The Left has a very low opinion of minority voters, as is seen through its frequent protest that it is discriminatory to ask that these voters show identification when they vote. Funnily enough, though, the Left is unperturbed by the identification barriers standing in the way of other all-American activities, many of which are even more important on a day-to-day basis than voting:
I haven’t written much in the last two days. It’s certainly not because there’s been an absence of material, both serious (just about everything) and ridiculous (“Oh, my gawd! Hillary’s going to be a grandmother!”). Instead, my problem is that there’s too much to write about. I’m overwhelmed, and all I can think of is the Cloward-Piven strategy.
I know that you all know what I’m talking about but, to keep the record clean, here’s the Wikipedia summary:
The Cloward–Piven strategy is a political strategy outlined in 1966 by American sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty”.
While those delightful Leftists were focused solely on destroying the American economy, I’ve always seen the strategy as one that has much larger implications: if you overload the circuits of anything, the system will blow.
Five years into the Obama administration, the headlines indicate that all the chickens are suddenly coming home to roost. America and the world are balancing on the knife’s edge. The checks and balances have broken, the very same checks and balances that kept stability both at home and abroad.
We’re looking into the abyss and I have no idea what to say.
More than that, when I look at what conservatives have to offer, I’m not sanguine about our ability to walk America delicately back from the edge on which it’s poised and bring it to firm ground. For decades, conservatives have been keeping their heads down and doing the economic work that’s been channeled into filling Leftist coffers and funding Leftist policies. Now that we’re finally raising our heads from our desks, we’re shattered by the damage strewn about, but don’t have the faintest idea how to regroup . . . no, not regroup, but group in the first place.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Trevor Loudon’s proposal to have conservatives come together immediately to present a united front to appeal to all conservative bases. As you know, it appealed to me strongly. But a lot of people whom I respect (yourselves included), immediately pointed out profound flaws with the idea. Right off the bat, there were profound flaws with each of the people named (Ted Cruz’s Canadian birthplace; Rand Paul’s peculiar ideas about money and Iran, not to mention his father’s icky affiliations; Allen West’s problems while in the military, and so on). People also disliked the un-democratic smell behind preparing an entire slate without the necessity of primaries, although primaries in California and in other “open primary” blue states are officially a joke. Some people were worried that naming a full slate early would give the MSM a head-start on digging up dirt, destroying lives, and preparing campaigns. And those are just some of the problems people had with Trevor’s out-of-the-box idea for getting the base excited before the GOP vacuums up the big money to promote another almost-certain-to-lose RINO.
The one thing that everyone agreed on, though, was that there needs to be some grand strategy to unite the conservative base in 2016, or else we may as well go home now, stock up on our survivalist supplies, and wait for Armageddon.
So here’s a challenge for you, given that my circuits are fried: What grand strategy will unite the base?
The old advertising adage holds that “It’s not the sizzle, it’s the steak.” Rightly or wrongly, I’ve understood this to mean that, even if a brilliant advertising campaign gets a product into consumer’s homes, if the first purchasers end up not liking the product, you’re not going to get a second wave of purchasers. Instead, you’ll get a second little swell, followed by a trickle, followed by nothing but a dead-in-the-water product.
Eugene Robinson, however, who has been one of Obamacare’s most stalwart cheerleaders, thinks sizzle is all one needs when it comes to evaluating Obamacare’s merits and popularity. In a rah-rah column celebrating Obamacare’s triumph, Robinson boasts about how the numbers of uninsured have decreased by millions. (For purposes of this post, we’ll ignore that when it comes to Obamacare most of the millions who bought Obamacare on the exchanges were the previously insured who were kicked off their beloved policies by . . . Obamacare. We’ll also ignore the fact that people didn’t voluntarily step up to buy this sizzling new government product; they were forced to do so. And lastly, we’ll also ignore that the largest number of new insureds are now covered under Medicaid, which isn’t real insurance. Picayune details, right?):
A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, despite all the problems with the HealthCare.gov Web site launch, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017, the year Obama leaves office, the CBO predicts that an additional 14 million uninsured will have managed to get coverage .
And so it goes for another 14 boastful paragraphs: The numbers don’t lie! More people have insurance! Republicans are mean-spirited idiots! (Robinson is writing for the WaPo, so his language is more refined than that, but the point is the same.) What I didn’t see anywhere in Robinson’s victory dance was a discussion about the steak behind the sizzle.
