Political prudence for the GOP

It’s been almost two weeks now since the Great Disappointment of 2012.  In 1844, the Millerites were let down in their expectation of divine deliverance.  With the wailing and self-flagellation of some after Romney’s 2012 defeat, one could be forgiven for thinking an event of similar cosmic significance had transpired.

To be sure, there is much to talk about.  And I myself have had some hearty discussions or else tracked the ongoing conversation.  This time of ferment offers a fresh opportunity to applaud realistic thinking as well as call out and smack down the sillier and more destructive ideas.

Two or three days after election, I came across one of the self-flagellation pieces on American Thinker.  The article looks back to the GOP’s post-Gingrich Revolution profligacy.  It seems the author is laying some significant portion of the election blame there.  But these transgressions happened an eternity ago on the political timescale.  It’s a little hard to imagine any number of voters bemoaning Trent Lott’s appropriation decisions from 17 years ago.

Yet the idea persists that Republicans are still suffering from the veto of off-put fiscal purists.  Michael Medved counters this notion with a rhetorical image: where is this mythical army of conservative voters who are withholding for the right candidate?  Only 40% of the country identifies as conservative, and we pretty well turned them out this last time.  The decisive work ahead lies not in squeezing an elusive reservoir of more conservatives but winning more moderates in the middle.  The numbers bear this out.

Meanwhile, a piece from Forbes offers a different message: this latest defeat is a chance to shake free of Karl Rove and the Bush II cadre.  Per the commentary, its high time for true Reaganites, in the Jack Kemp mold, to climb back to power.  I’m not really knowledgeable on the comparative schools of GOP politicos, but I took the editorial with a grain of salt.  Just think of Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”  Certainly, there’s room to criticize of our fellow partisans, but we ought to be wary of taking away such a simplistic narrative.  And we need to watch out for the damage that comes from publicly airing our internecine struggles.

Reading articles is nice, but one doesn’t even have to look that far to examine a slice of the conservative movement.  There’s Twitter for that.  And a lot of what has been floating in the past few days is junk.  There is the talk of secession.  Just dumb.  Neither is a dire outlook of the Republican brand appropriate.  And please, let’s suffer no more talk of RINOs.  This kind of sourness doesn’t help grow the party.  But to Twitter conservatives’ credit, folks seem to be on the ball in registering their disdain for unelectable candidates like Todd Akin.  If anyone needs to be kicked out, it’s brand-destroyers of that vein.

A bright spot in the post-election conservation is Daniel Henninger’s deconstruction of the Obama victory.  He has exposed the repulsive shape of future campaigns that Democrats have pioneered.  It will be in your face, all the time, and begging for every last penny.  Democrats, drawing on the progressive obsession with number-crunching technocratic solutions, have perfected the division and manipulation of the voting populace.

The rank and file of the GOP is too idealistic by comparison.  We’re always waxing about “articulating ideas.”  But I know we have some unsavory electorate-dicing operatives among us; or at least, we ought to.  We need them to act with the resources and range of their Democratic counterparts.

One more take away from post-election discussion comes from Michael Medved.  Per his recent piece, the key to Obama’s reelection victory was voter suppression.  You read that right.  Not Black Panther intimidation or tampering with ballots, though that surely happened too.  The winning strategy was deeply cynical: turn off swing voters, and push your base to the polls at all costs.  There’s nothing magical we can’t replicate there.

I think the GOP definitely has the ability to turn things around in the next few elections.  But even if you disagree, I would implore you to hold the myopic moping, conspiracy theories and intra-partisan vitriol.  Don’t spoil the hunt for the rest of us; too much is at stake.

