The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Jonah Goldberg Is Wrong

Posted on | November 17, 2012 | 36 Comments

He has made his peace with “compassionate conservatism” with an argument that bespeaks intellectual fatigue:

The evolving demographics of the country, combined with the profound changes to both the culture and the economy, demanded that the GOP change both its sales pitch and its governing philosophy.
Compassionate conservatism increasingly faded from view after 9/11. Bush ran as a war president first and a compassionate conservative second (at best) in 2004. Still, it’s worth remembering that Bush won a staggering (for a Republican) 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Romney got 27 percent.
Moreover, according to exit polls, Romney decisively beat Obama on the questions of leadership, values, and economic expertise, but he was crushed by more than 60 points on the question of which candidate “cares about people like me.”
I still don’t like compassionate conservatism or its conception of the role of government. But given the election results, I have to acknowledge that Bush was more prescient than I appreciated at the time.

Exit polls, Jonah? You’re going to surrender to the Entitlement Culture on the basis of exit polls? If we have to start making arguments for limited government en Espanol, so be it, but first things first: Why did Romney lose the election?

Did Romney lose because of his policy positions? Or did Romney lose because the Obama campaign, with the eager assistance of what Andrew Breitbart called the Democrat-Media Complex, succeeded in portraying Romney as a stereotypical Clueless Republican?

That the Clueless Republican does not “care about people like me” is not really a matter of policy, but of perception, and a big part of that perception is about narrative arc.

People want many things in a presidential candidate, but one thing they pretty much require is that the candidate be able to tell a story about his life and career — who he is — in the context of how he intends to govern. The up-by-the-bootstraps biography of Ronald Reagan stood him in good stead throughout his political career which, in case you’ve forgotten, didn’t really begin until 1964 when Reagan was past 50.

Romney’s narrative arc didn’t work so well. Among the candidates for GOP nomination this year, only Herman Cain had the up-by-the-bootstraps Reaganesque biography. Of course, Rick Perry also came from humble origins, and Rick Santorum’s tales of his Italian immigrant father were inspirational, but both Perry and Santorum entered politics early in life which, generally, is a liability for a presidential candidate.

The “cares about me” question is a matter of perception, not policy, and is in large measure a proxy for “likeability,” which is a very superficial, instinctive reaction. George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” barely enabled him to defeat the unlikeable Al Gore and the equally unlikeable John Kerry. In 2012, in addition to having the Allstate Insurance man as their candidate, Democrats also trotted out the unctuously faux-empathetic Bill Clinton. The Republicans, by contrast, gave primetime convention spots to egotistical blubberbutt Chris Christie and the disgruntled ramblings of Clint Eastwood.

Given the manifold advantages of the Democrats in the past campaign — and incumbency is an advantage not to be underestimated — and the various specific shortcomings and failures of the Republicans, the GOP defeat is not really difficult to explain.

Furthermore, and quite importantly, the election was actually quite close: A margin of 3 percentage points (about 3 million out of 110 million cast) in the popular vote, with Romney competitive in all the key swing states. Romney lost Florida by only 70,000 votes out of 8.3 million and lost Ohio by about 100,000 out of 5.1 million. These are not landslide margins. This was not a “mandate” election for Obama, no matter what anybody tells you, and for Republicans to let themselves be spooked by exit polls or to propose a wholesale reorganization of their party because of a panic about “demographics” is absurd.

Like I said, Jonah, I blame your endorsement of “compassionate conservatism” on intellectual fatigue. You wrote that when you were tired and discouraged. So are we all tired and discouraged. So let’s rest up, recover our morale, and try to think calmly about the future.

Also, Jonah, you should adopt my rule: Never talk strategy in public.

It has become entirely too common, in the “Smartest Guy in the Room” competition among pundits (and would-be pundits) to proclaim strategic insights to the public, and it’s just stupid. This  is comparable to an NFL coach putting up a message on the Jumbotron screen: “We’re going to run a play-action pass.” Democrats can read the Internet, you know. Hell, they invented the Internet.

Finally, Jonah, I think Rush Limbaugh is closer to the mark in analyzing the root causes of the GOP’s problem:

The things that [younger people] just assume are true, like there is no doubt whatsoever that we are destroying the planet with global warming, no doubt. They can’t even conceive of what you and I both know to be the truth, and that is, the whole global warming thing is a hoax. They do not even think it’s a political issue. They do not realize that everything they believe in has been totally corrupted by politics. What they think is science is nothing more than corruption by the left, but they don’t know any better.