Yes, people have dug deep into their pockets to buy mandatory sizzle. But by pretty significant numbers, these purchasers don’t seem thrilled with the product. The previously insured, having been forced into the system as official subsidizers, have come face-to-face with the Obamacare steak behind the sizzle and learned that Obamacare is a maggot-ridden, rotten piece of gristly meat. Their insurance premiums and deductibles have sky-rocketed and their doctors have waved them goodbye. The really sick ones, the ones who used to survive thanks to a carefully-built, delicate infrastructure of special doctors and hospitals, have found themselves flung, communist-style, back into the general ward.
Nor is there any indication that America’s poverty-stricken sick people are benefitting from the middle-class subsidizers’ downgrade to Castro-style medical care. I pointed out a few weeks ago that the word from the trenches is that the really poor have no intention of changing their ways. They like that they pay nothing per month (as opposed to a low, subsidized fee), and they’d rather get the best doc at the ER instead of the worst doc at the regular clinic. In other words, nobody wins, but the middle class loses.
Robinson seems quite convinced that the American people will be so happy that they have insurance that they won’t care that they don’t have the health insurance to go with it. The Obama administration, having forced upon them the sizzle, can go home happy without providing the steak.
Is Robinson right? Have our American expectations become so low that we’re happy merely to own a product, never mind that it doesn’t work as promised? Are we so desperately afraid of being castigated as some sort of “ist” or “phobic” (racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic) that we will no longer protest when our representatives provide us with fraud and bad service?
Currently, the greatest threat to small government is the rising numbers of illegal immigrants who Democrats hope will create a permanent lock in the Democrat vote. (And the RINOs go along because the Chamber of Commerce wants cheap labor.) The current guesstimate seems to be that, if amnesty passes, Democrats will get about 8 million newly-minted, locked-in-Democrat formerly illegal alien voters. This 8 million number works, though, only if other Americans continue to stay home.
Think about it: As of 2012, America had around 313 million people, of whom about 126.5 million turned out in 2012, a presidential election year. In 2008, best estimates were that there were about 227 million Americans who could have voted. (I couldn’t find 2012 numbers on potential voters, but I assume they’re similar.) In other words, around 100 million people stayed home in 2012.
Are all of these “stay at homes” Democrat voters? Or are there tens of millions of latent Republican voters staying home? (We know Evangelicals retreated to their homes on election days after the 80s ended.)
If the majority of non-voters like our country as it was (individual freedom, not government servitude), and wish that it could be that way again, are the events we’re facing sufficient to rouse them? If that giant can be awakened, the 8 million “bought and paid for” illegal immigrant votes will be as nothing.
Or more cruelly, are the 100 million silent Americans silent because they truly don’t care? Are they are so sedated with their continuous pop culture diet (a la the proles in 1984), that nothing can rouse them.
When I heard Trevor Loudon speak, he correctly said that Republicans don’t win votes by trying to convince Independents to side with them. Instead, they win votes by exciting their base, because an excited base becomes a parade, and others want to join in. That’s why he suggested that whoever wins the Republican primaries, or — even better — whoever’s even thinking of entering the primaries, boast a full ticket, from president down to the last cabinet member, that offers something to everyone in the base.
I continue to think that’s a brilliant idea, although I’m not invested in the ticket he proposes. It’s enough that we offer a package, not a lone man whom the drive-by media will savage. I do wonder, though, whether an exciting package, coupled with a hunk of fetid, rotten, maggoty Obamasteak, will rouse the sleeping 100 million Americans who can’t usually be bothered to get to the polling booth. And if those two things — a dynamic ticket and a horrifying “fundamental change to America” — are enough only to sway the malleable independents, rather than to reach the stay-at-homes, will the independents’ numbers be sufficient to beat back, not just the 8 million illegals, but the predictable votes from dead people and those with multiple personalities.
All of which gets me back to Robinson’s article: Is his confidence that sizzle is enough to declare Obamacare a success the result of cognitive dissonance and denial, or does Robinson have a much more accurate reading of the American people than conservatives do?
The Constitution is very clear: Congress writes the laws; the President enforces them.
In light of Obama’s announcement today that he was unilaterally “improving” a law by ignoring its terms (i.e., the time limits contained within Obamacare), Veronique de Rugy asks a good question:
What authority does the president of the United States have to decide that he will or will not enforce some parts of the law that have become inconvenient for him politically or that are proven to have been a terrible idea?
There’s a simple answer to this excellent question. The limit to Obama’s authority lies in the Senate. The only thing that can stop a rogue president is impeachment — and a Senate with a Democrat majority will not allow conviction.
The real power to control Obama’s unlawful activities lies with the voters. So far, though, they’ve chosen not to exercise this power. Although Obama had been manifestly re-writing laws to suit his purpose before the 2012 election (e.g., immigration laws and Obamacare), the voters shrugged and kept the Senate in Democrat hands.