The Obama Dividend

First things first.  Congratulations to President Barack Obama and his supporters on the re-election bid.  And to Mitt Romney, thank you for your tremendous dedication, energy, and effort on behalf of America and the conservative cause.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about “The Romney Dividend,” the delayed gratitude that came after the October 3 debate.  It was the natural reward for the nomination of such a disciplined, diligent man.  Now that Barack Obama has won re-election–though by a percentage smaller than 2008–it appears there is something of an Obama dividend.  But this one was not born of the President’s character and ideas as much as the perfection of the Democratic party vote-getting machine.

A fine report at the Wall Street Journal looks at the anatomy of the 2012 Obama victory.  Jim Messina and other top advisers sold the President on a risky, early blitzkrieg of negative advertising.  Some have complained that Romney should have responded sooner, but the Journal report indicates that Federal election laws tied the Romney campaigns’ hands until after the August nomination.  Whatever the case, the smear job, which at its worst insinuated that Romney gave one plant worker’s wife terminal cancer, indelibly poisoned Midwest working class voters against the GOP candidate.

That the President won re-election with such an intense, interminable hatchet job is beyond depressing.  Recall how the campaign wound up, even in the days after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy:  “Don’t boo, vote!” and “Voting is the best revenge.”  Scorn and panic was far and wide on the Left.  Samuel L. Jackson unleashed coarse rhymes and Will Ferrell promised to eat trash if only you would vote Barack Obama.

Remember when the media pegged the Tea Party as driven by hate and fear?  The second Obama term has its foundations on these two base emotions.  Of course each individual has their own calculus going into the voting booth, but how many boneheads were stoked by Michael Moore’s videos featuring elders’ vulgar threats of violence?  And along those lines, how many first-time women voters were really driven by Lena Dunham’s comparison of voting for Obama to great sex?

Where is the civility and decency in our public life?  The same place that Hope and Change got left at.  Perhaps in the rough of some golf course in these great United States.  And now the President thinks he can go from the dirtiest Chicago mudslinging one minute to become the Magnanimous Unifier in the next?

Despite the outrageous situation, we have to hope and pray that the President actually matures and changes as he’s said he has and as polls show Americans demand.  Even if he does not, I steadfastly believe that regardless of color, age, sex or any other way you can slice and dice the electorate, Americans will ultimately be amenable to reason.

Children complain, cry over presidential race

With talk of binders and Big Bird, finger pointing and the like, it’s not uncommon to hear that the presidential election has descended to the level of schoolyard taunts.  Things have gone to the kids more than we know.  And don’t forget that Democrats depend on the “youth vote.”  Now, a slew of videos show American children are thoroughly disaffected by the presidential race.

Remember the creepy children’s choir from 2008 that extolled the virtues of Barack Obama?  That optimism has turned into a dire, depressing, defamatory guilt trip from the future.  Click if you must, but you will probably be disgusted by the despicable–and for the moment defunct–“Future Children Project.”

In contrast to that scripted downer, children are also miffed in more genuine and funny ways.  Consider this video released by conservative funny man Steven Crowder.  He performs a Halloween-inspired experiment on some trick-or-treating kids.  What happens if, say out of “fairness,” we try to redistribute children’s candy?

Now hopefully that video leaves you with a bit of a smile.  But if not, you can commiserate with this young woman who has apparently heard enough of the 2012 presidential election.

Obama, Biden inspect “ships that go underwater”

Monday night’s foreign policy debate only continues the existing trend.  Mitt Romney came off as measured, composed, and presidential, while President Barack Obama, pressing with a desperate and full bore attack, looked a little more petty and a little less presidential.

The horses and bayonets dig has backfired, now that folks from Chuck Todd to Tim Cotton have attested to the utility of those helps in modern warfare.

What really got me though was the part about “ships that go underwater.”  Our Commander-in-Chief was by a magnitude of order too self-satisfied in letting off that salvo.  He sounded like he really thought he was talking to a five year old.

A pundit with some military smarts was quick to inform that submarines are referred to in the American Navy as “boats,” not “ships” as the President claimed.  Oh well, what could we expect from a President who doesn’t know how essential bayonets are to the Marine “Corpse?”

