The GOP's Independent Voter Fixation

J. Robert Smith
Among establishment Republicans there are two modes of thinking about campaigns: attack or don't attack.  The gospel among GOP insiders these days is that no way, no how, Mitt Romney should attack Barack Obama.  Doing so, a sliver of independent voters might get huffy and throw the election to the president.

Former Bush flak and Fox News regular Dana Perino faithfully regurgitated the establishment line on Fox & Friends on Monday morning.   

Never mind there's a lot of territory between outright attacks on Mr. Obama and taking a hands-off approach, which, thus far, as been the modus operandi of the post-GOP convention Romney campaign.  Romney and Ryan haven't exactly come out swinging.  In the week or so since the Republican shindig, Romney and Ryan have gone out on the campaign trail as if tiptoeing on egg shells.

Let's hope that Romney and Ryan just haven't hit their strides yet.  The task of defeating Mr. Obama involves defining him and explaining to voters why the president's worldview and ideas are at the heart of his policy failures.  Insipidity and tentativeness aren't the stuff of winning campaigns.           

Enter National Review's Andrew McCarthy, who on Saturday, wrote as he always does: frankly and unflinchingly. The nub of McCarthy's article is that the left-elite are powerfully driven to win to fully impose their worldview on the nation.  And a third of the electorate is unreconstructed left-wingers, who though a smaller cohort than conservatives, know what they want -- and the Democratic Party is their vehicle to get it. 

Here's what McCarthy has to say about Republicans:

[T]oday's Republican party is not very conservative: At a time when the welfare state is - inevitably - collapsing of its own weight, Romney and Ryan run as its guardians. They've come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.

More damningly, McCarthy writes:

Certainly, the media, the academy, and most of our society's major institutions are heavily influenced by progressives, if not outright controlled by them. It is therefore a given that elite opinion will portray Republicans as villains. Yet, that longstanding challenge for Republicans has never before been an insuperable one. In America, at least until now, the avant-garde has never been able to tame the public. It has always been possible to run against elite opinion and win - if you make a compelling counter-case.

Today's Republicans do not. Indeed, they cannot, because they have accepted the progressive framework. Their argument is not that the welfare state, deficit spending, federalized education, sharia-democracy promotion, and the rest are bad policies. Their argument is not that Washington needs to be dramatically downsized. It is that progressive governance is fine but needs to be better executed.

Ain't that something to rally around! The counter-case is supposed to demonstrate why the other guys are deeply wrong. You're not going to get very far with "We're not as bad as they [the left and Democrats] say we are."

Contrary to the Romney campaign's and its establishment GOP apologists' conviction, independents need compelling reasons to vote against Mr. Obama.  Those reasons have to extend beyond the mere practicalities of policy.     

The "Gee, bless his heart, the president just hasn't gotten it right, gosh darn it!" theme is thin porridge for voters who want to be strongly persuaded that Mr. Obama's appeal for a second chance isn't credible.  In fact, the president's appeal is only credible if undecided voters believe that a well-meaning Mr. Obama just flubbed in his policy choices.  Independents need to see that the president's policies -- and their ensuing failures -- were predetermined by his deep-rooted beliefs.

And if Romney wins on a poor economy and a "Shucks, the president just goofed" strategy, where's the mandate in that?  The mandate for the big changes that the times -- and the nation's flagging condition -- demand?

Romney and Ryan don't need to attack the president; they need to shoot straight with voters by telling them why Mr. Obama's worldview is at the bottom of ruinous policies that won't change in a second Obama term... because the man who occupies the Oval Office won't have changed. 

Among establishment Republicans there are two modes of thinking about campaigns: attack or don't attack.  The gospel among GOP insiders these days is that no way, no how, Mitt Romney should attack Barack Obama.  Doing so, a sliver of independent voters might get huffy and throw the election to the president.

Former Bush flak and Fox News regular Dana Perino faithfully regurgitated the establishment line on Fox & Friends on Monday morning.   

Never mind there's a lot of territory between outright attacks on Mr. Obama and taking a hands-off approach, which, thus far, as been the modus operandi of the post-GOP convention Romney campaign.  Romney and Ryan haven't exactly come out swinging.  In the week or so since the Republican shindig, Romney and Ryan have gone out on the campaign trail as if tiptoeing on egg shells.

Let's hope that Romney and Ryan just haven't hit their strides yet.  The task of defeating Mr. Obama involves defining him and explaining to voters why the president's worldview and ideas are at the heart of his policy failures.  Insipidity and tentativeness aren't the stuff of winning campaigns.           

Enter National Review's Andrew McCarthy, who on Saturday, wrote as he always does: frankly and unflinchingly. The nub of McCarthy's article is that the left-elite are powerfully driven to win to fully impose their worldview on the nation.  And a third of the electorate is unreconstructed left-wingers, who though a smaller cohort than conservatives, know what they want -- and the Democratic Party is their vehicle to get it. 

Here's what McCarthy has to say about Republicans:

[T]oday's Republican party is not very conservative: At a time when the welfare state is - inevitably - collapsing of its own weight, Romney and Ryan run as its guardians. They've come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.

More damningly, McCarthy writes:

Certainly, the media, the academy, and most of our society's major institutions are heavily influenced by progressives, if not outright controlled by them. It is therefore a given that elite opinion will portray Republicans as villains. Yet, that longstanding challenge for Republicans has never before been an insuperable one. In America, at least until now, the avant-garde has never been able to tame the public. It has always been possible to run against elite opinion and win - if you make a compelling counter-case.

Today's Republicans do not. Indeed, they cannot, because they have accepted the progressive framework. Their argument is not that the welfare state, deficit spending, federalized education, sharia-democracy promotion, and the rest are bad policies. Their argument is not that Washington needs to be dramatically downsized. It is that progressive governance is fine but needs to be better executed.

Ain't that something to rally around! The counter-case is supposed to demonstrate why the other guys are deeply wrong. You're not going to get very far with "We're not as bad as they [the left and Democrats] say we are."

Contrary to the Romney campaign's and its establishment GOP apologists' conviction, independents need compelling reasons to vote against Mr. Obama.  Those reasons have to extend beyond the mere practicalities of policy.     

The "Gee, bless his heart, the president just hasn't gotten it right, gosh darn it!" theme is thin porridge for voters who want to be strongly persuaded that Mr. Obama's appeal for a second chance isn't credible.  In fact, the president's appeal is only credible if undecided voters believe that a well-meaning Mr. Obama just flubbed in his policy choices.  Independents need to see that the president's policies -- and their ensuing failures -- were predetermined by his deep-rooted beliefs.

And if Romney wins on a poor economy and a "Shucks, the president just goofed" strategy, where's the mandate in that?  The mandate for the big changes that the times -- and the nation's flagging condition -- demand?

Romney and Ryan don't need to attack the president; they need to shoot straight with voters by telling them why Mr. Obama's worldview is at the bottom of ruinous policies that won't change in a second Obama term... because the man who occupies the Oval Office won't have changed.