If voters in 2014 again return Democrats to the Senate in sufficient numbers to block impeachment, the voters have granted Obama the authority to ignore the limitations that the Constitution places upon him. It’s obviously not an express grant of authority, because the president is still violating the Constitution, but it’s an implicit grant of authority. Like the bribed police officer at the scene of a crime, voters will simply be looking the other way.
And speaking of 2014, there’s a Ricochet thread thinking about campaign slogans. This is the top suggestion: “If you don’t like your Democrat. you don’t have to keep him. Vote for ______.” I think it’s on the right track, but somehow a little unwieldy.
Given the record on which Obama and the Democrats will be running in 2014, what catchy slogans would you guys and gals suggest?
UPDATE: Fox calls it for McAuliffe. Which gets me to my perennial complaint: I understand statistics, but I still do not appreciate having elections called before votes are counted. I think we can assume that, under McAuliffe’s leadership, Virginia will now enjoy the same free-fall as California, while New York City seems to be on the fast-track to the Serpico 1970s. I’d like to blame liberals, but these outcomes fall squarely on the shoulders of all Americans. If Americans were better educated, better informed, and smarter, liberals wouldn’t get the majorities, nor would they have the wherewithal to commit the fraud.
And apropos that latter point, let me just quote from an email a friend sent me:
I have no idea where Goochland County is, but it has 11 of 11 precincts reporting with Terry McAulliffe getting 100% of the vote.A 1,937-0 vote sweep just smells. You couldn’t find 1,937 out of 1,937 people to say that both breathed oxygen and drank water in the past 24 hours.Just sayin’…
At PowerLine, Paul Mirengoff analyzes a Politico article that attempts to assess the political fallout from Obamacare. The Politico writers, says Mirengoff, acknowledge that those in the individual insurance market aren’t feeling the love for the Democrats now, but imply that the majority of these people would have voted Republican in any event. Mirengoff notes, though, this impression is belied by facts in the Politico article:
But later in the article we learn that, according to a survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nearly half of those who brought their own insurance are between the ages of 18 and 44. We also learn, thanks to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, that there is no statistically significant difference between the political party affiliation of those who buy their own health care.
To be sure, when pressed, more people in this group say they lean Republican than Democrat. But the Kaiser poll clearly supports my statement that the party allegiance of Obamacare losers (at least this set of them) is split. Moreover, as one analyst quoted by Politico says, anger over cancellation letters is likely to cross party lines.
In other words, actual numbers suggest that the first wave of Obamacare victims may turn some Democrats into Republican voters, at least temporarily.
Obama and the Democrats, however, are counting on the fact that, for every voter who turns against the Dems because he lost his insurance, his rates went up, and his coverage quality went down, the Dems will still gain voters who got insurance despite preexisting conditions or who benefited from the subsidies that voters with sticker shock are funding. Just as Republicans fear the moment when 51% or more of Americans get government hand-outs, the Democrats look forward to the moment when 51% or more of Americans look to the government for goodies.
What I think both the Democrats and the Republicans are forgetting is that a large segment of that 51% doesn’t vote. How do I know this? Because I have a family member who is part of that 51%. I love this family member, who is an honest, decent person with a great deal of integrity. Nevertheless, her choice of friends leaves something to be desired. (And no, I don’t know what bizarre combination of nature, nurture, and peer pressure resulted in me being a very wholesome professional living an upper-middle-class life in a chi-chi suburb surrounded by children and dogs, while she ended up being a college drop-out living in a trailer park.)
This gal’s friends all get some form of welfare: foods stamps, welfare checks, free clinic health care, etc. Many of them dropped out the employment market years ago. To the extent that they are almost entirely dependent on government largesse, it is in their best interest to vote Democrat. Obamacare definitely increases their fealty to the Democrat party.
The problem that the Democrats have with this cohort, however, is that, while it’s in these people’s best interests to vote Democrat, the same pathologies that leave them dependent on government also mean that most of them can’t or won’t vote. Some are convicted felons (with their criminal records invariably tied to substance abuse), so they can’t vote. All of them are eternally disorganized. A combination of substance abuse, mental health disorders, and old-fashioned stupidity means that these people cannot get their acts together sufficiently to voter their own interests. Most aren’t even registered, and wouldn’t know what to do if they were.
While these people are the Democrats’ natural constituency, they aren’t Democrat voters. Sure, if you do a man on the street interview with one of these people, he’ll talk the party line and sound like he’ll be the first ones at the polls on election day. If you were to go to his house on election day, though, you’d discover him slumped on the couch, beer in one hand and doobie in the other, unaware that he missed his opportunity to keep those welfare checks coming.
