Monday, September 17, 2012

Conservative Hubris to be “Unleashed” to Win More Voters

There seems to be a congenital defect in the conservative psyche: they so strongly believe (despite the evidence) that they know best how to run an economy, and they so strongly believe that they have the true American values on their side, that they are convinced that voters will rush into their camp if they just clearly present their conservative ideology more loudly and clearly. They are the “real Americans,” after all, so why wouldn't America vote for them?  This sort of overconfidence and overreach was Newt Gingrich’s fatal flaw, and it looks like a similar hubris might be germinating in the Romney campaign.

As polls going into the final months show that President Obama has taken a small lead, the Romney campaign has set out to re-adjust its strategy in a more conservative direction.  All traditional indicators suggest that an economy this lousy would be bad news for an incumbent, but Mitt Romney’s continual gaffes (ultimately a product of his silver-spoon pedigree and his background as a corporate raider) have shown him to be out of touch.  Since he doesn’t understand regular people’s economic problems, enough distrust exists to negate some of the electoral advantage the bad economy would give him.  So it’s not surprising that the Republican party would adopt a new strategy that emphasizes conservative social issues.  

“No one in Boston thinks this can only be about the economy anymore,” one top aide said last week. “The economy narrows the gap and puts us in contention, but we have to bring more to the table.”

The core factor in the search for a new message, aides say privately, was the August jobs report. The anemic job growth was widely viewed as bad news for Obama even as the unemployment rate dropped due to people leaving the workforce. But the national shrug confirmed Romney campaign concerns that the most visible economic indicator would remain muddled through Election Day.

[Vice Presidential candidate Paul] Ryan himself has emerged as a central player in this calculation, making the case internally for a clearer conservative policy message. One high level Republican with ties to the campaign told BuzzFeed that Ryan was chaffing at Boston constraining him from talking about and defending his policy ideas from Democratic attacks. Ryan wanted to be "unleashed," the Republican said.

Although I can’t read minds, my guess is that Ryan and the conservative wing mean that they want to be “unleashed” to present their radical, quasi-libertarian economic principles as well as their reactionary, neanderthal social views in a more assertive, naked way to voters.  So they’re going to be out there telling the public even more loudly how they’re going to cut taxes for the rich, turn Medicare into a coupon, and make gays, hispanics, blacks, and women act according to the values of straight white men.  Robert Reich argues here how alienating every minority group is a really bad campaign strategy when white men are no longer a majority.  

It should make for a lot more interesting political gaffes:  Romney’s most recent is the contemptuous dismissal of people who use government programs -- the ones who rely on middle class public programs like Social Security and Medicare and student loans -- that was caught on video at a millionaire fundraiser.  Romney, the Republican candidate for the job of president, actually said about nearly half of America, "My job is not to worry about those people," and my guess is that the electorate will make sure that that remains the case after November.  It might even be downright amazing to see Romney and Ryan repeat the same Gingrich error.

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