Smart v. Stupid
The Republican brand killed Romney
With all the polls now showing an Obama surge, Republicans are jockeying for position to lock in credible-sounding explanations for why Romney is losing, the Senate is slipping from their grasp and other down-ballot races are turning blue.
The most popular trope is that Mitt Romney is a terrible candidate. Popular arguments range from he’s not really a conservative, to he’s not competent, to he won’t unshackle Paul Ryan, and to he just needs to be more aggressive.
What’s lost in the scrum of all this blame-shifting is the salient understanding that the product—not the pitch man—is the problem. Sure Romney is no Billie Mays. But watch the Bain promotional video recently outed by Mother Jones. Ignore your views about the message, just focus on the pitch. Romney nailed it. The video is good evidence that Romney can sell, when he has something to sell. (So, by the way, are his 47 percent remarks. They were well-received by his audience, and by plenty of right-wingers.)
It is the message that stinks. Arguably Romney would be winning now, if he ran the race like he ran for governor of Massachusetts. But today’s Republican playbook—forced on him by his primary—offers remedies for problems we don’t have and lacks remedies for the problems we do.
Unfortunately for him, the best metaphor for what today’s Republican Party sells is a pill that will turn your stomach in knots while resulting only in poo that is a lighter shade of brown. Their prescriptions—long tried and universally failed—are the equivalent of putting Ex-Lax in the punchbowl.
On the economy, conservative Republicans offer the same draconian economic policies that produced job losses and economic uncertainty. “Supply side economics” has been tried for long enough that everyone knows it doesn’t work. “Austerity” has been equally disproven as a formula for growth.
Neo-conservatives want to sell safety through world dominance. They want more wars in the Middle East, another Republican policy that has been tried and failed. After crying wolf on Iraq, Americans are reluctant to trust neo-cons on Iran, or anything that risks life or death. Even the most loyal Republican voters are against another war in East Asia or North Africa.
If you want to understand neo-cons, all you have to know is that they were originally Democrats who were so craven that they couldn’t give up power when the party lost it, so they conceived a personality transplant for themselves. They are morally rudderless, seeking only to acquire more power.
The religious wing of the party continues to offer its forced-faith version of liberty, where you are free to do as you are told, women must give birth to rape-produced offspring and birth control is rationed by the men who run Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby. Rick Santorum told us Catholics would be outraged by birth control in employee health plans. Now nearly 60 percent are supporting the President.
And race-pandering advocates like Newt Gingrich, John Sununu, and Rick Santorum continue to argue that the party can win elections by poking and prodding the racial fears of white men. But this is not the last century. Today’s old white man is much more likely to have a black son-in-law. And while he might not particularly like that, he knows that they both like beer and football, they both go to work every day and they both made pretty babies—including his beloved grandchildren.
What these Republican strategists all have in common is actually the mistaken belief that when something is not working, you just need to do it more. That’s the Republican Curse, a seminal delusion that leads directly to most of their failures, much of our misery, and the news of this week.
So forty days out, the poll aggregator Real Clear Politics recently changed its Electoral College map to put President Obama at 265, within 5 votes of winning. He only needs one more state. Nate Silver, wunderkind of the 2008 election, puts Obama’s chances of winning at 81.9 percent. And Gallup reported that their polling showed President Obama exceeding 50 percent both in personal approval and among registered voters. Last week Gallup had lagged behind all the other polls showing an Obama breakout. Republicans said it was the only poll that mattered. This week, it caught up.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”