Global warming? Democrats invented that, too. Like “homophobia” and the “War on Women,” Republicans are losing young “skulls full of mush” because of phony issues manufactured by the Democrats, issues skillfully marketed by the Democrats’ leftist allies in academia, the news media and the entertainment industry.

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Comments

  • Taxpayer1234

    Yes, Jonah needs a vacation. Excellent post.

  • http://twitter.com/AyZee3 Ay Zee

    Romney lost because he was practically a liberal. He had nothing to offer the genuine conservative. The man invented Obamacare, and his record on guns while governor of Massachusetts was abysmal. Romney couldn’t fire up the base, and he lost because of it.

    We needed someone whose only qualification was that he wasn’t Barack Obama.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatChristyChic Christy Waters

    “Compassionate Conservatism” is a false notion, and one that the GOP should have rejected from it’s inception. It implies that conservatism is cold and harsh, when nothing could be further from the truth. There is no greater form of compassion than a governing philosophy that respects human dignity enough to get the government out of the way of the citizenry so they can be free enough to provide for themselves, and chart their own course.

    Liberal “compassion” supplies taxpayer-funded needles to drug addicts, or shopping carts to the homeless. Dependence is a form of slavery, but libs successfully won the election by selling the snake oil of dependence as compassion. Conservatism must be marketed in a bold and sensible way, and there must be a strong push back against those in the establishment and the media who try paint conservatism as evil.

  • WAKE UP

    Ya know what?? I’m FED UP, with both very ignorant sides of this conversation!!! You are WRONG, too!!! Because, MITT WON!!! If not for FRAUD, OBAMA – HACKER SQUAD, [who not only came from Twtr, FB, and Google, but, screwed our tech and marketing from the INSIDE, of those same social sites!! Gibbs works at FB too!!! Schmidt manipulates Google search!! You think they didnt control the marketing algorithms?? Bullshit!! They didnt defeat Mitt honestly.. they hacked him. up one side and DOWN the other!!! Plus, RACECARD!! ADD ILLEGAL AND DEAD VOTE, WHITES and CONSERVATIVE BLACKS Getting threatened!!!! at home, their jobs ect. On a daily basis!!! a FULL year before this election!!! Black on white crime, escalated!!! for FEAR FACTOR TOO!! Then, conveniently, Mahers threat!! WHY are any of you falling for Obamas bullshit SALES PITCH??? LETS LOOK AT THE FACTS HERE!!! He wants to trick the public, AND REPUBS!! to believe his, Why he won- narrative, to MANIPULATE future elections, with THOSE SOCIALISTS policies!!! Its a LIE. Get out of DENIAL!!

  • Eric Dondero

    Jonah is right in identifying the problem, but wrong on the solution. Yes, the electorate is now fully socialist, completely slothful moochers with their hands out for every government program that comes dow the pike. Solution is: We libertarians and conservatives separate ourselves from the moocher class. Di-vorce, De-friend and De-employ all the Democrats in your lives.
    Mitt Romney was a superior candidate. Best I’ve seen of any Republican in my lifetime. He ran a nearly flawless campaign. If we can’t win with him, we ain’t never gonna win. Sorry boys and girls. Just a fact of life.
    What are our options then? Secession, of course. But that takes too much time. I say we have a personal and business life sort of secession. Let’s just break away from blue state voters. Stop employing them. Stop buying products from blue states. Stop giving Obama-voting states your tourist dollars.
    And whatever you do DO NOT ATTEND THANKSGIVING DINNER IF ANY DEMOCRAT RELATIVES WILL BE THERE.

  • Dai Alanye

    Stacy is way more righter than Jonah, but tends to get involved in smaller issues, such as who said what at the convention. (Eastwood was very helpful, BTW.)

    We need to remember these facts: The majority of voters are ignorant of policies and platform issues, don’t show much interest in the election until late in the game, and vote largely with their emotions. Many of them respond to the message so often expressed in slightly different words, “Don’t bother to educate yourself–the only important thing is that you do your civic duty and vote for any clown who meets your fancy.”

    I’ve said it before and I intend to keep saying it until all agree with me: Presidential elections are mainly determined by two factors: The overall or major narrative of the campaign, and who appears to be the stronger leader.

