Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Rich, Affluent, Young, Educated, and Suburban

These upscale voters, according to the astute Michael Barone, should be the special targets of the Republicans. That means going on the attack in those areas in which Obama and his Democrats would restrict individual choice and downplaying those areas in which the Republicans would do the same.

I think Michael is either wrong or exaggerates by viewing the fundamental American division in terms of age and class, instead of faith and family.

But here’s how I do agree: The Republicans do have to look smarter and cooler. The sagacious Jim Ceaser recently remarked that the Republicans haven’t had a presidential candidate who could ably produce unscripted answers to informal questions since Nixon. And Nixon, of course, wasn’t cool. Obama, of course, is good--if somewhat overrated in a weak league--at seeming smart and cool. Comparatively speaking, Obama is cool in two senses: He’s "with it" and usually seems calm and collected.

Some claim that Sarah Palin was chosen as a young and cool antidote to McCain. But, let’s face it, she’s not good at producing smart and cool answers to a variety of questions. Her lack of coolness may be to her credit in certain ways, but not to the young and the affluent (who are. of course, much dumber than they think) with their iPods, iPhones, and other iThings.

Getting the young back is more a matter of style than Barone thinks. Who do the Republicans have, I wonder?

Discussions - 11 Comments

I'll disagree with Barone in one other way. It is more important for the GOP to do better with nonwhites at every level of the income distribution. The weaknesses of the GOP with the young and with nonwhites are linked but not coextensive. As David Frum pointed out last year, the young are also the most nonwhite of all age groups and the GOP weakness among nonwhites skews the voting rates of the young into a heavily Democratic direction. Having said that, the GOP is also less popular with young whites as compared to older whites.

You are right that the GOP needs a candidate who seems...cool (there must be a better term for it but I can't think of one right now). It is worth remembering that while he was old, Reagan was cool (and dynamic, and "with it") as compared with Carter and Mondale.

Part of what makes the GOP seem so staid is that most of its leadership has been in D.C. since 1994, which might as well have been a hundred years ago. A second problem is that the reform issues that most of the D.C. GOP leadership are comfortable with belong to the past as far as most people are concerned. This was sadly clear in the 2008 GOP primaries when Giuliani and Tommy Thompson, who had been two of the most cuting edge, reformist politicians in the US in the 1990s, came across like lost old men. No one really wanted to hear about their crime fighting, tax cutting, welfare reforming records. They were both younger than Reagan was in 1980.

Who do the Republicans have? Well I don't think that Obama is going to want to debate Eric Cantor anytime soon. Paul Ryan always impresses me when I see him on tv. I really like Jindal alot. He can sure handle informal questions masterfully. My only worry is whether Jindal can do the broad thematic thing that is so important for a successful presidential campaign. Mike Huckabee has a better understanding of pop culture than almost any pol I've seen, but he is a train wreck when pressed on substance. Palin has to prove that she can appeal past her rural/exurban white base. Her two bad intervies aside, I worry less about her ability to handle substance. What struck me in her debate with Biden was that she was weak in substance in exactly those places (like healthcare) where the McCain campaign was itself disinterested. I do worry that she will have trouble relating to people who live in cities or those suburbs that think of themselves as urban. Not that she can't do it, just that she hasn't shown the ability to yet.

Maybe the biggest problems that Republicans have is that they lack an issue agenda that seems to speak clearly to the problems of the day, and they lack a political strategy that will bring new groups into their political coalition. The late 70s were a time when the GOP found a set of issues that they could win with, but they also were able to recruit new constituencies (working class Catholics and southern whites). The GOP needs to do a similar thing for the issues and population of 2009 America. If they don't, Republicans are going to seem uncool and out-of-touch no matter who their leader is.

So....conservatives need to come off as smarter to impress people who are dumber? Try coming off as honest. Scripted answers are just manipulation. The reason to have them is because you don't want to reveal secrets or you simply want to stay on point/propoganda. Just be honest, if you don't know something don't ramble on just say thats something you will have to look into. However, since that won't happen I look forward to laughing as the republicans emphasize the way in which the democrats limit choice while deemphasizing they ways they want to limit choice. There is no contradiction there, its a perfect way to get back the trust of the people. I really do hope that they try to look cool though, nothing is more ripe for comedy than republicans trying to look hip. The yuppies are sheep anyhow, winning their votes is a matter of simply bleeting louder and since you won't get control of the liberal media forget it.

Who do the Republicans have, I wonder?

Bobby J is an obvious answer. You should have heard him talk "cool" and "unscripted" to us locals after Katrina.

