Columnist George Will has said that, given the economy, if Republicans can’t beat this president, they should look for another line of business. (One might add, “given this black president.” This is not a basically racist country as lefties love saying; Obama was actually black before the last election; yet it does cost him some votes.)
If Romney loses, which I think likely, there will be a loud chorus of Republicans blaming their failure to nominate a “real conservative.” Like Rick Santorum? True, more Americans consider themselves “conservative” than liberal, but their conservatism doesn’t gibe with the fierce ideology of today’s Republican fire-eaters. Compassionate conservatism it ain’t. They are painting themselves into a narrow political corner. How often can they beat the drum for reducing government before voters get cynical because government only keeps growing, no matter how many tea-partiers are elected? And while Democrats demonize them as wanting to throw granny over the cliff, Republicans cannot deliver on their threats of cutbacks – not even Big Bird’s neck will meet the axe — so it’s a lose-lose position for them.
Of course we desperately need to curb spending; but it won’t happen without a bipartisan deal including taxes too. And Republicans won’t hear of it. Nevertheless, I believe Romney would actually make such a deal, achieving what Obama cannot. Yet, maddeningly, Romney seems to think he can’t say this. The lack of clarity leaves Democrats free to posture as defenders of everyone’s government benefits, without being called on how to pay for it.
In 1992, after Democrats had lost five out of six presidential elections, some of them realized their leftwingery and interest group pandering wasn’t working, so spearheaded by Bill Clinton, they wrenched the party back toward the center. What Republicans need is not to ratchet up their ideological purity; but to wake up from that dream and wrench their party back toward the center. Otherwise they risk making Democrats the “natural party of government,” as they basically were for three decades up to the ‘60s.
Meantime, while the electorate is sharply divided, the voters in the middle – who actually decide elections – are not ideological nor swayed by policy arguments. They “vote for the man” they like better. They still like Obama better, skin color notwithstanding. Ronald Reagan was a big winner not because he was so conservative but because he was a “great communicator” whom people liked. But likeability counted for almost nothing in the Republican primaries. Romney would have been a far more appealing and credible candidate if he hadn’t had to go through the bizarrification machine of the Republican primaries. He’s tried to undo the damage, but probably too late.
Then there’s demographics. Republican voters aren’t reproducing as fast as Democratic voters; and, being older, on average, they’re exiting at a greater rate. Republicans’ core support base is white males, whose percentage in the population is inexorably shrinking. The demographic growing the fastest is Hispanics, not only by reproduction but via immigration, yet Republicans somehow thought it was a good idea to give Hispanics the finger. Of course they didn’t actually, but Hispanics can be forgiven for seeing it that way.
The irony is that President Obama gave Republicans a tremendous opportunity to gain Latino support because he failed to fulfill his promises for immigration reform and actually stepped up deportations, of over a million Hispanics. Welcoming immigrants – who come here to work and advance themselves economically – not to mention all those highly qualified foreigners whom American businesses desperately need but can’t get into the country – ought to be right in line with the Republican worldview. Instead they have succumbed to a brainless nativism. What a shame. (I was shocked recently to see The Economist listing Texas as only “leaning Republican.”)
And the Republicans have run a lousy, dumb campaign. With all the true things that can be said against Obama’s re-election (See for example my 7/12 post), why twist facts in ways that are bound to bite you in the ass? And after all the nonsense about “shipping jobs overseas,” what Republican campaign genius had the bright idea to spotlight the issue — with phony charges against Obama? All this erodes trustworthiness and the image of competence, and gets in the way of the main message. And while it’s healthy to change one’s mind sometimes, don’t make it seem constant and expedient – trustworthiness, again.
While both sides are equally guilty of running overwhelmingly negative ads, for Romney I think that’s been a fatal mistake. The conventional wisdom is that voters hate negative ads, but they work. However, voters already knew what they think of Obama and ads can’t much change that. But Romney is less known, and less liked, and hence needed to do much more to build up his own image as a palatable alternative, especially countering the negativity of Obama’s ads. It’s not enough just to show Obama’s weaknesses; you have to give people someone to vote for.
If Romney wins, it will be in spite of his campaign, not because of it.
Note re Massachusetts: Senator Scott Brown is one of the few moderate bipartisan Republicans in Congress. How sad if he’s replaced with yet another regulation liberal partisan Democrat.
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This should be my last pre-election post. No matter who you’re for, vote; it’s the one sacrament we can all perform. And whoever you vote for, please remember that voters on the other side may be (in your opinion) wrong – but they’re not wicked.