    The controlling narrative of this campaign was that Dubya had so screwed-up the economy that four years of intense striving by Obama was too little time to completely correct matters. The Dems and the media relentlessly sold this idea, assisted by many libertarians and more than a few Republicans.

    A candidate as strong as Reagan could have overcome this, but Romney simply did not have an aura of strength about him, nor did we have anyone else much better, although Santorum would have at least attacked like a bloodthirsty berserker.

    You can go through every election since 1948 to test my hypothesis. Although Dewey was on track to win, he “looks like the little man on the wedding cake,” and failed to effectively respond to Truman’s last-minute offensive. Strength [the appearance thereof] won. In 1992 the incumbent looked as though he didn’t enjoy himself while debating, and had flip-flopped on taxes and missed the opportunity to take Baghdad. Strength (yes, Clinton!) won.

    In 1964 the narrative was, “Goldwater is a madman!” In 1972 it was, “McGovern is a radical fool!” Narrative in both cases.

    In 2000 Dubya gradually transformed himself into the stronger candidate, in part because he didn’t hire a feminist to tell him how to dress like an alpha male. Then the DUI story came out, and his response was weak. He should have boasted of his wild youth rather than been apologetic about it. Within a week or two he went from five% ahead to one% behind.

    Every campaign can be explained in this way, regardless of all the smaller issues that affect them.

  • Dai Alanye

    Dondero has written a really funny post, jam-packed with humorous irony.

    The most laughable line is this: “Mitt Romney was a superior candidate. Best I’ve seen of any Republican in my lifetime.” I’m tellin’ ya, I almost fell out of my chair with guffaws.

  • jsn2

    …all that plus the Dems will lie, cheat, steal, threaten, bribe and sell their mothers to win. Repubs are to timid to even think about doing what, to the Dems is second nature.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Anyone who needed “firing up” to turn out against Obama isn’t part of our “base.” It’s the marginal voters who were discouraged and didn’t show up.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    The Bush DUI story came out the Friday night before the election.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Deep analysis is wrong because it is over-complicated.

    As long as low-information Democratic voters will show up and cast a ballot, no Republican will win. Early voting is a huge part of the problem. Not only is it ripe for fraud, but it allows the Democratic GOTV effort a force multiplication: instead of having to get out as many of these slothful voters in a 12 hour window, they have 30 days in some states.

    We cannot persuade these people to vote for us. They are too stupid and superficial.

    We either have to do the same thing with the dummies on our side who need to be led by the dog collar to the polls, or fight against early voting.

    It’s not about philosophy at all. Ask your dog.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Deep analysis is wrong because it is over-complicated.

    As long as low-information Democratic voters will show up and cast a ballot, no Republican will win. Early voting is a huge part of the problem. Not only is it ripe for fraud, but it allows the Democratic GOTV effort a force multiplication: instead of having to get out as many of these slothful voters in a 12 hour window, they have 30 days in some states.

    We cannot persuade these people to vote for us. They are too stupid and superficial.

    We either have to do the same thing with the dummies on our side who need to be led by the dog collar to the polls, or fight against early voting.

    It’s not about philosophy at all. Ask your dog.

  • gerardv

    Goldberg is a drooling fat fartbloomer and has been since before the Derbyshire debacle. Just dump him and his rag down the sewerpipe of history and be done with it.

  • Cube

    ^^THIS!^^ Romney certainly fired up the base in SW Ohio before the election and I read similar stories in other parts of the country. People just don’t stand in line for hours in the cold or rain to see a politician unless they’re enthusiastic about him/her and expect to win. I still don’t see how the energy for Romney didn’t translate into a big win at the ballot box.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Exactly. Anyone claiming to be a conservative who stayed home is not fooling anyone.

  • Cube

    As long as feeeellinggs trump facts and logic, conservatives are going to have a hard time electorally. We need to stop trying to be “liked” and tell people what they really NEED to hear, regardless of their feelings. Things like “Math – the compound interest equation means the national debt will be unpayable unless we immediately cut the budget and reform entitlements. These things need to happen regardless of how you feeelll about them. No amount of demonizing, protests, votes or judicial decisions can change the laws of economics.” It won’t be popular, at least at first but when everyone reaps the reward of prosperity….

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Very well put.
    Those people who developed ‘Compassionate Conservative’(tm) should have been discreditied from the beginning by the fact that the term itself bespoke an acceptance of the Leftist Narrative.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Can I attend if there are any known swingers at the dinner???