Of course, as a conservative I would like to see him cut loose from the forgone losing proposition of the Republican party and go national as an independent (or even better, be part of the beginning of a real conservative party). He will never be what all that he can be as a Republican...

If who can answer “unscripted answers to informal questions” is the issue I would claim President Obama failed miserably when an informal question was put to him by Joe the Plumber and Joe the Plumber was then attacked in return for asking too difficult an un-coached impromptu question. On the other side every “informal question” to Governor Palin was designed play gotcha with her and then all the power of media focused to demean her. So I don’t think President Obama has proved he is good at this to anyone but his cult members.

The answer lies in how to find a figure that looks “cool” and/or “has a “historical significance that rights a wrong” and then build a marketing propaganda strategy that can take advantage of the constituencies “professed needs and desires” so that they will vote for the created image and believe it is the real thing of course you will have to have the MSM on your team, a fair MSM and it is a wash situation almost a horse apiece.

Some truth to what St.Clair is saying. There is some confirmation bias in how answers to informal questions (especially bad answers) are reported in the media. A bad answer given by a Republican - Palin, Quayle, G.W. Bush) is repeated and made emblamatic of that person's nature. A similar mistake from a Democrat (the case of Obama and Joe the Plumber, or everytime Biden speaks off the cuff) is dismissed if it is reported at all. Conservatives are not immune from this.

I actually think that G.W. Bush was a better communicator than people are giving him credit for today. If he failed to communicate with the public in the last 2 years, it was more because the public had tuned him out after the 2004-2006 debacle in Iraq. Better speeches and smoother delivery were not going to help him after November 2006.

But Obama really is a smoother talker than Bush and Republicans really can hope for a nominee who is better at informal answers than Bush - even if Bush was not as bad as we sometimes remember.

Barone is over as a commentator, since left blog sites have been having a field day with his articles from 2004. He now rivals Kristol as being uniquely and irrevocably 'wrong about everything'. That is the problem with these dang web sites - they remember forever what you post, and so go line by line over Barone's stupid remarks and demonstrate that he is not worth listening to even for a minute. Bush a better communicator? Try looking at any speech prior to 2004. They will stand as sentinels for marionette-like manipulation for decades - they are truly awful. So too the excruciating tapes of his press conferences, such as those with Blair, where he corrected Bush's grammar and restated his tortured points.

"Big Hollywood" is a step in the right direction.

Big Hollywood is a step in the right direction but, more than talking about the popular culture (which amounts most of the time to whining about it), smart conservatives have to start becoming a part of the popular culture. This was harder to do in previous decades when access to the decision makers within it was closed off to most conservative messages. But on-line social networking and other tools are changing the way that information reaches people and, with that, the curiosity people have about things that are more uplifting and thoughtful than the vast majority of the drivel (see Peter's post on the "Christmas movies" below) will eventually drive consumers of entertainment and information to seek alternative sources in droves. I believe you will see more and more surprise hits of a more subtle flavor than the now traditional Hollywood trash. I think this is especially true in a Recession when people flock to quality. Who wants to pay $10 to go sit in a theater just to have propaganda flung at them or have their senses and sensibilities assaulted to no good or thoughtful purpose.

Moreover, I think the accepted idiom--that conservatives lag behind liberals in the arts because they are less in-tuned with or competent in or inclined toward the arts--is patently ridiculous. I also think that it is patently ridiculous to consider the arts as being on the vanguard of the culture. They only reflect the popular culture (artists who make this objection are correct)--but they nearly always do it through exaggeration (and sometimes wild exaggeration). All art is, to some extent, an exaggeration or an amplification of an observation. We've just gotten to a place where studio execs pander to rather than challenge the popular culture--first because they thought there was more money in pandering but, now, (since they take themselves too seriously) they do it because they know there are more accolades from their peers in it. We are, all of us, impossibly vain in the end. But when there is more and more effective de-centralization, I think you'll see some real strides away from that impulse. You'll see some really awful stuff that wouldn't even get by today's censors too . . . but I'm prepared to accept that in the trade, I think.

Some claim that Sarah Palin was chosen as a young and cool antidote to McCain. But, let’s face it, she’s not good at producing smart and cool answers to a variety of questions.

Compared to Uh bama, she's the very picture of smartness. When he's not reading from the teleprompter the man makes Bush seem articulate.

So too the excruciating tapes of his press conferences, such as those with Blair, where he corrected Bush's grammar and restated his tortured points.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

You did that on purpose, right?

One good sign that Republicans are waking up.

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