Republican New Ideas: Pretend not to be Conservative
By Ben Cohen: Oliver Willis posted a short but insightful piece on his blog over the weekend outlining the Republicans strategy for getting elected. Titled: ‘Conservatives Realize They Have To Lie About Conservatism To Be Elected’, Willis argued that the only way they can get into office is to basically be dishonest about their policies. He wrote:
The only way for conservatism to win a national election in America is for conservatives to pretend to be centrist or even liberal on several key issues. Being against the actual safety net, as conservatives are, is electoral suicide. Being a totalitarian against a woman’s right to choose, is key to yet another double-digit loss among women voters. On issue after issue, the conservative position is in the fringe.
A Republican presidential candidate will only succeed in the future if he does as Bush did: hide his conservatism or disguise it in progressivism. It speaks volumes about just how hollow your ideology truly is if it can’t stand up in the light, but must instead hide in the darkness like a cockroach.
I’ve made this argument before, that the current model of American conservatism is so extreme that the Republicans have had to create a multi million dollar industry around it in order to get the public to vote for them. Again and again Americans are polled as being to the Left of both parties when it comes to actual policies (most Americans believe in universal health care, the preservation of social security, more stringent tax policies for the rich etc) and the Republicans are now so out of whack that their candidates have no choice but to lie in public about what they believe in.
Mitt Romney had absolutely no problem doing an about turn when it came close to actual voting time – he shored up the Republican base with a lot of rhetoric about killing Muslims, curtailing women’s rights and giving everyone tax cuts, then pretended he didn’t say any of the above when debating President Obama face to face.
Luckily for most of the population, the tactic failed. After getting completely hammered, the Republicans are busy going through the process of redefining themselves. But when you look at the action behind the rhetoric, again, there are no tangible changes.
Bobby Jindal publicly rebuked Mitt Romney’s remarks about losing the election because Obama gave things to poor Hispanic women, telling Politico:
“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that….It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
Jindal’s new respect for intelligent dialogue is certainly welcome, and he’s actually doing quite a brave thing in confronting the crazies within his party. But to sustain real change, Republicans are going to have to change their ideas, not just their rhetoric. Jindal embraces the extreme economic ideology that is now central to Republican beliefs, and there’s no real sign outside of Bill Kristol’s meek suggestion that the rich pay a little more in tax that would suggest a new approach from the GOP.
In response to Kristol’s audacious suggestion, Mark Levin, a major figure in conservative circles, responded with the following rebuke:
Among the others who I think it’s time just to go someplace and talk among yourselves, would be Bill Kristol. I don’t know what he’s added to anything other than giving aid and comfort to Obama’s attack on capitalism and successful people.
Needless to say, not many Republicans are out there supporting Kristol on this one. And that’s why their new ideas will be to pretend not to be conservative – the same ones that saw them lose against Obama and will see them lose again in the future.