I take the conservative despair at Obama’s reelection as being mostly a good thing. Last week’s butt kicking was a long time coming and a major policy and rhetorical rethink is in order. The good news is that it happening.
I’m not sure that I agree with everything last thing said by any particular person at this AEI forum, but they are thinking and everybody should see it. It is the most heartening thing I’ve seen in years and it looks like a critical mass of the right-leaning political elites get it. Maybe the most powerful moment in the whole talk was when a questioner in the audience said that she saw both party conventions and that Bill Clinton was the only person to speak to the electorate as “reasoning adults.” From looking at the movement of the RCP Obama job approval rating, it would seem that a measurable and possibly crucial fraction of the electorate agreed with that lady.
Ramesh Ponnuru argues that the Republican Party is institutionally weak and that this weakness is hurting both “conservative” and “moderate” Republicans. That sounds right to me. A lot of people talk about how that vain fool in Missouri threw away a Senate seat (first by a weird statement, then -even more inexcusably – by refusing to step aside.) But Akin has been getting a little too much attention. Look at Scott Brown. He was a lot more “moderate” and worlds more likeable than Akin. Brown’s ads focused on how “bipartisan” he was and how he was able to get people in Washington to work together. What Brown was missing was any sense of what Washington bipartisans should actually be doing. I think this is only partly Brown’s fault. He didn’t have an attractive middle-class and working-class-oriented agenda and neither did Akin and neither did Romney. The good news is that there are several agendas worth of policy proposals out there. We might even have a Republican Party that is more ready to hear about family-friendly tax reform instead of its relentless focus on cutting taxes for high earners in ways that vary from the unlikely-but-just-barely-possible (Romney) to the completely insane (Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty.)
And as the Republicans get their policy act together, Kevin Feasel has some ideas about how to get their message out:
Get the money that otherwise would be wasted on political consultants and spend it on actual education: 5-minute tutorials, 2-minute TV advertisements, 60-minute lectures, 3-day seminars for students. Lay out the conservative message as it is: complex, multi-faceted, and incomplete. Explain it in terms that somebody who has never heard a conservative idea in his life could understand. The hundreds of millions of dollars conservatives and Republicans spent in advertisement during this campaign were, in large part, a major waste. You can’t explain Washington’s structural problems in a 30-second ad, and you can’t expect somebody who gets all of his news from Jon Stewart to understand the ongoing problems with our welfare programs, or why 99 months of unemployment insurance means that more people will be unemployed for 99 months.