I think my main problem with this Arthur Brooks article is that it gets the emphasis backwards. The main Republican problem isn’t that they seem uncaring. More skilled campaigning would be nice, but better emoting about the plight of the poor with the same message of tax cuts for high earners isn’t going to help much. Romney was behind in the polls before his forty-seven percent crack. People with worries of their own will not be satisfied with stories about how the free market has lifted people out of poverty. People want specifics about how free market policies will make their lives better. Some answers would be nice. If you vote for us, then we will try to implement this, which will result in that. And no, I’m not talking about cutting Mitt Romney’s taxes to unleash job creators to build that.
And Republican activists have to be careful to avoid a kind of anti-policy orientation that masquerades as small government principle. We want small government so the government shouldn’t focus on policy areas A, B, and C. Well, the government is heavily involved in these areas and the state of public opinion is such that a full extrication is politically impossible and everybody knows it. So the answer for much of the center-right is to largely ignore these areas of policy until it is time to fight the next Democratic advance. This “small government” orientation becomes, in practice, a defense of a statist status quo and guarantees that liberals can’t lose (though they don’t always win.)
The Republicans aren’t going to get the votes of the most disorganized and troubled of the poor. Probably nobody is going to get their votes. I do think that a seeming lack of Republican interest in anybody except high earners hurts Republicans across the income distribution. The answer isn’t to learn to talk about entrepreneurs and capitalism differently. It is to focus on how their policies will directly impact people. Assemble those policies. Focus on them. All this trying to find just the right way to talk about entrepreneurs who built that to get people out of poverty so that people will wake up from socialism is a waste of time. Everybody already knows Republicans heart entrepreneurs. It is about the only thing they know about Republicans. Telling them more clearly is only accentuating the monomania.
The Romney team didn’t mess up a good plan with a few linguistic missteps. They did an okay job with a lousy plan. Get a better plan. Build that.