Serious students of Lincoln's famous dictum above (and every serious student of American politics really ought to endeavor to be a serious student of that dictum) should pay special note to this offering from today's Wall Street Journal.
It encapsulates rather nicely the perceptual problems of both the Republican and the Democrat parties in the last two decades by examining their influence (or lack of influence) with Independents--the holy grail of all American elections. Today Independents are trending Republican without quite embracing them and, rightly, they're coming while carrying a bit of a grudge for the Republicans because of their demonstrated lack of concern with public sentiment. Yet, as I have pointed out before, Obama and the Democrats are in their particular pickle for precisely the same problem. Public sentiment did not support their ambitions and they moved forward with their ambitions anyway. Obama's arrogance is at least equal to Bush's--though, I suspect, it is more endemic. Bush and the Republicans of the last 15+ years appear to have misread public sentiment in more than one way, however. They tried to soft-sell their economic agenda--being far too willing to compromise--and hard-sell a foreign policy. It appears, now, that they should have employed exactly the reverse of that formula.
But an accurate reading of public sentiment is only step one in understanding American politics. For "he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions." Republicans have an opportunity, now, to go deep. Will they take it or remain blind to it?
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