Greg Sargent had a good post this morning positing this counterfactual: Suppose Mitt Romney and his tax- and spending-cut agenda had won a decisive victory over President Obama last November and in reaction Senate Democrats (still controlling their chamber) had doubled down on a progressive agenda with calls for social safety net expansion, tax-hike-only deficit reduction, stimulus spending, and then had crowned that agenda with admonishments that President Romney had "failed to sincerely try to find common ground with them."
This is, of course, the track Republicans have followed in the wake of their side's 2012 loss: Steady on, refuse to adjust their policy course, and claim the other guy is being unreasonable and won't compromise. But given the howls of outrage from the right at President Obama's pursuing a liberal course after campaigning on it and winning, it's not hard to imagine the what-might-have-been reaction to unabashed progressivism in the face of a Romney-Ryan administration. I don't think that it's a stretch to say that Obama's victory was the main difference between the right declaring 2012 a clarion mandate election and a … uh … well, whatever they think the 2012 election was.
The fact is that if the old adage goes that "elections have consequences," it might have to be rewritten thusly to take into account the modern GOP: "Primary elections have consequences." For House Republicans (the group that is currently driving the party and its agenda) the past and future national elections hold less import than their 2012 and 2014 primary elections; the broad will of the voters—who by a solid margin re-elected a president progressive president who campaigned on securing the safety net and increasing taxes—is less important than the desires of the GOP voters and activists in their carefully drawn congressional districts.
That's why so many conservatives talk about responding to the 2012 elections with a more pronounced version of the same.
And, as I argued last week, to the extent that they acknowledge the 2012 elections, they seem to view it as an illegitimate expression of the national will: Too many city voters cast ballots, so it can be discounted.