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    One of the necessary steps would be to repeal Moter/Voter, but there’s not a chance of that even being brought up at all as long as Boehner and his team remain in power.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Would you dump Mark Steyn, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Walsh, and Stanley Kurtz, too?

  • MrPaulRevere

    RD Brewer sums it up nicely here: President Reagan’s Greatest Mistake http://ace.mu.nu/archives/335016.php

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    You might be confusing candidacy with party strategy and the person selected to win the nomination. Romney ran a nearly gaffe-proof campaign, cranking out many excellent ads, and hitting back against Obama hard, every single day, up until the last three weeks. Despite my distaste for him as the nominee instead of a conservative, I had to admit he ran an excellent campaign.

    The problem was the party strategists deciding to go “presidential” instead of going for the win, no matter how ugly. Obama went pure ugly and stole a victory, with a little help from a bloated Republican governor and a storm, and election fraud in many places.

    No, Romney was an excellent candidate, he was just not the right man for the job. There is a difference.

  • dave kenny

    leave the wishy washy brigade behind
    What everyone appreciates is truth
    When are pols going to start pushing that?
    Romney lost for many reasons, not least fraud
    He made a mistake in thinking it’s only about money
    It is but money needs moral support
    No one likes to think of themselves as “just money” people
    Palin West Cruz Pence Rubio(not for COC) Jindal
    A group that could start the turnaround if old white men in DC
    don’t get in the way
    The country club republician deserves to die as they don’t deal in truth

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Compassionate Conservative is just a funny way to spell Progressive.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    We had reports throughout the day of record (or at least “huge”) turnout of Republican voters.

    Erasure is what happened.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    I am a fan of Jonah, but he is flat out wrong.

    It is a misnomer. Many conservatives are compassionate. But I heard David Brooks on with E.J. Dionne on NPR the other day (Do you think Brooks gently masterbates Dionne each week during that radio show? But I digress…). And he was going on and on how Mitt Romney gave gift to Republicans by talking about “gifts” and how many realize it is the role of government to give a helping hand to the poor and needy so they can achieve…

    How far we have fallen when this drivel is coming from so called “conservatives.” Dionne then went to quote Frum as a conservative voice battling lunatics (oh wait, that would be most of us).

    Government (at least on the federal level) should be very limited.

    Government can be more flexible on the state and local level. I do not think that is generally a good idea (with some exceptions), but it is up to local voters. You want to talk about helping the poor, talk about it there. At least it is under local control and is bound by reason because State and Local governments cannot spend without restraint (like a federal government that prints fiat money can).

  • Quartermaster

    I went round and round with Goldberg about 2002. He was a “tar baby.” At the time he was making a fool of himself with the Paleos and he was too stupid to realize it. Paul Gottfried humiliated him, but Goldberg simply didn’t know when to leave the field to his betters. He wouldn’t leave me alone either after I warned him about what he was doing to himself.

    I quit responding and I got emails from for the next 2 weeks after I quit. When I get the idea that he might have grown up a bit, he does something like this to relieve me of the notion. The man is an idiot that has obtained fame far beyond his meager abilities.

  • Quartermaster

    They would land on another perch. NR, however, is edited by a coward. Do remember, Rich Lowery is a coward a,d NRO birthed the idiotic Goldberg who has attained fame and recognition far beyond his meager abilities.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • Pingback: It’s Not Romney’s Fault Our Population Has Been Infantilized | The Lonely Conservative

  • Dai Alanye

    Not my recollection, though it might have been Friday that Dubya made his mea culpa.

    At any rate, the question is who it affected, why, and how much. That Bush was five percent ahead in polls before the story, and one percent behind after the election is fact. The original analysis was that the story affected evangelicals–I suggest it affected more that that segment. Again, the original analysis was that the “moral” angle was what hurt him, while I suggest it was not merely that but the weakness of his response.

  • Tennwriter

    I voted Constitution Party. Ya’ll know, or should know that you’re spouting bs.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Or ‘Squish’ or ‘Useful Idiot’.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Congratulations. You helped end the Constitution by voting for a Constitution party.

    Want to see BS? Take a good look in a mirror.

  • Wombat_socho

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Lowry may be a squish, but Goldberg isn’t a bad writer. Let’s not confuse “intelligence” with “agreeing with us”.