The shutdown/debt ceiling fight is just too depressing a subject to keep up a running commentary. It was an unwise fight, but the Republican establishment that is saying “I told you so” to the defunders is, in its own way, just as delusional as the people who thought the threat of a government shutdown would get Obama to agree to the virtual repeal of his main legislative accomplishment.
One thought I have is that while conservatives would be better off with better policy, better legislative strategy and better rhetoric, there is a large swath of America where it won’t matter because no message and no proposals will get a sympathetic hearing. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by right-of-center organizations every election cycle and yet tens of millions of Americans (disproportionately young) are completely passed by. It isn’t even that these people reject the message offered. They just never hear anything that makes enough sense to even reject. The thirty seconds ads they see during election time are in the jargon of politics that might as well be a foreign language.
They might be open to family tax policies that would increase their take home pay, market-oriented alternatives to Obamacare that offer secure access to health insurance with lower premiums, or restrictions on the destruction of (visibly human) late-term fetuses. They just never hear about how one of the political coalitions is for those policies and the other one is against them. Just knowing that such a set of policies exist would help people think differently about the cleavages in our politics. Some people who vote for the center-left coalition might decide they have been voting for the wrong side. Just getting those ideas out there to people who don’t consume much right-leaning media would make it easier for conservative politicians to talk about those issues.
This isn’t about getting people to vote for conservative candidates. It is about getting them ready to listen effectively to what a conservative candidate might have to say, and listen critically to what liberal candidates have to say. In the absence of context, it almost doesn’t matter how articulate a candidate is. If a debater has thirty seconds to talk about abortion, you just can’t introduce the idea that Obama voted against extending legal protections to newborns who survived botched abortions. It is true, but to a person who only knows Obama as the nice man on the television, it is too horrible to be believed when you only heard it one time from an opposing candidate. Young people have, by the time they are eighteen, heard hundreds (if not thousands, if not ten thousand) messages about the dangers of climate change. How many times have they heard about the benefits of Indiana’s HSA/catastrophic health insurance program? How much better off would we be if some of those tens and hundreds of millions spent making the rubble bounce during Republican primaries were spent taking the time to explain a few key issues to people who don’t consume much conservative media?