The Other McCain

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

Ideology, Personalities and Competence

Posted on | December 4, 2012 | 29 Comments

Last week, I was a guest on “The Rebecca Diserio Show,” and Becca Lower has been kind enough to transcribe the first half of the interview here. We were talking about Saxby Chambliss and I compared it to the situation with Charlie Crist in 2009-2010:

Now, I’m all in favor of electing a Republican majority in the Senate. But the idea that the way to do that is to abandon principles, to muddle the difference between Republicans and Democrats on key issues. Well . . . if that worked out so well in the past, you might think of, I don’t know, the administration of President Dole, you know… It just doesn’t work as practical politics. Never mind that it represents a cowardly abandonment of firm principle.
The problem is, if you go back to 1964, the simple title of Phyllis Schafly’s book: A Choice, Not an Echo. You have to offer the voters an alternative to the party in power, or else the opposition has no reason to exist.

The idea that it’s “smart” to be moderate ignores this basic reality of politics. Successful opposition politics is about highlighting the failures of the party in power and offering a principled alternative. It’s not so much about individual politicians as it is about building a movement.

One of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard about politics was from Stephen Gordon, who worked on the 2008 Ron Paul campaign. Gordo said, “The Ron Paul movement wasn’t about Ron Paul, it was about a movement.” When the Tea Party movement was at full strength, it was like that: People didn’t care so much about candidates or personalities as they cared about the movement itself. But after 2010, the presidential campaign got a lot of people distracted by personalities, and the Tea Party energy was dissipated as a result. Something else from the interview:

Rebecca, a basic problem, something that we saw in the aftermath of this election. You remember the meltdown of the ORCA system, correct? . . . Well, what we learned in the wake of this was that the people who had been put in charge of this basic, very important too l– technological tool – to get out the vote and to report get out the vote efforts, they didn’t understand the technology they were using.
Okay, this was just shocking. It was incompetence. And we have a problem, that people in the Republican party whose job it is to talk about the media don’t know anything about the media. You hear people talking about demographics who don’t know anything about demographics. And you have people talking about culture who don’t know anything about culture.

The Republican Party has a shortage of basic competence. There is too much cliqueishness, too much Old Boy-ism, where who you know is more important than what you know, and the catastrophic failure of ORCA was the tip of the iceberg in that regard.

Some people have tried to isolate this to the Romney campaign, to say that Romney and his aides were uniquely unqualified, but the fact is, they were much more competent than any of their rivals for the GOP nomination and, overall, ran a pretty good campaign. The fact that Republican Senate candidates generally fared worse than Romney argues against the “blame Romney” excuse. The GOP’s problems are a lot more pervasive and complex than just one candidate or campaign.

Read the rest of the interview at Becca Lower’s blog, and you can listen to the audio here:

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29 Responses to “Ideology, Personalities and Competence”

  1. Adobe_Walls
    December 4th, 2012 @ 10:20 am

    At Heritage’s score card site Chambliss rates only 72% Rep Price who’s name was floated by someone last week only gets a 78% rating. Any elected Rep or Senator below 95% might just as well be Hank Johnson.

  2. Rob Crawford
    December 4th, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    “The Ron Paul movement wasn’t about Ron Paul, it was about a movement.”

    They missed the word “bowel” near the end of that sentence.

  3. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    December 4th, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    Ashley Judd just said she is thinking about running for Mitch McConnell’s seat.

  4. Dianna Deeley
    December 4th, 2012 @ 10:29 am

    You said what I’ve suspected for a long time, now. Fixing it, though, is the hard part.

  5. DaveO
    December 4th, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    The talent pool available (and soon to grow exponentially) to the GOP and the TEA Party in the DC area alone is incredibly vast. The expertise in media relations, intelligence, communications and security and forensics – almost unmatchable by the rest of the US or the world.
    But – these are hard-working, bill-paying men and women who went to State U, or Strayer or Phoenix or trade school (aka the Army). Because they can destroy AND build nations from the ground up, they are not good enough for the closed circuit that is the GOP HR department.

