Dorothy Rabinowitz’s piece on the kind of Republican candidate who can win in 2012 is a must read for all of us who fear that a second term for President Obama’s policies would transform the country in ways that may be irreversible. Some of her advice may not sit well with movement types-at least, not at first glance:
From the Republican side comes an incessant barrage of doomsday messages and proclamations that the nation is imperiled by the greatest crisis in a generation-not, as we might have supposed, by our ongoing, desperate unemployment levels, but by spending on social programs. No sane person will deny the necessity of finding ways to cut the costs of these programs. But it’s impossible not to hear in the clamor for boldness-for massive cuts in entitlements-a distinctly fevered tone, and one with an unmistakable ideological tinge. Not the sort of pragmatism that inspires voter confidence.
Thinking about all this, a physician friend recalls a lesson that experienced doctors learn: A patient comes in with symptoms-is it angina? Will it lead to a heart attack? Patients whose doctors show deliberation and care in the choice of their treatment, he observes, tend to have increased faith both in the treatment and the doctor. That is a point of some relevance to politicians.
And here’s the part that may well be hardest to swallow:
The Republican who wants to win would avoid talk of the costs that our spendthrift ways, particularly benefits like Social Security, are supposedly heaping on future generations. He would especially avoid painting images of the pain Americans feel at burdening their children and grandchildren. This high-minded talk, rooted in fantasy, isn’t going to warm the hearts of voters of mature age-and they are legion-who feel no such pain. None. And they don’t like being told that they do, or that they should feel it, or that they’re stealing from the young. They’ve spent their working lives paying in to Social Security, their investment. Adjustments have to be made to the system, as they now know. Which makes it even more unlikely they’ll welcome handwringing about the plight of future generations.
Could I urge us to consider that Rabinowitz is merely telling GOP candidates a different way to talk about economic issues? She is not changing the agenda. She argues that Americans are more interested in their jobs and what they have in the bank than in the ideal of cutting big government. Big government, of course, contributes to unemployment and shrinking bank accounts. But here’s the discussion question: Is Rabinowitz’s suggested presentation more effective that talking about big government?
She further suggests making an issue of the Obama administration’s politicized Department of Justice and incoherent foreign policy. But beyond mere policy the Republican who can win will have a vision of our country that accords with ours:
The Republican who wins the presidency will have to have more than a command of the reasons the Obama administration must go. He will have to have a vision of this nation, and its place in the world, that voters recognize, that speaks to a sense of America they can see and take pride in. He can look at the film of the crowds, mostly of young people, who gathered at the White House to wave the flag of the United States when bin Laden was captured and killed. Faces of blacks, whites, Asians-of every ethnic group. …
After all the years of instruction, all the textbooks on U.S. rapacity and greed, all the college lectures on the evil and injustice the U.S. had supposedly visited on the world, something inside these young rose up to tell them they were Americans. That something lies in the hearts of Americans across the land and it is those hearts to which the candidate will have to speak.