Ironically, for a long time, those who have repeatedly voted Democrat for the benefit of this welfare class probably aren’t themselves recipients of welfare. Instead, they’re the true believers, from the working class on up, who look at these pathetic, disorganized, drunk, and drugged masses and think that a vote for the Democrats, by keeping the welfare spigot open, will help these people. Put another way, when we see Democrats win, it’s not because the welfare crowd cast the votes, it’s because the bleeding-heart crowd did it on their behalf.
I realize, of course, that this is a simplification that doesn’t take into account functional poor people who believe that they can survive only with government handouts and who make damn sure to vote for the party in charge of the handouts. These are the voters Republicans need to reach, so that we can explain to them that the Democrats are rather quickly killing off the working- and middle-class geese who have been laying the golden eggs that have then been redistributed to the welfare class. Destroy your tax base and there’s no more welfare. These same people need to be convinced that welfare does not need to be a way of life. And more specifically, blacks need to understand that, just because slavery was work, not all work is slavery.
Obamacare is going to have a very profound effect on Democrat voters, I suspect, but not in the way Democrats hope and Republicans fear. The Democrats screwed by Obamacare and insulted by Obama’s lies will have their “come to Jesus moments” and may well shift political allegiance, even if only temporarily. On the flip side, those who voted (and I mean actually cast a vote) for the Democrats and who are not screwed, will continue to vote Democrat. But the poorest people, the ones who now have heavily subsidized, gold-plated health insurance, will not suddenly rush to the polls. Health insurance or not, their pathologies will continue to render them incapable of the mental organization required for sending in an absentee ballot or getting out of the house and to the polling station on election day.
Sometimes distance provides perspective. My travels meant that, rather than being enveloped by news as I usually am, I read it only intermittently, and often through the New York Times’ filter, since that was the only news to which I had access for many days at a time. The few stories I was able to follow put me strongly in mind of the Gettysburg Address, and how far away from those principles our current government has come. Some of this is directly attributable to the current Democrat presidency, and some is an unpleasant by-product of a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own, independent of its creators’ ideas and energies.
Lincoln’s genius was that he was able to reduce to the smallest number of words the revolutionary principles that drove the Founding Fathers, as expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Do we still have a government “of the people, by the people [and] for the people?” No. Our political and bureaucratic classes no longer believe that the people have anything to do with their continued existence (that is, they do not view themselves as parts of a government “by the people”); they do not believe that they have anything in common with the people whose lives they dictate (in other words, they are not part of a government “of the people”); and nothing they do benefits the people who are trapped in their web of laws and regulations (so that they are not part of a government “for the people”).
America has ceased to be a representative democracy and has, instead, become an oligarchy: We, the People, are controlled by a proportionately small number of people who claim all entitlement to themselves and who, through laws, lawlessness, and unbridled bureaucracy (with a bureaucracy made up of people entirely beholden to the oligarchy for their continued well-being), control every aspect of our lives. This oligarchy is separate from and unrelated to the constitutional, representative democracy Lincoln believed was the necessary underpinning for a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
A handful of stories upon my return forcefully brought home the vast chasm that has formed between “we, the People” and those who no longer represent us but who, instead, simply govern us.
1. The people have long loathed ObamaCare, and by a significant and unchanging percentage too. Even the President’s water carriers are getting nervous. Those charged with enforcing it against us will not use it for themselves, nor will those who imposed it upon us. It is a product of the oligarchy, with the benefits, but not the burdens, flowing solely to the oligarchy. It was imposed upon the People, not through a true democratic process, but through dirty political dealing. This is neither government by the people nor for the people.
2. Despite the stagnant economy, the high unemployment, the rise of part-time jobs (i.e., no living wage), the number of young people stuck at home, and the continuing bankruptcy of our country’s business and economy, our President and his family continue to live like Nero or Marie Antoinette. The Nero analogy was most recently demonstrated with the story that Obama is golfing while the world burns down around us. The Marie Antoinette analogy can be seen in the endless round of A-list partying and multi-millionaire style vacations the Obamas enjoy, using our money (White House facilities for parties, taxpayer-funded air transport and security for offsite pleasures), even as ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet. Obama, however, is worse than either Nero or Marie Antoinette, or any other analogous political figures (both historic and present day) who rob from the people to fund their lavish personal lifestyles. This is because Obama is the only one of these figures who is — in theory, at least, an elected representative who is supposed to be only first among equals. Obama’s grandiosity, however, shows that he no longer considers himself one of the people. Worse, he is abetted in this historic break from a constitutional presidency by a ruling political and media class that has a vested economic and social interest in breaking with a constitutional republican democracy.