The Romney dividend

The Presidential debates are three-quarters of the way through, and all sides are bracing for Monday’s foreign policy clash in Boca Raton.  A lot has happened since the transformative first debate on October 3.  The election is far from over, but at the moment the likeliest candidate for the mythic “October surprise” is Mitt Romney himself.

The governor’s numbers have improved on several fronts this month.  His likeability ratings are above water for the first time, showing an ability to beat back this Summer’s flood of negative ads and spin from the Obama campaign.  On October 17, Gallup had Romney besting Obama by seven points (+7) among likely voters nationally.  And looking at recent electoral map changes, it’s obvious President Obama’s September swing state advantage has effectively evaporated.  RealClearPolitics’s electoral projection even broke in Romney’s favor for the first time this cycle.

What impact will the vice presidential and second presidential debates have on the polls? One might conclude that Romney’s momentum has dissipated upon meeting renewed energy in Obama’s executive.  Biden and the president brought vigor to their exchanges, garnering an arguable draw and an arguable win respectively.  But the take away from these middle two contests won’t help their ticket.

More likely to be remembered than any policy point ticked off were the impressions of character: Biden’s dismissive, cartoonish grin and Obama’s finger-pointing truculence.  Yes, Romney was a fighter in round two too.  But aggression comes off better from the challenger than the incumbent, who should be cheerfully defending a good record.  Through three debates now, the Obama presidential ticket has looked unpresidential.

Meanwhile, Romney has benefited from exceeding long-lowered expectations.  He has risen as a sleeper candidate, one who seemed dogged by a failure to galvanize a devoted base in the primaries.  But recalling his GOP rivals–among them Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, and Cain–could we imagine one delivering on the debates with such a combination of discipline and amiability as Romney?  The October boost we’re seeing redounds to the credit of early Romney supporters.  It is the Romney dividend.

In the pivotal October 3 debate, Americans glimpsed a dedicated work horse who knew what to say and when to say it.  But more importantly, they saw an actual human being, not a robot, or some combination of cardboard, wood, and plastic.  The meme of a stiff and aloof Romney will persist as much as Cowboy Bush did among the hard left, and it will be just as untrue.  Still, Aloof Romney will continue to be exploited where the media find it profitable.

But like a raja who parades at the head of a princely procession, Romney has been broadcasting an image of genuine likability, conviction, and competence onto the masses.  This mutual energy between Romney and the electorate was evident at Thursday’s Al Smith dinner, a neutral forum where elites from both sides of the aisle gathered to civilly toast and roast the two candidates.  Romney was very much in his own skin delivering scripted barbs of humor.   The president, while also good, couldn’t help but evince a bit of his trademark professorial unease.  If only for the laughs, it’s worth watching both routines (Romney and Obama).

Surveying the aftermath of October 3, it appears that Mr. Romney is the Happy Warrior and the president is a bit beleaguered.  Of course, the race remains close. But if all goes well, Romney will continue to connect with and persuade voters, capitalizing on a growing desire to send Mr. Obama packing to an early Hawaiian island retirement.

Ideological values impacted Wednesday’s debate performance

What an incredible event was the first presidential debate.  Going into Wendesday night, there was immense pressure on Mitt Romney to turn in a decisive performance.  He was able to dominate with a coherent message and a sunny disposition.

Anyone who was watching or who caught subsequent analysis knows just how horribly President Obama bombed.  The incumbent spoke four minutes more than the challenger, but wasn’t able to deliver as much of a punch.  If the White House home brew were anything like the President’s debate performance, its slogan would be “less taste, more filling.”

Beyond the optics of performance, or the policy minutia, there’s another take away from Wednesday night: the candidates’ respective ideologies, and their underlying values, clearly impacted the debate outcome.  Romney’s stunning success reflected his high view of work ethic, while Obama’s miserable time grew out of an overinflated sense of self.

