November 15, 2012
These Truths Are Not So Self-Evident, After AllBy Geoffrey P. Hunt
The Medical Examiner autopsying the Republican Party says the body isn't brown enough.
No doubt Romney was badly bruised by identity politics, but I'm not convinced it was a decisive blow. No, the Republican lost the national referendum because serious ideas were clumsily assembled, poorly delivered. Romney was outgunned by persistent shallow demonizing sound bites, accompanied by promises of instant gratification that he was unable -- or unwilling -- to neutralize.
Mitt Romney had no clue how to leverage beyond the managerial class his commanding edge in leadership and economic vision. He never connected with ordinary people. It is too easy to vilify struggling ordinary people for their infatuation with Obama's perceived empathy, yet Romney never answered the question everyone in peril so desperately wants addressed: "What will happen to me?"
Obama won by affecting the loyalty of a coalition of the dispossessed -- hopelessly imprisoned in a cruel cycle of poverty, crime, and joblessness from the inner cities of Baltimore and Philly to Cleveland and Detroit -- who were ignored by Romney and who continue to be nameless and faceless to Republican elites.
As a nation we are rapidly running out of gas, cash, and credit --but most damaging we are running low on attention span and comprehension. Yet engaging in intellectual discourse about the decline and fall of a debtor nation isn't foremost in the minds of the 23 million unemployed.
The dispossessed were offered nothing better than to embrace the liberal theology that cash and unlimited credit are owed to them -- the permanently entrenched underclass, victims of oppression and racism at the hands of the greedy, heartless 1%. In the meantime, Democrats are seen as champions of the poor, sick, lonely, and abandoned, somehow inoculated from their inability to create a growing economy capable of cleaving off sufficient sustainable resources to support the underclass; rather they merely possess the electoral skill in accumulating enough power to confiscate transitory wealth from the 1%.
Micro-managing voter turnout is a truism in the false analysis of why elections are won or lost. But people don't vote in a vacuum and are not motivated by exhortations alone. They vote for self-interest, whether it is a big money celebrity ideologue seeking transformation of a nation or a homeless nobody accepting a warm van ride and a hot meal in exchange for a vote.
Romney's 47% comment showed he didn't understand the roots of the structural deficit where not enough voters can comprehend, process, and judge big ideas. After all, inner city captives - a large share of those 50 million people on food stamps or EBT cards facing despair -- aren't reading dueling columns from the Washington Post or the Wall St Journal.
The WWII generation and its immediate progeny -- now all over age 55 -- were the world's greatest wealth generators since the industrial revolution. Obama's 2nd term generation is under age 45 -- mainly under age 35 -- now depleting wealth accumulated by their parents and grandparents, having few prospects to replace even a fraction of it. The nation is functionally insolvent. But sovereign bankruptcy is an abstraction and an irrelevancy to this new generation -- and means nothing to the dispossessed.
Moreover, this new electorate has never been taught objective history of the Republic, those self-evident truths about inalienable rights all derived from our Creator, most importantly liberty and freedom to pursue individual initiative.
Rather they are taught deconstructionist history, if any history at all -- and what they have learned is history as therapy, history as oppression, history as racism and exploitation for which traditional American exceptionalism is not a virtue, but a vice to be suppressed.
So now, what next? Perhaps Paul Ryan, chastened as a loser on the national stage, knows more than any other Republican leader what could have been and what might be. A one time protégé of Jack Kemp, Ryan is best equipped to fashion what has eluded Republicans since Herbert Hoover, the framework for a grand bargain that combines an economic commitment to the dispossessed in exchange for comprehensive enabling of private sector economic growth.
This would not be a petit bargain of technocrat tax and entitlement tinkering. No, a grand bargain that would address the realities of our broad swath of poverty alongside empowering a private sector engine of economic growth -- which in twenty years might begin to shrink the explicit welfare state -- but in the medium term can finance a commitment to a modified welfare state that is humanely compelling but unaffordable.
I know, "barf alert." But don't vomit, instead consider today's truth:
For the moment we are at a hopeless stalemate. Republican-conservatives rightfully are preoccupied with smaller government, cheaper and more abundant energy, and far fewer regulatory constraints to drive high octane growth, and see any concession to the welfare state as anathema. In turn, Democrat-progressives are stuck on the big government solution to poverty and extinguishing class divisions, but are unwilling to foster a robust private economy to pay for it, instead relying on punitive redistributive taxes on those wealth generators, whose prosperity will rapidly evaporate.
Paul Ryan understands this dilemma stems from a nation split along economic strata, with Democratic power largely derived from direct support from or sympathy for the underclass. And where Republican sensibilities are on another planet. Yet his intuition and sense of where to make connections with the underclass in the inner cities was met with hostility and roadblocks from the Romney camp.
The Republican recoil towards mounting a sincere outreach, much less commitment, to the underclass was no more evident than in Jack Kemp's failure as George HW Bush's cabinet Secretary for Housing and Urban Development over twenty years ago. Kemp's advocacy for inner city enterprise initiatives and economic empowerment was greeted with derision and scorn. Dead on arrival.
I know, don't hold your breath...
Yet if the new Republicans won't embrace and assert such a grand bargain you can bet Bill Clinton, still the leader of the Democrat party, will be drawing up the post-Obama electoral map, reintroducing his Third Way, perhaps freezing out Republican conservatives from national governance for a generation. After all such a grand bargain had possibilities stemming from Clinton's "Era of Big Government is Over" and Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" -- at least before the stained blue dress ruined Clinton while hubris and corruption sent Gingrich and his apostles to purgatory.
If there will be no new Republicans who are prepared to subscribe to some form of economic social liberalism, national elections will continue to be elusive. And without winning national elections there is no hope of achieving smaller government, decentralization of political authority and governance, nor preserving free markets and individual liberty. It must begin by occupying the hearts and minds of the inner cities -- and the under age 35 generation -- with empathy, enterprise, and persistent re-education. If not, how else shall we be delivered from the wilderness of economic ruin and political obscurity?
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