  6. rosalie
    December 4th, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    We don’t have anyone who’s really fighting for us. Boehner’s a joke. I only wish we’d have someone like Palin in his place.

  7. richard mcenroe
    December 4th, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    Yes, but those people are not inside and the ones inside are only concerned with keeping them out so the Democrats will allow them their sinecures as a fig leaf.

    Think Vichy France

  8. AngelaTC
    December 4th, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    With all due respect, Stact – Ron Paul repeatedly said that it wasn’t about him – it was about his message. I was thrilled when I thought that the TEA Party was finally “getting” it, only to see them dutifully line up behind candidates with voting records that were nothing like their rhetoric. I see that happening again with Rubio, too.

    As for Chambliss, there’s a movement to draft Congressman Paul Broun to primary him. You know what do to.

  9. AngelaTC
    December 4th, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    Boehner thanks you for your support.

  10. DaveO
    December 4th, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    Was talking about the GOP and the TEA Party – they are the one guarding the gate, not the Dems.

  11. Thane_Eichenauer
    December 4th, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    I am sure Harry Reid also sends a silent but heartfelt thank you.

  12. Thane_Eichenauer
    December 4th, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    I would love to listen to an interview of RSM (on my computer) every Monday. Are there enough cool podcast hosts out there for that to happen? I realize there may be enough conservative radio hosts but radio is so last century.

  13. Adjoran
    December 4th, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    What decent and qualified person would want to get into politics today? Sarah Palin saw her children attacked. Squeaky-clean humanitarian philanthropist Romney was accused of abusing his dog, hating women, maliciously shipping jobs to China, and giving a woman cancer.

    What sane person would take a 90% cut in pay to put up with that crap?

    Nobody is keeping these people out of politics. They just have too much common sense to get in.

  14. Adjoran
    December 4th, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

    Love Phyllis Schafly. But remember that when America got A Choice, Not An Echo, it rebuked conservatives by over 22% in the popular vote, and Goldwater won only 52 EC votes. Yes, Reagan won twice. No other movement conservative could even come close to winning the nomination.

    I just wish all these Sooper Geniuses would quit their kvetching about the GOP and start their own party and show us how it’s done.

    Heh. As if. Henry Fielding had it about right nearly 250 years ago: “Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them to be men of much greater profundity than they really are.”

  15. richard mcenroe
    December 4th, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

    The Tea Party is guarding the gate? This should be good. Okay. WTF?

  16. Adobe_Walls
    December 4th, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    Broun or Tom Graves would be good choices

  17. K-Bob
    December 4th, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

    This is all good info that the Republicans need to hear.

    But one caution I have is this tendency for too many people to be so wowed by “technology” that they think the dems are “using technology better.”

    On the one hand, at least the Dems have a lot of folks who like pushing everything into the leading technologies; the Republicans are way behind on that score. Sure. Fine.

    On the other hand, this involves a huge amount of flim-flammery. Twitter is just another place people communicate. So is facebook. So is email. It’s all basically the same thing: outreach.

    Conservatives send out emails that involve reason. They try to tell people about the immutable facts of the problems of spending money you don’t have, or requiring things that cost more than they are worth. It’s an intellectual appeal.

    Leftists send out Tweets/Facebook Thingies, and emails that use every sophist trick in the book to scare the hell out of people. Stuff like, “Conservatives want to put women in baby jails and hate black people. Everyone knows that.”

    THATS why the “technology” works. Not because it’s some newfangled way to communicate. Too many people buy off on the fearmongering lies of the left, and refuse to listen to the facts and logic of the right. And too few people on the right care about pushing back in ways that score points. They think they are trying to win a debate or a trial, but the audience and judges treat the whole thing like celebrity bowling or some bizarre Japanese TV-inspired game show, and the coolest outfits and most obnoxious a-holes win every time.

