Indeed, there is no evidence whatsoever—either in the vote totals or in the exit poll—that the country had much confidence in either candidate, or either party, to handle the problems that confront us. If a single question on the exit poll captured the country’s lack of enthusiasm for both candidates, it was, “Who would better handle the economy?” Only 48 percent chose Obama. One would think that would sink the president’s reelection chances, but of the 49 percent who chose Romney, only 94 percent voted for him, with the rest backing Obama or a third-party candidate. The same thing happened with the deficit: Slightly more voters picked Romney (49 percent) than Obama (47 percent) to handle that issue, but Romney won only 95 percent of voters who trusted him more. That is Election 2012 in a nutshell: Voters did not trust Obama to handle the tough issues, but even less did they trust Romney to represent them in the Oval Office.
It is not hard to see how the nation’s deep disgruntlement could produce a major upheaval in two or four years’ time. It comes down to two questions. First, will the problems that plague the body politic continue? Nobody is optimistic about robust economic growth in the near or medium term, which in turn -suggests the continuation of trillion-dollar deficits. Second, will a candidate emerge who can relate to voters and convince them that he or she offers a real course correction, which 52 percent of 2012 voters said was needed? Clearly, neither Romney nor Obama managed to make that case, but that does not mean no future candidate could channel public frustration into a peaceful revolution, one that would remorselessly sack the powers that be.
In the meantime, conservatives who are navel-gazing need to think beyond electoral groups. That -analysis is inherently favorable to the Democratic party, which for generations has been the undisputed master of us-versus-them identity politics. And it misses the much bigger point: The country was not persuaded that the Republican nominee had their interests at heart.