Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blame Romney?

The Republican Party has been good at setting narratives, some uplifting, some not. The last four years have been deeply negative because that is where the Party is headed, but also because they don't hold the presidency. Hence the unceasing narrative, successfully planted in the minds of many, that Barack Obama is not one of us; he's foreign, ineligible, out of touch, neo-colonial, Marxist, Muslim. The drumbeat never ends because Republicans understand their base and how it is motivated by fear and uncertainty, and they understand better than Dems that winning elections is about telling emotional stories.

The current presidential race has all of the standard Republican boilerplate, but we have  seen many Republicans stray off message in recent years, to put it mildly. One has to wonder why deeply conservative candidates believe attacking women, social security, medicare, Hispanics, teachers, a struggling working class, and more, could be a winning campaign strategy. Attacking everyone who is not like you is not a recommended approach to expanding the voter base. 

And now Mitt Romney, goaded by teabaggers everywhere, has taken the face of 21st century Republicanism much further to the right. It is hard to believe this is the same party that brought us fiery fighter Teddy Roosevelt, calm and fair Dwight Eisenhower,  and bland but sensible Gerald Ford. Even Dick Nixon looks positively moderate by comparison. Romney had an opportunity to bring sense to his party and denounce the worst and most radical elements, but for probably personal reasons, he has chosen to pander to them instead.

And now he appears trapped by their ideology. Weeks before the general election, it is obvious that Romney, and many other downticket candidates, not only have espoused unpopular and destructive policies, which are obvious to many of us, but that he has run a poor campaign, which is obvious to almost everyone. And it has come at a time in the election cycle when far more people are paying attention. To be sure, many Republicans warned long ago that Romney was not their guy. And now that it is too late, it has become obvious to many party bigwigs that Romney was a weak choice.

However, it is precisely Romney's weaknesses that are giving Republicans a new narrative to invent. The angle being developed is that if Obama is reelected, it will be Romney's fault; he is, after all, a weak campaigner. It is only Sept 30, and a Romney defeat is still far from certain, so manufacturing excuses in advance does not look like a winning strategy.

And yet we can see a subtle whisper campaign starting to build. The Republicans, they tell us, could have, should have, won the presidency, if only they had had a candidate who knew how to campaign. Republicans are now assuring themselves they have the right policies, the right prescriptions, the right everything; it's just that Romney put up a weak campaign. Who knew?

And Obama? Because he is all those terrible things Republicans say he is, there is no way he should be winning this thing. It is, you see, just more proof that Romney was a weak candidate. If you buy into right-wing critiques of Obama, then voters should have flocked to Romney. This was the expectation, even from Romney himself. Few are willing to admit they massively misconstrued the electorate.

If Romney loses, especially if he continues to offend voters, he will be crucified by his party. He was never especially popular anyway. He won the nomination because he was able to pander to the right, and because the other Republican candidates were even weaker and more risible than he. The election is weeks away and Republicans have to convince voters that it is not the Republican brand that is to blame, just that one guy at the top of the ticket. And if he does in fact lose, it is only because he was a crappy campaigner.

What other reasons could there be?

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