June 16th, 2013
I enjoy Molly Ball’s work normally, but this piece from her about how social conservatives need to get with the times is uncharacteristically naive.
Ever since Republicans got clobbered in the last election, some have suggested they dial back some of their hard stances in the culture war. The College Republicans, for example, commissioned a study that concluded that young voters see the party as fusty and old-fashioned, and urged it to get with the times on issues such as gay marriage. America may not be keen on free love and abortion on demand, but neither are voters clamoring for a party that wants to restrict access to contraception and keep women out of the work force.
And yet Republican politicians do not seem to have gotten the message.
I’m pretty sure that no one who actually understands politics finished watching Mitt Romney job-jobs-jobs–we’re talking about jobs!–campaign and came away thinking, Yup; Republicans lost because they wouldn’t stop with their crazy Bible thumpin’ again. But don’t take Romney’s word for it–look back at the contemporaneous reporting from the Obama campaign. Obama made a couple tactical war-on-women stands, but for the most part his campaign consisted of hammering Romney over income inequality. In fact, you might remember 2012 as the least culture-war presidential campaign of modern times.
Except, perhaps, for 2008. When Republicans nominated another candidate who had absolutely nothing to say on social issues and intentionally stayed away from them for the duration of the entire race. Which, by the way, turned on the collapse of Lehmann Brothers. Not gay marriage. I know, I know–it’s hard to remember that just five years ago gay marriage wasn’t the single most important issue in the history of the Republic. Weird, huh?
Also weird–if social conservatives are so dominant, why did the GOP nominate Mitt Romney and John McCain to be their standard bearers? And why is everyone so hot for Chris Christie in 2016? And why . . . oh, nevermind.
Look, this isn’t to say that double-barreled conservatives would have fared better in 2008 and 2012. Would Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum have beaten Obama? I wouldn’t have taken either of those guys without getting odds.
But the foundation of Ball’s argument–that the GOP is in thrall to the women-hating mouth-breathers–is such obvious silly, progressive CW, that I’m kind of disappointed to see her falling for it.
The real image problem for Republicans was the “sideshow” candidates . Who would say some thing crazy the national party would run away from but you will still have a crazy guy with an R after his name running for Senate. Think about it should there really be a Democrat senator from Indiana, Missouri or North Dakota.
As a liberal I am very happy the Occupy movement did not start voting in Democrat primaries. If they did and Democrats had to move to the left most Americans would think the Democrats are all a bunch of Hippies.
JVL, don’t be so modest. You predicted early and often, long before he got the nom, that Romney would lose.
Your history of the 08 campaign is like asking A.J.P Taylor about his preferred style of German pretzel or favorite Schiller poem. Obama ran EXCLUSIVELY on culture-war issues: Sandra Fluke, Sesame Street, Julia, evil factory owners giving blue-collar heroes’ wives cancer, tyrannical voting ID laws, evil casino moguls’ money tainting our sanctified incumbent-serving “democratic system” etc. He sure as hell didn’t run on health-care mastery. See: “Government is the only thing we all belong to”
Despite your jaundice you’re correct that Mitt shied away from that fight–due less to consultant calculation than that he’s an overall lousy politician. It was no high-minded strategy, it was just evasive maneuvers (thus effectively confirming DogWhistlePAC’s critique of Mitt). Romney was doomed from Day 1 as a cultural throwback; the whole campaign was a referendum on the challenger, with IRS/NSA Big Data assist and low-info GOTV. Just like a movie script the imaginary black-yuppie friend humiliated the No-Fun Dorky Remote Lecturing Father-Figure. Good thing we don’t have to endure such latter type of person in the White House today, right?
[...] Commentators on the right have begun to call out such dubiously motivated leftist commentary as “concern trolling,” the Internet term for people who disingenuously express pity for those they really disdain. When Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas penned a column for The Hill about the demographic shifts facing the GOP, The Weekly Standard‘s Jay Cost declared, “Concern-trolling of GOP has officially jumped the shark.” To be fair, the tone of Moulitsas’s column was less concern than gleeful schadenfreude. (In the course of my nonpartisan reporting on intra-GOP debates, I have been accused of concern-trolling myself.) [...]