3. The current government has abandoned the notion that government belongs to the people (“of, by, and for”) and holds, instead, the belief that the people and everything that they possess belong to the government. Rep. Keith Ellison, a black, Muslim convert who is a darling of the Left, articulated this sentiment with startling clarity: “The bottom line is we’re not broke, there’s plenty of money, it’s just the government doesn’t have it. . . . The government has a right, the government and the people of the United States have a right to run the programs of the United States. Health, welfare, housing – all these things.” Government unions are a subset of this mindset. In private industries, both management and the unions are negotiating with real money, real products, and real labor. In the government sector, they negotiate with other people’s money regarding intangible products and services that are of dubious value. (Think about the fact that California alone has more than 500 different agencies, a spectacular percentage of which are duplicative, and an even larger number of which do not serve the California taxpayers, but instead are directed at steering special interest groups into the government fold.)
4. The bureaucracy has become an entity of itself. It is no longer a subset of American government. It is its own special interest group, and it advances its own agenda. This fact can be attributed in significant part to government unions which, as noted above, sever government employees from the Peoples’ economic and practical needs. Moreover, as the IRS scandal shows, the government bureaucracies no longer need political guidance to go after citizens who have the potential to disrupt their bureaucratic livelihood. With little or no prompting from the political class, the bureaucracies abandoned their obligation to impose the law impartially and, instead, attacked what they perceived as threats. If this seems familiar to you, you have only to think of innumerable science fiction books or movies (e.g., Terminator III), in which robots become sentient and turn on their human creators.
5. Our next election is already predetermined. Sadly, Myrna Adams makes the best argument for why Hillary Clinton will win in 2016 — and you’ll notice that none of her points have anything whatsoever to do with the will of the people or the state of America and the world, either now or in 2016. Instead, Adams points to the political machinery which has broken down, with the dial perpetually set to “Democrat.” Neither Hillary’s and her teams’ lack of any accomplishments to speak of nor the fact that Hillary herself is an undistinguished and inspiring human being will matter. The oligarchy, made up of politicians, monied interests, government bureaucracies, media players, and academics, has spoken. It’s Hillary’s turn now. After all, in 2008 and again in 2012, Obama was a candidate without accomplishments or, when off the teleprompter, charisma. The robots — er, oligarchs . . . er, political class . . . er, media — anointed him and he won. “We, the People” — our needs, desires, and existence — have become entirely expendable.
In the next election, democracy will be just as meaningful as it was in the old Soviet Union when 100% of the voters “freely” cast their votes for the Communist party candidate. The Soviet Union was a nominal democracy in that the people “voted,” but it totally by-passed Lincoln’s requirement that a government worth saving must be “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people” in order to ensure that a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” shall not “perish from the earth.”
An increasing number of Marin residents vote by mail (more than 65% in the last election). I know I’m one because, when the kids were little, there was always the chance that I might forget that it was election (at least for off-season elections) or that a sick child could keep me away from the polls even if I did remember. I still vote by mail now, simply because I am forgetful and I lose track of time. I usually fill the ballot out on election day and drop it off at my local polling station. My mom votes by mail because her mobility is limited.
My mom and I represent the good reasons for voting by mail. Here’s the really bad thing about absentee voting: The absenteeballots go out very early. When those people who are not procrastinators receive them, they vote immediately and pop the completed ballot in the mail. Very efficient, but it also means that these busy bees deny themselves the opportunity to see how things play out in the weeks and days leading to the election. They’ve essentially locked themselves into a vote they may deeply regret when there’s an October surprise. Of course, if they’re die-hard whatevers, it’s unlikely that their vote will change unless something absolutely shocking occurs right before the election. Unlikely, but still possible….
These aren’t just idle ruminations. The Marin County grand jury has proposed that, to save the county significant sums of money, everyone must vote by mail:
The grand jury, in a report released last week, suggests that moving to an entirely mail ballot election could save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The Elections Department estimates that an election in Marin County costs about $1 million. If Marin County were to go to 100 percent vote-by-mail, the Elections Department estimates that the county would save between $100,000 and $200,000 per election,” the report states.
Members of the grand jury think it might lead to a more involved electorate. I think the opposite will happen: People who wouldn’t normally vote by absentee ballot will lose their ballots in their in-boxes. Then, on election day, when their only choice to to drive up to the Civil Center if they want to cast their vote, they’ll just blow it off — at least if they’re in the comfortable Democrat majority. (Hey, maybe this mail-in-ballot thing is a good idea, after all….)
