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Sunday, March 11, 2012

No Joy in Romneytown

Rarely have Republican voters made it as obvious that they would rather have anyone else than the inevitable nominee. Romney has the delegates summons all the voter enthusiasm of Taft and Ford combined. The establishment, as usual, isn't paying attention or pondering the implication of a situation where Rick Santorum is repeatedly beating out Romney, not just because of his message, but because any non-Romney is capable of doing the same thing. And has done it.

The history of these primaries has been a list of alternative candidates to Romney who is winning because the candidates have either been personally destroyed by the media and/or the establishment, or because they have gotten in each other's way. Romney has not gotten this far on merit. Had he been up against a leading competent candidate all the way through, he would now be in the same position that he was in 2008.

The electorate wants change. The party doesn't. The electorate wants principles. The party doesn't. There's a middle ground between the two, but so far it's been hard to find. The pure candidates tend to be inexperienced with problematic backgrounds who are unused to operating in the political arena. The realpolitik candidates have no values or principles, and knowingly or unknowingly, advance the liberal agenda.

As a candidate Romney has one thing going for him, electability... just not in the actual primaries of his own party where he had to be helped over the finish line by the party establishment in a campaign where his only asset is his electability in a future campaign. Voting for Romney is an investment in defeating Obama, even if the returns aren't so great. Romney is low risk and low yield. There isn't much reason to hate him unless you're a conservative or a member of Occupy Wall Street. That's his best and only asset in a general election.

Putting forward an electable moderate with an ambiguous position on most issues is a credible strategy for winning elections, even if it isn't a very promising one. The establishment is betting that come election day, Romney will still look like a reasonable choice compared to the man presiding over an economic disaster. No one will be fired up at the thought of pulling the lever for him, but he will look like the guy you want to hire to fix the problem that the last guy you hired caused.

Is that a good bet? Over a few months the media turned a popular moderate Republican war hero who was well liked even by them into a crazy senile monster who would turn America into a Christian dictatorship. They also turned a young reformist female governor into a crazed idiot.

Romney will probably go on smiling even as HBO goes forward with a 10 part movie on the dog on the roof of his car and a documentary on sexual abuse in the Mormon Church. He'll go on making the tour even as the media suggests that he's actually taking orders from racists, misogynists and anti-semites in a secretive bigoted religious group that wants to control America. And when the media digs up a woman who claims that he touched her inappropriately thirty years ago, he'll take the podium to deny everything. And he may even win despite all this and worse.

There was a time when being a liberal Republican provided you with a limited pass from the media. The press might do everything in its power to portray Goldwater as a homicidal lunatic who needs to be hospitalized before he destroys the world, but it wouldn't treat Lindsay the same way. McCain was counting on that same privilege, when he should have been paying attention to how the media treated Hillary Clinton, a left-leaning pal who had dressed up as a conservative Democrat in her path to the White House. The idea that any Republican, no matter how moderate, will be treated as anything less than the devil when running against a progressive, is as outdated as the telegraph.

The media lynched Democrats like Lieberman and Hillary Clinton in the most vicious and hateful ways possible. What they did to McCain afterward is no surprise. What they will do to Romney will top even that.

Being unobjectionable won't get you a pass, but it makes the attacks more difficult to organize and launch. The media will still bring out the noose, but it will have trouble tightening the knot. A smart candidate can dodge and make the lynchers seem stupid even in their own eyes. Scott Brown has rebounded in a campaign against a chosen Obama progressive.following a class warfare theme. But Romney isn't Scott Brown, though he wishes he were.

Their politics are similar enough, but Brown can speak naturally, Romney can't. Brown can interact with voters and relate to them. Romney always sounds like he's speaking from a teleprompter, even when he isn't. When he goes off script, he begins saying hideously stupid things. All those hideously stupid things will show up in viral ads that the media will promote non-stop during the election.

Still you can't deny that Romney has soldiered on. The remaining candidates in the race are survivors who have marched the long grim road, refusing to drop out no matter what. They are four men who just don't give up. They have all been hated, ridiculed and told that they aren't wanted, that the party and the country would be better off if they just went home. And they haven't gone home. Instead they've gone from state to state carrying their message.

