E.J. Dionne is like the blind squirrel who finds a nut. Back on October 31 he penned an article that has proven prescient in one sense. Writing about a speech given by Paul Ryan to the Heritage Foundation, Dionne states:
Ryan spoke of his “disappointment” that “the politics of division are making a big comeback.” He accused Obama of using “divisive rhetoric” and of “going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments.”
“Instead of working with us on … common-sense reforms,” Ryan declared, “the president is barnstorming swing states, pushing a divisive message that pits one group of Americans against another on the basis of class.”
Giving a speech like this is uncharacteristic of Ryan, Dionne asserts, and indicates that
We may be reaching an inflection point, the moment when the terms of the political argument change decisively. Three indicators: An important speech by Rep. Paul Ryan, the increasingly sharp tone of President Obama’s rhetoric, and the success of Occupy Wall Street in resisting attempts to marginalize the movement.
What Dionne wants to argue here is that Obama’s rhetoric is helping him to change the narrative, giving him a lift for re-election. As it turns out, on this one point Dionne is correct. The President’s poll numbers jumped over the past two weeks. Little bit less bad news probably helped as well, but there are a lot of angry Americans out there right now and blasting the well off is an easy way to cash in on the anger.
Unfortunately for Obama there is also a downside. The economy requires investment and risk taking for job growth. While he aims the guns at the investor class he may make some short term gains in the polls, but that will be offset certainly by a loss of confidence in job creators and their investors. If unemployment remains over 9% a year from now, Obama and a lot of other pols are going to pay a stiff price. The administration seems to know this which is why they are pushing so hard for another half a trillion in stimulus to create more public sector employment. At this point they will take anything that makes it look like the economy is moving forward.
On everything else Dionne was dead wrong, which is not unusual for him. The occupy movement is coming to an inglorious end with riots, violence and mass nonsense. It again will make a few headlines and make the Tea Party look like the drab, even keeled, middle class political movement that it is, but a year from now occupy will still be brandishing clubs and molatov cocktails and the Tea Party will be electing conservatives. The inequality argument, meanwhile, has been made so many times in our nation’s history that it starting to sound like the mourning dove; wistful and melancholy.
How do you explain the fact that the weaker the President becomes the greater the angst on the Right about our ultimate candidate in the 2012 general election. President Obama’s numbers fell again today. Meanwhile the Republican Party continues to wring its hands over our current slate of candidates. A lot can happen between now and next November, and without a primary challenger of his own the President still looks formidable for re-election.
So we understand some of the anxiety, but not all of it. Some of the anxiety seems to be centered on a distrust of the electorate; as in, just a couple of electric speeches from the The Great Orator and the Independents will pull the blue handle, not the red. It makes us wonder who the conservative elites hang out with in their spare time. Answer: Each other. Out of power now for a few years, the think tanks and blogosphere is choc’ full of conservative thinkers, and they want not only to win the presidency but the national debate as well.
Some of this anxiety also comes from taking the wrong lessons from the last presidential election. Americans did not become idiots overnight. Nor, did they didn’t vote for Obama because Palin was too right wing. Yes, they did choose a very inexperienced person for the nation’s highest office but only after watching a Senator, who has spent much of his adult life in Washington shaping our nation’s economy in a million myriad ways, reveal on the eve of the election that he has no clue about or interest in the nation’s economy. (He has recently bolstered his reputation.) Senator McCain was the perfect foreign policy choice if terrorism had been the main focus in 2008. But it wasn’t, so he’s still a Senator.
After watching 2008 take place, Republicans in high places started to think that the path back to power was a matter of celebrity or personal charisma. But this is giving the Democrat Party’s reliance on finding “the one” more credit than it deserves. This election is going to be about policies, plain and simple, and Republicans should be thinking 1980, not 2008.
Michigan is a good example of this point. Two early Republican primary contenders for the Senate seat currently occupied by the eminently beatable Debbie Stabenow, dropped out after Bobby Schostack, the Republican party chair, claimed publicly that he had candidates who were “heads and shoulders” above the current field. And these were prominent Republicans Peter Hoekstra, with a distinguished record of service in the House, and Terri Lynn Land, who had held the Secretary of State office for eight years and received high marks.
So who were the heads and shoulders candidates? It turns out the party was trying to recruit one or more former Detroit Red Wing hockey players. Huh? They’re kidding, right?
Look, we’re big hockey fans up here, and we love our Red Wings, but do the powers that be really believe that a former hockey player with no known other public or private achievements makes a good US Senator. State Senator, OK, but US Senator? Do they really believe that a Stanley Cup counts as a resume for high public office? No names were released but apparently the player(s) under consideration are smarter than the Party leaders; they understood that running for a Senate seat would diminish both the office and their reputation. They passed.
Our advice to fellow conservatives is simple. Watch and learn as the process unfolds. All of this hand wringing is a waste of time and it makes us look anxious and timid. We love Paul Ryan and Chris Christie as much as you do, and we hope over time that the declared candidates can pick up some of Ryan’s and Christie’s tough fiscal mantle and explain it to our fellow Americans. We trust this will happen, because the road ahead is a long and difficult one and the candidate that emerges will need to really understand how a strong economy, a fiscally conservative government and rational tax policy leads to not only a renewed economy but a renewed America.