What I’m worried about is that converting the system to one that’s only by mail-in ballot somehow corrupts voting by moving it so far forward from an actual election day that we create a disengaged voter who just votes along party lines without any regard to late-breaking data (or even the possibility of late-breaking data). In Marin, it really doesn’t matter, given the 65%+ Democrat majority, but it seems to me that this is important in swing-vote counties, where late-breaking information can change people’s minds.
What do you think?
Does anyone study Edna St. Vincent Millay anymore? I don’t recall reading her at school myself, but I’ve always liked this little rhyme:
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light.
I’m hoping my candle lasts the night, but I have to admit to being tired. Lord alone knows how, but my candle ended up with more than just two ends. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working full time, interrupted by taking my Mom to the doctor, playing host to my sister for several days (she was a lovely guest), taking care of my family, and having surgery. Pretty soon I’m going to develop some sort of dissociative disorder, because I’m functioning only by convincing myself that I’m having out-of-body experiences, and that it’s not really me trying to juggle all this stuff.
I know this will all get easier. My surgery is a thing of the past, my sister’s delightful visit is over, and the Mr. Conservative work is pacing itself better, but I still have this kind of vibrating anxiety following me around, since the clock is definitely not my friend. I keep waiting for some deux ex machina to emerge abruptly from backstage and save me from myself.
One of the things I haven’t had time for is leisurely blog and online newspaper reading. I’ve been so busy chasing specific headlines, I haven’t pursued my own interests. In a way, it’s rather nice, because the objects of my interest depress me. I do believe that the Obama administration has reached its tipping point. The bloom is off the rose, the media is no longer protecting him for the next election, and his sins (and his administration’s) are starting to find him out. Still, considering how powerful he is, I worry that his downfall will also be our downfall.
So let’s talk about something more cheerful (perhaps) than Obama.
What do you think of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz?
I have to admit that I am finding Rand Paul very intriguing. The same goes for Ted Cruz. I’ve promised myself that I won’t fall in love with a potential candidate this early in the game, but I’m certainly keeping an eye on these two. Ted Cruz is the intellectual side of the new conservativism, one that is somewhat libertarian in nature, while Rand Paul is the theatrical side. I tend to lean libertarian, but I disliked Ron Paul’s patent Israel hatred. Rand Paul has gone out of his way to try to show that he’s a friend to Israel. I don’t know if this is what he truly feels or a clever theatrical posture, but it’s a smart tactic.
So I ask again what you think of these two men who are big on the constitution, big on individual freedom, big on cost-cutting, unafraid of the Progressive establishment (especially the media), and, in Paul’s case, savvy enough to outflank the media?
Yup. You read that right. I am not a Ted Cruz fan. I should be. He’s young, conservative, and courageous. Although new to the United States Senate, he was unafraid of rigid collegiality rules and, instead, interrogated Hagel the way a good lawyer or a good Senator should. After all, although a president is entitled to his own advisers, the fact that those advisers have to pass Senate review should mean something — and Cruz made sure it did.
That Cruz’s efforts were for naught had nothing to do with his courage or competence, and everything to do with a dysfunctional D.C. mentality. For those of you who watched Netflix’s House of Cards, while the whole melodrama soap opera part was boring, the political machinations were true to form and they were more frightening than any horror movie could be.
So why aren’t I gaga over Cruz? Because I’m not putting my heart on the line again. In past years, conservatives have had the chronic frustration of watching our elected officials get played by Democrats, choose collegiality over values, or behave just plain stupidly. Our response is to become desperate and are constantly on the lookout for a messiah.
Have we learned nothing? To begin with, after the experience with Obama, instead of trying to create our own cult of personality, we should be afraid of that path. I’ll abandon that objection for now, though, because in a media-saturated, low-information age (a sad oxymoron), personality may be all we’ve got.
But more important than this foolish cult of personality is our rush to open our hearts to any conservative candidate who’s not the one that came before. With luck, Cruz will be everything we hoped. But as we’ve seen with other candidates, his past (if he has one) will catch up with him, or his ego will outrun his abilities or, of course, the drive-by media will utterly destroy him. I’m ready to fall in love with Cruz only if the drive-by media is unable to expose a sordid past, his ego remains in check, and he figures out how to play the media better than they play him. And of course, he has to continue to be a stalwart, intelligent, courageous conservative politician in the D.C. cesspool.
This time around, I refuse to rush headlong into love with the first (or the second or the third) potential presidential candidate who comes along. I’m not Marlene Dietrich:
Nor am I going to be the exhausted Lily von Shtup, too tired to function after falling in love with one candidate after another. (And despite the vulgarity of these lyrics, it’s rather uncanny how accurate Madeline Kahn describes the conservative voters’ relationship with the legions of candidates who pass before them and then fail.)
