The Ignorant, the Pets, and the Dead: That's the Plan
Obama is, at least, not treating all voters as fools; he is treating only some voters as fools.
"This is a dead-even race for the presidency ... Pretty much people have made up their minds," Candy Crowley of CNN observed on July 22nd's State of the Union. On PBS's News Hour, David Brooks seemed to agree, and warned: "Voters shouldn't expect President Barack Obama to add any more depth or nuance to his attacks on rival Mitt Romney, even though the upcoming election raises fundamental questions about the role of government and the direction of the economy[.] ... There is the makings [sic] of a serious discussion of what sort of role of government, what sort of society, what sort of capitalism we want to have[.] ... Will we actually have that discussion? I'm extremely doubtful, in part because what they're targeting are people who don't pay attention to politics. Everybody who pays attention has already decided. And so they want a very simple message [for the rest]."
The sentient among us seem, indeed, already to have made their decision. Conservatives, Libertarians, Reagan and Bushie Republicans; entrepreneurs; Tea Partiers; limited government, generational equity, and property rights-types; small business owners; deficit hawks; many physicians; married women; and non-college-educated white males are lined up behind Romney. Obama, it seems, can count on newly swollen armies of bureaucrats; the vast majority of black voters; frightened people who perceive themselves principally as clients and beneficiaries of government; crony capitalists; sleazy investment advisers who cross their fingers for more quantitative easing to keep the game going; non-married women; ObamaCare bitter-enders; distributive, social, and environmental justice-hustlers and their marks; Prius and Volt owners; public-employee union bosses; and anybody with whom Anna Wintour would not mind breaking arugula, or who experiences a delicious frisson of anticipation upon hearing the words, "You know, Fareed, the Americans' problem is..."
So the race is pretty even. Romney's response seems to be to keep talking about jobs and the virtues of free enterprise -- slow and steady, no mistakes, and no lurches. The president's approach is different: opportunistic, seemingly untroubled about building a logical structure, erratic -- and now we see why: it has to do with a calculation about where the margin of victory lies. From this point forward, the millions Obama's campaign and its allies will be spending on polling, ads, registration, and get-out-the-vote efforts will likely be directed at mobilizing distinct subsets of the American electorate.
First, those voters who do not exist, at least in human form; second, those who, even if they do exist and are humanoid, cannot vote legally, and finally and most significantly, those who do not care much or know much about the election or politics generally, but who can somehow be enticed by Obama's minions to exercise their franchise anyway. The importance of this third group to the Obama strategy was emphasized last week by Senator Harry Reid's most recent contribution to the re-election effort.
For all the abuse directed at him, the Nevada senator has done no more than follow dutifully along a path the president has already trod. It would take a voter who is gullible, unreflective, and downright ignorant of the way things really work to accept Obama's fantastic notion that presidential daughters Sasha and Malia could conceivably have been potential victims of horrific violence in a Colorado multiplex. Only that same voter could possibly credit Reid's claim that a Republican who has been a national figure for a decade at least could get away with paying no taxes, legally or illegally, for that period and have the fact go unreported until now.
Senator Reid, it is said, "could not care less" what his critics think. That worn-out old hack did not get where he is worrying about what high-minded good government types, wobbly senators, or conservative commentators think. He knows who provided the marginal difference to put him and a lot of other Democrats in office and keep them there, and he is speaking to those voters, the rest be damned.
Obama, Plouffe, Axelrod & Co. deserve a lot of perverse credit for coming up with this ingenious if shameless way of putting the opposition in a box. Romney and his surrogates can't come out and call this latest manifestation of Obama's lowest common denominator strategy what it is -- after all, no politician ever got elected by calling even a segment of the electorate dumb. Republicans are forced instead into name-calling, which, however accurate, will be seen by the target voters as just more of the undecipherable and partisan Washington babble that many claim turned them off to politics in the first place. Of course, all that leaves is attempting to rebut the charges, and that is hopeless because these particular voters are just not going to devote much attention to the details of a Romney defense. Moreover, even if they do, they have been so badly served by Obama's friends in the public education Blob, as Bill Bennett used to call it, that they are equipped with neither the substantive knowledge nor the analytical capacity to evaluate the argument. In the end, as George Bush the Elder would say, it will be "Message: They say he didn't pay all his taxes."
It is a pretty grim picture. But there is one bright spot. Evidently, President Obama is, at least, not treating all voters as fools; he is treating only some voters as fools. Unhappily, though, those voters may be the ones who make all the difference.