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Campaign 2012 in a Nutshell: Wrong Ideas Vs. No Ideas ^ | September 7, 2012 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 09/07/2012 9:38:50 AM PDT by Kaslin

Charlotte, N.C. -- Going by the conventional rules of American politics, the Democratic Convention this week was an unmitigated disaster. And, going by the same rules, GOP convention was a disaster, too. So, either the rules of American politics have fundamentally changed, or at least one of the parties is taking an enormous gamble.

Since the Nixon years, the GOP has enjoyed a marked advantage over the Democrats at the presidential level. Cultural issues -- race, religion, abortion, patriotism -- have worked to the Republicans' advantage. Until Barack Obama's election in 2008, no Democrat has won the presidency without aggressively adapting to that fact.

Jimmy Carter, a Southern evangelical, defeated a very moderate Vice President Gerald Ford at a moment when the GOP was still reeling from the Watergate scandal and Ford's pardon of Nixon. Still, it's easy to forget that Carter was the choice of what would come to be known as the "Christian Right" (historian Steven Hayward reminds me that Carter got a lavishly generous reception on the fledgling "700 Club").

At the beginning of the general election campaign, Ford was behind 33 points and by the end had very nearly caught up with Carter. Had Carter not cast himself as a pious Southern veteran, small business owner, and conservative-leaning Democrat (opposed to busing, muddled on abortion), or if the GOP had not nominated such a liberal candidate so closely tied to the Nixon presidency, it's quite possible the Republicans would have won in 1976.

Since then, any Democrat who tried to run as an unapologetic liberal, particularly on cultural issues, lost. In 1992, the Democrats seemed to have figured that out. They nominated Bill Clinton, a pro-death penalty Southerner who wanted abortion to be "safe, legal and rare" and who campaigned against the "something for nothing" welfare state politics of his own party. He picked fights -- often symbolic, occasionally substantive -- with the left to prove he was a centrist.

Thanks to a host of complex reasons, many of them having to do with George W. Bush's mixed political legacy, the Democrats no longer feel the need to play Clintonian games. They yanked the "rare" language out of the abortion plank of the platform, supporting instead abortion on demand. Indeed, a layman watching the speeches from abortion activists, and more importantly the reactions of the delegates, would conclude that the ancestral party of the Free Silver movement had morphed into the free abortion movement. It's a remarkable shift given that the electorate is more pro-life today than it was when Bill Clinton ran in 1992.

On the symbolism front, in what even leading Democrats admit was a spectacular display of self-inflicted stupidity, they managed to scrub any mention of God from the Democratic platform. They also removed support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. When they realized how grievously idiotic these unforced errors were, they tried to fix them by amending the document. The result was an ugly moment where the delegates voted three times against, in effect, God and Jerusalem, until the chairman of the convention, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa simply steamrolled his own party like some Politburo bully.

It's an unspoken rule of politics that you're in a bad place when you're renouncing God on TV -- three times! Even Peter stayed away from the cameras when he renounced Jesus.

Meanwhile, the Republicans seem to have become Dukakified. It was Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, who insisted that the election should be entirely about "competence, not ideology." Romney has avoided saying that in so many words, but it's certainly how he's campaigning. After running to the right in the primaries and boldly picking Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney bizarrely seems to have retreated to an ideological and even intellectual crouch.

Though he doesn't say it explicitly, the tone and tenor of Romney's convention speech suggested that Obama failed because didn't have the right resume, not because he has the wrong ideas. Stuart Stevens, Romney's top strategist, has dismayed many on the right by operating according to the theory that Romney mustn't do anything to offend the delicate sensibilities of some statistical abstraction of a female voter in the Ohio suburbs. Listening to the Romney speech, you'd have no idea he picked a principled, fearless and brilliant conservative lightning rod as a running mate.

If Stevens' theory of the election is right, then the GOP convention was brilliantly executed. But that is a huge gamble -- as huge as Obama's bet that Americans have moved left. Right now, however, it looks too much like a contest between people with the wrong ideas against people without any.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2012; 2012gopconvention; barackobama; dnc2012convention; god; jerusalem; jimmycarter; liberal; mittromney; socialissues

1 posted on 09/07/2012 9:39:01 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
This is silly. Have you ever heard of the sports metaphor, "You add by subtracting?" One of the most important conservative ideas is you get government OUT of stuff, and that in itself is "an idea."