That's a partial preparation for the real campaign, for which there can be no real preparation in the Age of Obama. The Hanoi Hilton didn't prepare McCain for running against the Pravda Press and no preparation is possible for a campaign in which the media will pull out all its stops to keep Obama in power.

The Republican Party is still relying on the old strategy of racing for the center, but that strategy works best when the media isn't running daily stories accusing you of being to the right of Hitler. 2012 will be the acid test for the strategy of tactical moderation. If it fails again, this time with a candidate who lacks any of McCain's minuses, then it may be time to retire the jolly RINO act for good and bring out an angry elephant who can challenge liberal pieties and fight for conservative values on a national stage.

Conservatives have not made much forward progress in the last century or in this one. One of the few victories was on the Second Amendment where a coalition was successfully put together to aggressively push back against gun control efforts. In most other areas, the left has pushed on and on until what used to be radicalism became so mainstream that few Republicans would dare argue against it.

By running as centrists, the Democrats have made their agenda centrist. But Republicans have mostly failed to do that except in the War on Terror. Republicans have not mainstreamed conservative values with their centrism, instead they have mainlined liberal programs.

Republican moderation is an approach that wins the election by losing the argument. Republican strategists strategize which argument their candidate will concede from the start to show what a centrist moderate he really is. Should he be a social issues moderate, an economic moderate, a social safety net moderate, a foreign policy moderate or all of the above.

While this strategy still has some future in state politics, it has no future in national elections. If moderation no longer wins you a wink from the media, what does it really get you besides the chance to be a graceful and grateful loser? And even the Republican establishment is likely to get tired of good loserdom if Romney pulls a McCain. They may even decide that the best way to win an election is to win the argument. A truly novel idea.

The media complains incessantly about the rightward drift of the Republican Party, but that drift is entirely the result of a leftward drift by the Democratic Party. Had the Democrats not gone so far to the left, anyone to the right of Che would not have suddenly found themselves homeless. The majority of the Democratic Party's base has no idea what its party stands for, if they did, they would be gone in a flash. That includes most of the minorities.

The Republican Party has found itself in the awkward position of having to be a conservative party in more dimensions than the Chamber of Commerce line. Its leadership is not particularly comfortable with a base that doesn't cheer for immigration reform or gay marriage and believes in an actual war between good and evil. Centrism has given it the opportunity to betray its base while winning elections. But if it can't win elections on centrism, then the viability of the strategy goes out the window.

The media used to understand this, that was why it rewarded liberal Republicans, treating them like an endangered species of African animal being hunted for its horns or its skin that needed to be protected from the poachers. That was until the last election when the media decided that there was no substitute for victory and that victory meant utterly destroying the enemy using every tool at its disposal. And once again the leftward drift of formerly liberal institutions is resulting in an equal and opposite reaction in the other camp.

Romney is the last hurrah of the old Republican Party, the centrist strategy deployed one more time. If he wins, the strategy gains an extension, and he might well win. But if he doesn't, then party politics will tilt firmly to the right.

That is a paradox that the Democrats used to understand. There is no victory in defeating a moderate Republican. But from Obama on down, theirs is no longer a party that thinks in the long term. It wants everything and it wants it now. That radicalism has fired up the Tea Party and is swiftly bringing us to the realization of the culture war that the flank on both sides wanted.

The centrists have been thoroughly marginalized on the Democratic side. Now the same thing is happening on the Republican side. The left will pen its usual tomes warning about the rise of the right, but the rise of the right has the left to thank for it.

9 comments:

American Genie said...

As usual a very thought provoking article, Daniel, but I am one of those "not Romney" folks. I didn't like him before he became the fair haired boy of the GOP, and I don't like him now. I will not vote for him in the general election, and have already decided to sit out the primaries.

If the video I posted at my blog yesterday gets any legs it is really going to hurt Romney in the general election. When I posted it there had already been over 11,000 viewers after only being posted at Youtube for a short period of time.