Take Mitt Romney’s performance.  The governor showed a profound comfort discussing the intricacies of his past and future policies.  He had done his homework.  Lawyers would say he’d done his due diligence.  Too many academics would dismiss this as a regrettable “bourgeois” trait.

Not only did Romney know his ways around the issues, he knew how to comport himself: he was always smiling and looked directly at those he was addressing.  As job seekers know, good body language is an indispensable element of social capital.  And Romney came off as an applicant who appreciated this.

Contrast Mr. Romney’s preparedness with Mr. Obama’s lack thereof.  As many liberals lamented, the latter completely failed to touch on even basic points of attack, such as the “47%” remark.  Lacking control or mindfulness, he looked down and scowled way too much, and nodded submissively as a child chided by an authority figure.

Al Gore infamously attributed Obama’s poor performance to high altitude.  This blaming of environmental factors is emblematic of a liberal worldview: pinning failure on systemic or external causes rather than on a personal shortcoming of volition or character.

In an amazing encounter with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Senator John Sununu called the President “lazy” for his lack of preparedness.  The journalist was stunned, as if the only motivation for such a label could be racism, or some other unjustified bias.  That one’s attitudes and actions might effect one’s outcome is simply out of the question for the Left.

So how exactly did liberal ideology translate into failing performance for President Obama?  The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is illustrative here.  Progress under Ledbetter depends on whether or not a lawyer can sue to rectify the wrong in your life.  But it’s not as if women couldn’t sue before; the time to file was merely extended by the act.  It was an empty gesture.

In his closing statement, President Obama echoed the sentiment of Ledbetter by reminding the middle class “I’m fighting for you every day.”  Here again, progress requires an external savior to take up your cause.  And as with Ledbetter, this actual  promise to “fight” is a mere gesture.  His inability–through four years now–to even sit down and negotiate with Republican congressional leaders on key issues testifies to the inefficacy of his proposition.

Apparently, President Obama had been biding his time before the debate, as if he himself were awaiting a savior: his own celebrity.  As with Generation Y–a.k.a. the Millennials–who so strongly support him, whether or not Jay Z was on the iPod seemed to take precedence over the grittier details of policy.  And in Millennial style, the President on Wednesday displayed an annoyed arrogance, the kind that rests on the unwarranted belief of one’s own “superior intelligence.”

This is the crux of liberal hubris, that the world gets better because one knows best, and a mere lift of the fingers will make it so.  Even competition is moot, because in a progressive society, a lawyer can sue your competitor or the IRS can collect what the cosmos owes you.  In fact, lugging your own teleprompter to a presidential debate is par for the course, as some Obama fans at UW Madison seem to believe.

In stark contrast, Mitt Romney’s stellar performance testified on behalf of a better set of beliefs: a sober understanding of the hard work, preparation, and effort that he and all Americans must steel themselves for if things are to get better.  This is what real progress requires.  November will be a test of whether, as a whole, America understands this simple truth or not.

GOP bombs Womenistan

The other day after work I heard a report by Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered.  He was gauging voter sentiment in the swing state of Colorado.  One interviewee who made the cut was a female business owner.  She expressed her indecision thusly (emphasis mine):

“I don’t know that I can, in good conscience, vote for the Republican Party. I mean, it just – it seems to me that they don’t think much of women. But I don’t know if I can vote for the Democrats, because I don’t know that they think much of small business people. So, you know, the things that I hear from both sides, they do affect me. But there is, you know, it’s like a tug of war at this point. I don’t know who to vote for.”

I wish Ari Shapiro would have had the mind or maybe the time to pursue the vague yet provocative claim that Republicans “don’t think much of women.”  What must GOP women make of this statement?  The real story should be how Democrats’ continue to cobble their coalition with the same shopworn, cartoonish tropes for the past four decades.

It’s my fervent hope that voters such as the woman interviewed will think clearly and come to shake off the manipulative “war on women” narrative when they enter the booth come November.

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