    So it isn’t Twitter that’s gonna save the Republicans. It’s people like Andrew Breitbart, Ace, Gutfeld, Stacy, and others who can hit back hard that’s been missing. But those guys aren’t on the campaign trail, or running campaigns. So get used to losing.

  18. K-Bob
    December 4th, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

    Why are you so anxious to see a third party started?

    This is the second or third time you’ve tried telling folks to go start their own party, rather than FIX THE ONE THAT IS DOING SO FABULOUSLY. What, is failure getting good or something?

  19. Dai Alanye
    December 4th, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    What beat Goldwater was the Kennedy assassination, although Rockefeller Republicans did their best to help. In addition, Goldwater’s heart wasn’t in the campaign, and it showed in certain respects.

    The result was by no means a repudiation of conservative principles. HOWEVER… it is always necessary to package the conservative message simply and clearly so that the muddled middle can easily understand it. In November the prominent message was, “Barack’s doing his best to overcome the horrible Bush-caused recession.” Romney and the Repubs failed to effectively counter this by showing that Obama had made the problem far worse.

  20. Finrod Felagund
    December 4th, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

    If Tom Price only gets 78% that says more about the scoring system than it does Tom Price.

  21. Thane_Eichenauer
    December 4th, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

    Party or movement, is there much difference. The Tea Party is a movement that is called a party and manages fine in any case. There are plenty of Ron Paul supporters who might reasonably claim that the Republican Party is broken beyond fixing. Given the political and judicial IEDs that both the Republican and Democratic parties plant to prevent third parties from even appearing on the ballot I have a hard time finding much sympathy for those who seek to reform the Republican party.

  22. K-Bob
    December 5th, 2012 @ 12:18 am

    Oh, I’m not sure they can be reformed either. Adj seems to be firmly in the “it can’t possibly work” camp on third parties. Everyone who says that is right, of course.

    Until they are wrong. And eventually they will be wrong. Hopefully I’ll live to see it.

  23. Adobe_Walls
    December 5th, 2012 @ 6:06 am

    It says alot about the difference between Heritage’s system and say ACU. For one thing they measure position taken not just votes they also measure votes on legislation that didn’t get to the floor.

  24. Bob Belvedere
    December 5th, 2012 @ 8:01 am

    Some things cannot be fixed and the GOP is one of them. Too many entrenched forces that can withstand a long siege as the country burns.

  25. Bob Belvedere
    December 5th, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    Adj needs to use my Time Travel machine and tell that to the Republicans in the mid-1850’s.

  26. Bob Belvedere
    December 5th, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    This was a bar fight and, as anyone with any experience knows, you never pull your punches in a bar fight.

  27. Bob Belvedere
    December 5th, 2012 @ 8:07 am


  28. robertstacymccain
    December 5th, 2012 @ 9:50 am

    It’s the Who-You-Know factor in action: The system favors (understandably so) experienced operatives who begin working for the Republican Party while they are still in college and who thus, by the time they are 25, have already worked on three or four campaigns. The networking effects — having former co-workers to recommend you for the next job — ensure that these precocious operatives who begin their political careers as College Republicans will enjoy lifelong advantages in comparison to (perhaps equally knowledgeable and competent) people who pursue “normal” lives and become politically active at later ages.
    This factor is actually visible at times: The grassroots support for a presidential candidate is usually composed of ordinary middle-aged people who began organizing more or less spontaneously at the local level. Then, when the candidate decided to visit the community — and you saw this during the primary campaign, especially in the early states — the candidate’s national staff would ignore input and feedback from the local grassroots. There is an often a disdainful attitude among the national campaign staff, “What do these local yokels know?”
    Go talk to Herman Cain’s early Iowa supporters, for example. Many of them were deeply embittered after getting the back of the hand from Cain’s staff.

  29. Red Dawn
    December 21st, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    Defending the Constitution is priority one. We have the Constitution.

    The liberals, socialists, and marxists have nothing but their animal instincts and primitive impulses.

    We have staked out our territory, we must defend it.