The fewer big programs and grand ambitions Mitt Romney has, the more I trust him. That means he's focused on getting rid of Obamacare and the debt/deficit. To me, that's a good start.

2 posted on 09/07/2012 9:44:07 AM PDT by LS ("Castles Made of Sand, Fall in the Sea . . . Eventually (Hendrix))
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To: LS

I agree, 100%.

3 posted on 09/07/2012 9:51:17 AM PDT by Lacey2
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To: LS

I thought Jonah Goldberg was net savy enough to use google to see that Romney plan for health insurance was to get the govt out of it and allow free markets to permit people to buy health coverage across statelines.

4 posted on 09/07/2012 9:56:50 AM PDT by Perdogg
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To: Kaslin
I would recommend David H. Donald's biography of Lincoln (head and shoulders over Godwin's btw) to an insight into Romney.

Per Donald, Lincoln seldom held a set course politically, rather he steered towards the next point on the horizon, much as a riverboat captain does. In this way he was constantly aware of the shoals that could bottom out his craft.

Romney is not ideologically driven. As much as we conservatives would like red meat from him, it's not going to happen. I think he has set beliefs and he will work w/i the confines of the existing political reality to bring a conclusion in as close to those beliefs as possible.

How else could he have governed in Mass?

Remember, when your opponent is busy shooting himself in the foot, nose and belly, it's important not to get in the way.

5 posted on 09/07/2012 10:01:42 AM PDT by Pietro
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To: Kaslin
Jonah is on to something!

Speaking of "competence," what about the "competence" of articulating the difference between individual freedom and oppression by big government?

America's founding ideas of liberty, if articulated competently, will strike a note in the hearts and minds of a population now looking for the "hope and change" which Obama and his cronies have not delivered, and cannot deliver using the tools of "redistribution."

We need leadership which sharply distinguishes why "redistribution" is an enslaving idea! We need leadership which allows no "moral equivalency" between the idea of "redistribution" and the founding idea of "freedom of individual enterprise" and respect for "private property rights."

The proponents of "redistribution" are selling an "idea" that is dooming future generations to slavery, and we're focusing on "jobs" and the "economy"?

Romney's focus should be broad enough to allow that Americans can understand that "jobs and a robust economy" are consequences of freedom and liberty.

"Jobs and a robust economy" will never result from a mindset and world view that allows some people to plan, order, choose winners and losers, give preferential treatment according to their limited understanding, and "redistribute" the earnings from the hard work of those they wish to govern.

"Ideas" are not hard. They just require focus. After all, THE FEDERALIST essays were written to explain the ideas of the American Constitution to farmers in upstate New York and across the states.

We're choosing between freedom and slavery to government, after all.

What's so difficult about this businessman's listing of seven principles for measuring legislation?

"1. Does this legislation or idea increase, or decrease, individual freedom and creativity?

"2. Does this legislation or idea increase, or decrease, the power of some citizens over other citizens?

"3. Does this legislation or idea recognize that the persons who will exercise the power are themselves imperfect human beings?

"4. Does this legislation or idea recognize that government is incapable of creating wealth?

"5. Does this legislation or idea authorize taking from some what belongs to them, and giving it to others to whom it does not belong?
If 'thou shalt not steal' is a valid commandment, can we assume that it is meant to apply only to individuals and not to government (which is made up of individuals), even if those persons in power pass laws which sanction such redistribution of the wealth of others?'

"6. Does this legislation or idea encourage, or discourage, the very highest level of morality and responsibility from the individual?
. . .when government makes actions 'legal' by some citizens at the expense of other citizens, the result may be behavior which would not be considered possible by individuals acting alone.

"7. Does this legislation or idea propose that the 'government' do something which the individual cannot do without committing a crime?"**

**7 principles drawn from James R. Evans book, "America's Choice: Twilight's Last Gleaming or Dawn's Early Light" and reprinted in a Stedman Corporation (Asheboro, NC) booklet entitled "I'm Only One, What Can I Do?"

6 posted on 09/07/2012 10:42:20 AM PDT by loveliberty2
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