I can help falling in love again — and I will not give my heart to a politician until I’m pretty darn sure the romance has legs.
All the talk lately is about talking. Tune in to any conservative outlet, and you’ll see that the politicians and thinkers are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get voters to support conservative values. Conservatives are talking about their lack of a clear narrative. Conservatives have an ideology, and a good one at that, but ideologies don’t sell. It’s the stories about those ideologies that sell. It sometimes seems that conservatives are so hamstrung by the fact that the plural of anecdote isn’t data, that they too often stop making any effort at all to use anecdotal stories to sell their ideas.
This past weekend, National Review hosted an emergency summit devoted to conservative messaging:
Nearly every speaker advised that [conservatives] “make the case” for conservatism, that their leaders find a better way of communicating the superiority of limited government and traditional social values. The country is prepared to hear it, they said, it’s only a matter of explaining it–an admittedly difficult task when the latest national election proved that more people are interested in a message of government-provided security and spoils.
After attending a part of this summit, James Taranto noted that Democrats went through this same soul-searching after the 2010 election. The president, they said, needed to send out a better message. The greatest orator since . . . well, ever, was falling down on the job and failing to communicate. They did win in 2012, but was it the message, or something else?
Obama won re-election, but would anyone really describe the 2012 Obama campaign as a clinic in exegetical politics? Did Obama lay out a compelling case for his principles? Far from it. In fact, his clearest ideological statement was “You didn’t build that.” His supporters spent weeks insisting he didn’t say that.
What Obama did do successfully was vilify his opponent (“not one of us“) and make narrow, often fear-based appeals to particular interest groups. His campaign also demonstrated a mastery of technology for identifying voters and coaxing them to the polls.
Taranto suggests that conservatives stop agonizing about “messaging” and start focusing on winning. This is one of those rare occasions where I part ways with Taranto’s conclusion. I agree with him that Obama won, not because he sold voters on his vision, but because he was able to turn Republicans into heartless, greedy, misogynistic monsters. The thing is that this vilification was the message — it just wasn’t a positive message about Obama. Instead, it was a negative message about Romney and the Republicans. In other words, Dems did a great job messaging. Conservatives simply missed it, because they were looking for soaring rhetoric, while Progressives were actually serving up trash talk.
The reason the Democrat’s trash talk message worked so well is because it fell on fertile soil. The Left knew that it couldn’t sell Obama — his record did not speak for itself — but Leftist strategizers also knew that for decades the Left had created an intellectual atmosphere in which it was easy for people to believe, all evidence to the contrary, that Romney was an evil, soulless man, and that a Republican America would be, as Ted Kennedy so memorably said about Robert Bork,
a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy….
That none of this came to pass during any Republican ascendency is irrelevant. Kennedy’s message has stuck for two generations, forever tarring Republicans with the “evil” brush. The cultural bias the Democrats have created against conservativism reached its tipping point in November 2012 when a president with a disastrous economic record rather handily got reelected. Relying on decades of indoctrination and sophisticated modern social networking, Democrats spread a message that stuck: Republicans are evil. Everything else, whether from the Left or the Right, was just chatter that people ignored.
It’s the tipping point that matters. Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference back in 2002, long before social networking websites had appeared on the scene. In a way, though, our modern age’s manic social networking makes Gladwell’s points even more relevant than they were ten years ago.
Gladwell’s thesis is a simple one: Ideas are like viruses. Most of them float around, affecting a pocket of people here, or a pocket of people there. Given specific circumstances, though, the virus reaches a tipping point and suddenly explodes out of the pockets, and becomes dominant.
After looking at studies that explain the explosive spread of certain ideas (including product popularity) Gladwell came up with a list of three must-have factors that will cause an idea to go viral. The first is what he calls “the Law of the Few,” the second is “the Stickiness Factor,” and the third is “the Power of Context.” The factors are surprisingly uncomplicated.
The Law of the Few says that studies show that there are specific people in society who are information, idea, and style vectors. Whether they have a vast network of contacts, a reputation for sharing useful wisdom, or the innate gift of salesmanship, these few people exercise a disproportionate effect when it comes to dispersing ideas. When they talk, other people — lots of other people — listen.
Do we have anybody like that articulating conservative ideas? I’m not so sure. Gladwell’s point is that these people spread their ideas because of their ability to connect directly with other people. All of our conservative talking heads are just that — talking heads on TV or the radio. Conservatives, perhaps true to their commitment to individualism, do not have networks of people on the ground (i) who are themselves networkers, (ii) who are viewed as reliable information sources, or (iii) who can sell anything to anybody.