It's a video that I believe was made by a Democrat when Romney was running for governor in which he gleefully talks about how much money he scammed from the US government for the Olympics, and how he would use those same tactics as governor. It really does not look good at all. It disgusted me, so I had to post it without commentary.

I have never been so depressed over politics in my life. I don't like having anything forced on me. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only conservative who feels this way.

The GOP will lose this election because they have refused to listen to the base, and the Republicans in Congress appear to be the epitome of weakness and cowardice when confronting the unconstitutional acts of the current regime.

It's very sad to me, and as an older voter I have much guilt because my generation has let it come to this.

Edward Cline said...

“The establishment, as usual, isn't paying attention or pondering the implication of a situation where Rick Santorum is repeatedly beating out Romney, not just because of his message, but because any non-Romney is capable of doing the same thing. And has done it.”

One way of looking at this year’s election is: A slate of non-entities versus The Entity in the White House. Obama is so evil and so destructive and so supercilious that were the Marx Brothers running against each other and against Obama, voters would probably choose Harpo and accept Groucho as a running mate for comic relief (to continue in Biden’s role, but the one-liners would be more entertaining). For a crucial watershed election year, the Republican prospects are as dismal as faded wallpaper. One almost needs to not blink lest one miss any of the Republican contenders as they appear on news wrap-ups. Romney has all the charisma of a second-rate department store window mannequin. Santorum is a scary religious crackpot. Ron Paul is a libertarian moon bat. Gingrich has the appeal of a used-car salesman, edging out Richard Nixon’s reputation. But any of these choices, in voters’ eyes, is better than the Creature from the Marxist Lagoon and all its slimy, parasitical offspring.

Instead of a knock-down, drag-out boxing match, we are being treated to a Martha Graham ballet interpretation of Bleeding Kansas, chock full of leaps and twists and pirouettes and other movements that defy interpretation or meaning.

Anonymous said...

Electability is every thing!

kriskxx said...

Was this a cleansing of the political soul for conceding to the inevitable.

Maybe I misread, But,We Surrender Again, is the message I got. Romney speaks in generalities,I have no faith in this man's ability.

One person will be happy to have another go along to get along in office, Speaker no guts Boehner

Anonymous said...

Great article Daniel, but some things. First, Romney is merely a handsome version of McCain. He will
similiarly f things up with a xanaxed non-agressive approach to Obama afraid to "offend" the brown-skinned and black folks in any way, even though the have already totally rationalizing voting on ethnic pride lines. Obama's support of subsidized non-procreation and crapping on Rush was brilliant, considering his poor performance as President and his massive mistakes on the economy and foreign affairs. The only thing missing is another " chicken in every pot" issue, which Obama wll find.
Finally David Axelrod is just salivating, waiting to portray Mitt as a member of a weird cult, outside the mainstream of Judeo-Christian values, while Obama, on the other hand, goes to church... somewhat. Pity the poor Mormon religion when Obama's surrogates get through with them.

The only bright side is that if they are smart, Netanyahu, Barak, and Gantz realize they need to bomb away before Barry the Appeaser gets re-elected in November. - Tupac

Lemon said...

Romney can do a credible job if people get behind him and demand a good showing from him.

Keli Ata said...

It will either be Obama or Romney. We can debate, candidates can speak for hours at the conventions but at the end of the day it will be Obama running against Romney.

IMO the Rught blew it big time. It has/had the numbers, the anger the passion but then fell apart, became too fragmented.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

yes unfortunately true

Peter said...

The problem for conservatives is that the other candidates have shot themselves in the foot, or are just not ready for prime time. Santorum's organization can't even manage to get on the ballot everywhere in key states. Gingrich is a loose cannon. Bachman was nuts. Perry destroyed himself in the debates. Pawlenty was my candidate, but he dropped out way too early. So this is not about the "establishment" at all, but just an unfortunate lineup that we have to make the best of. At least Romney seems to have a high degree of personal integrity, and is well spoken of by the people that work with him. He also seems to be able to manage the details of his campaign quite well. Since he is what we are left with, I am going to put the best face on it I can. Getting rid of Obama is job 1 right now.

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