there have been few anguished post-election essays in elite publications calling for the GOP to rethink its position on free trade. Nor is there any reason to believe that Republican support for amnesty will yield a rich harvest of Hispanic votes. Hispanics support the Democrats because they support big government, and this will continue whether or not Republicans foolishly follow the likes of Cardenas and Boehner. As Heather Mac Donald has noted, Hispanics who cite economic reasons for opposing the GOP outnumber those citing immigration four to one. More fundamentally, a GOP that sought to appear “tolerant” toward immigrants, women, and homosexuals by embracing open borders, abortion, Obama’s HHS contraception mandate, and gay marriage would be unworthy of conservative support. A “21st-century conservatism” unwilling to defend the historic American nation, U.S. sovereignty and the rule of law, the sanctity of innocent human life, the autonomy of Christian institutions, and the institution of marriage would in fact be largely indistinguishable from contemporary American leftism.
For all their invocations of reality, the multiculturalists of the right either do not know, or do not care, that the real intolerance of today is the disdain of the left for what David Frum terms “yesterday’s America,” what Scott McConnell describes as America’s “Europeanist stage,” and what Al Cardenas dismisses as the America that is “too old and too white and too male.” Indeed, this disdain is enshrined in law, in the form of affirmative action, which the Obama administration is firmly committed to defending from all legal and political challenges. As Attorney General Eric Holder stated, “Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices. The question is not when it ends, but when does it begin . . . When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?” Government discrimination against whites goes beyond affirmative action: It has been part of American immigration policy since the Immigration Act of 1965, which is the principal reason America is becoming less white.
Disdain for “yesterday’s America” was out in the open after the election. Steve Sailer noted that the cover of Newsweek’s post-election issue, entitled “The Obama Conquest” and bearing a drawing of Obama as a colonial general, featured a headline reading, “GOP: You’re Old, You’re White, You’re History.” Sailer also highlighted Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, who wrote, “In the aftermath [of the election], the conservative white male was placed on the politically endangered species list—the crosshairs [are] on him now.” And Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz attacked House Republicans for becoming “whiter and more male” after the election, while exulting that House Democrats “now . . . have a majority minority and female Democratic caucus.” Obama’s re-election will only strengthen the forces that want the government to discriminate against whites and the culture to express disdain for them. Indeed, Obama will certainly push for a “path for citizenship” for illegal immigrants, to bring more nonwhite voters who will support Democrats into the electorate and to hasten the day when the entire country will be, in Wasserman Schultz’s words, “majority minority.”
Religious voters are also an important part of “yesterday’s America” that opposed Obama’s re-election. Indeed, as Gallup has noted, weekly church attendance is now among the best predictors of whether someone will vote Republican. By contrast, according to the Washington Post, the religiously unaffiliated are now the largest “faith constituency” in the Democratic Party. This is consistent with a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study of the two major parties, which showed that a majority of Democrats belong to one of two groups: “Urban Liberals” or the “Agnostic Left,” both of which are hostile to any religious influence in public life. Thus, it seems likely that Obama, who recognizes that politics is all about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, will continue to use federal power to try to impose the tenets of liberal secularism on Christian institutions.
Obama campaigned as a proponent of federal funding for Planned Parenthood and free contraception for women, and he will not compromise on the HHS mandate requiring most employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, including contraceptives that can act as abortifacients, to their employees, with no charge to the employee, even if the employer has religious objections to contraception or abortion. Unless employers having such religious objections succeed in obtaining relief from the courts, they will face a stark choice: abandon their religious objections, pay heavy fines for noncompliance, or go out of business. Indeed, one of the purposes of this regulation may well have been to force the Catholic Church out of healthcare. It has long offended Planned Parenthood and its allies, who enjoy great influence in the Obama administration, that there exists a major network of hospitals that will have no truck with abortion. The next step may well be a regulation requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for surgical abortions, which would be perfectly consistent with the Democratic platform’s support for federal funding of abortion. All such a regulation would require is a stroke of a pen from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, certifying that abortion is necessary preventive care within the meaning of the Affordable Care Act.
Then there is the issue of gay rights. Not only did President Obama campaign as a supporter of gay marriage, but Joe Biden declared on the campaign trail that remedying discrimination against the “transgendered” was “the civil rights issue of our time.” If the Obama administration chooses to advance “the civil rights issue of our time” by expanding federal civil-rights legislation to cover homosexuals and the “transgendered,” a clash with Christian institutions is inevitable. Chai Feldblum, the gay-rights activist appointed by Obama to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, admits as much. But Feldblum has no doubts about what side should prevail when courts are asked to consider religious objections to federal civil-rights legislation covering homosexuality: “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” If the courts asked to resolve such a conflict are staffed by Obama appointees, they won’t have any doubts, either. And if the last portentous civil-rights issue is any indication, Christian institutions with religious objections will be putting their tax-exempt status at risk. In 1983, the Supreme Court upheld, by an eight-to-one margin, an IRS regulation providing that private schools with racially discriminatory admissions policies were not entitled to a federal tax exemption, even if their policies were motivated by a sincere religious conviction.
Although it is certain that ObamaCare is here to stay and that Obama will seek to raise taxes, the precise contours of a second Obama term are not altogether clear. What is clear is the general trajectory. Obama is committed to furthering the transformation of America begun with the cultural revolutions of the 1960’s, and he will not hesitate to use federal power against those who resist or even regret that transformation. He does not recognize any substantial constitutional limits on his own authority. Obama’s administration has claimed the right to force Americans to purchase products they do not want or even believe to be immoral. He has given an administrative amnesty to immigrants brought here illegally as children, defying Congress’s rejection of amnesty and the consensus that any amnesty required new legislation. If Congress has passed a law he does not like, he simply ignores it, as shown by his administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. But Obama has felt at least somewhat constrained by politics. He famously told Dmitri Medvedev that “This is my last election. After my election I will have more flexibility.” We will soon find out how he intends to use his newly won flexibility. Given how he has governed and how he campaigned for re-election, conservatives can only regard that prospect with trepidation, even dread.