In a way, the internet has made things even worse for conservatives. While it’s increased information dissemination, it’s also increased information ghettoization. We don’t talk to our neighbors about politics anymore. Instead, we go to a like-minded blog and enjoy the feeling that we’re not alone. But by doing so, we delude ourselves into believing that there are more like-minded people out there than a walk in the community and a talk in the park would reveal. Facebook is more of a marketplace of ideas than the blogosphere, and I can tell you that my liberal friends used it aggressively for political networking, while my conservative friends did not — it part, because conservatives didn’t have any “sticky” messages to disseminate.
The Stickiness Factor? That’s what it sounds like: it’s a message that doesn’t just amuse or intrigue people for a mere minute. Instead, it sticks with them and, even more importantly, makes them act. During the Bush years, the Dems came up with a great one: No War for Oil. The fact that this slogan had little relationship to the facts, or that a ginormous number of people stuck it on the back of their gas-guzzling SUVs was irrelevant. Those four words convinced too many Americans that the Republicans were fighting wars on behalf of Standard Oil.
In 2012, the Democrats announced that Republicans were “waging a war on women.” Again, data was irrelevant. It sounded good, especially when Democrats Alinsky-ized Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
The Progressive penchant for ignoring facts undoubtedly makes it easier for them to come up with the pithy slogans and posters that sweep through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and email chains before ending up on tens of thousands of bumper stickers that subliminally drill into every driver’s head. People could laugh when reading “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot,” never mind that George Bush was a highly educated, accomplished man with an academic record better than or equal to his opponents’.
Conservatives used to have pithy sayings (“Live free or die,” “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” “That government is best that governs least”), but we don’t seem to have come up with any clever ones lately. As you may recall, during John McCain’s failed candidacy, his slogan — “Country First” — managed to leave supporters cold, while allowing opponents to mumble about racism. I doubt that we’ll ever get another “I like Ike,” but we can certainly do better than Romney’s “Believe in America,” which sounds more like the beginning of a fairy tale than it does a rousing call to the ballot box.
And finally, there’s the Power of Context, which at its simplest level means that a message has to capture the zeitgeist. People have to be primed and ready to receive the message. In 2012, Americans, fed on decades of anti-capitalist education and entertainment, were more than ready to believe that Romney was a dog-abusing, woman-hating, religious nut who wanted to enslave poor people and blacks. Thirty years ago, people would have laughed at this message. Last year, there were too many people who thought it made a good deal of sense.
Democrats are masters of leveraging context or, as Rahm Emanuel said, “never letting a crises go to waste.” Just as the Pentagon has shelves full of war scenarios that they’re ready to break out should one geographic region or another blow up, it’s quite obvious that the Progressives also have shelves full of battle plans. Economic crisis? Let’s nationalize! Crazy person goes on a murderous rampage with a gun? Let’s jettison the Second Amendment. Woman in Mississippi isn’t near an abortion clinic, so she decides to give herself a do-it-yourself abortion? Malign pro-Lifers as murderers. Islamic terrorism against Americans? Blame Americans or video-makers. There’s a playbook.
On the other side of the aisle, have you ever seen conservatives do anything but be caught flat-footed when a crisis arises? Conservatives instantly go into ad hoc mode. There’s a virtue to having sufficient flexibility to deal with an actual, as opposed to theoretical situation, but the person without a plan always looks unprepared and, therefore, helpless.
It’s not enough for conservatives to talk about talking, or to send each other messages about messaging. If they want to be the zeitgeist’s master not its slave:
- They must come up with a message that matches the mood of the time, whether it’s pro-conservative or anti-Progressive;
- They must shape the message so that it gets stuck in people’s minds and drives them to action; and
- They must make a deliberative effort to get the message to conservative networkers (i.e., information purveyors, and salesmen), rather than hoping that the message will magically disseminate itself.
We have a good message — we just have to sell it.
And in that vein, here’s an idea from Mike Devx, one that would work marvelously well on Facebook. It would appeal to people on both sides of the aisle, and it would give a campaign advantage to Republicans if they would loudly embrace it:
I’ve wondered at times why laws aren’t required to have a “sunset provision,” meaning every law would expire at a certain time after passage. The law would have to be re-passed by whatever legislature passed it in the first place, or else it goes on the dustbin of history. Perhaps the default should be twenty years to the date after passage. But you could specify a non-default expiration that would be allowed to be LESS (not more than the default).
Same thing perhaps for regulations. It might keep the tsunami of laws and regulations under control. And the bad ones or the controversial ones would be guaranteed to be re-fought. Or the laws whose time may have come and gone — such as affirmative action to redress a wrong — would get re-fought and resisted because we have done enough.
UPDATE: If you like the idea of a Sunset Amendment, I’ve developed it at greater length here.