I’ve made no secret of the things I’ve learned and the things I’ve come to realize about the defects with our side right now. We offer nothing that anyone except a few purists could care about. We offer nothing to assure people that they will have jobs in the future, much less better jobs. We offer nothing to protect homeowners, to make investments less of a rigged game, to help people send their kids to school, to ensure people’s retirement, to ensure people’s health or safety, or to protection people’s privacy or civil rights. And the public knows this. They see that we don’t offer any of these things.
You would think that someone whose job it is to analyze our political system, our parties, and our electorate would recognize this huge glaring defect staring us in the face. Yet, our pundits don’t. Everywhere I look, our pundits are jerking themselves off over Benghazi or whatever tactical advantage they think the Republicans have over “sequestration”. . . a term not one in 100 Americans has even heard. They still think there’s an “advantage” to be gained by forcing the Democrats to pass a budget. . . an issue the public again doesn’t care about in the least. Or they think Reid’s fake attack on senate procedures matters to people. Whatever.
The problem here is that every one of these people is too “inside baseball.” They live in a private club and they don’t realize that the public doesn’t care about their club. Think of it this way. Every year industries like the marketing industry and Hollywood hand out all kinds of technical achievement awards for things that excite all the experts but which the public never notices. It’s the same thing here. The public does not care about process or about achievement or about gamesmanship. . . they only care about the big picture and results. Our pundits don’t seem to get that anymore because they’ve been in the club so long they mistake the club for America. It’s not.
That brings me to Michael Barone and, by extension, Eric Cantor.
On Thursday, Cantor gave a big speech that was supposed to lay out the new and improved vision for the Republican party. This was supposed to be the unveiling of the new consumer-friendly strategy. . . the grand opening of the NEW GOP to win the people back.
That sound of crickets you hear is coming from the public.
The sound of gushing you hear is coming from the insiders.
That’s the problem.
Michael Barone wrote about the speech in rather glowing terms. First, he wastes the first half of his article by talking about the fiscal cliff being an “insider’s game” but then wrongly arguing that the sequestration issue will be different. See, this time the Republicans have the upper hand because they can stomach the cuts and Obama can’t.
Oy. That’s just wrong. That again mistakes the inside baseball stuff for the public. First, the fiscal cliff was only an insider’s game to the extent of the potential Republican victory. In other words, what the Republicans were trying could at best score points with people who are part of the club -- the public couldn’t care less. BUT, the risk of playing that game was that the Republicans would be seen by the public as harming the country to score political points. Those are stupid odds to accept... heads you win a token victory, tales you lose big. Secondly, sequestration IS the fiscal cliff all over again, and Barone should see this. The best the Republicans can achieve if somehow everything goes right is some meaningless insider-victory. Nothing they can achieve will mean anything to the public. Yet, the cost will be that the public will see the Republicans as irresponsible obstructionists who want to stop military pay, let doctors go unpaid and kill old people. Barone would see this if he wasn’t so tightly wrapped up in this insider bubble.
Barone then finally addresses Cantor’s speech and he gushes (as least for Barone) over the speech because this introduces the Republican’s “outsider game,” i.e. their plan to talk to the unwashed public. What made him so happy?
(1) First, Cantor spoke “not of educational block grants, but of having federal education [dollars] ‘follow children’ to schools their parents choose.” Then he noted that Cantor talked about some specific members of the prole class who this would help.Barone then smiles and tells us that he’s not sure how effective this will be, but he’s glad the Republicans are trying.
(2) He brought a 12-year old girl who needed treatment for cancer “to illustrate Republican support for funding basic medical research.”
(3) He then brought some Chinese grad student who is here on a visa and he endorsed the Dream Act and “citizenship for illegal immigrants brought here as children.”
Shoot me now.
Dragging kids to speeches is cute, but the public wants solutions. . . not photo-ops. So praising the photo-op is more insider garbage. The education idea is a decent one, but it only addresses a tiny portion of the debate. It ignores colleges entirely, how parents would know which schools are good, reforming schools that are ok but not great, etc. This is just the same old voucher pitch that has won a little, but hasn’t really set the world on fire.
The cancer research thing is ridiculous. For one thing, funding cancer research is not something the public is screaming for. You don’t see that anywhere on the public’s list of concerns. They are much more concerned with health care generally. Moreover, when issues of research do come up, the Republicans are usually the ones screaming that “God don’t like that” and wanting it stopped. Dragging a cancer patient from her bed isn’t going to change the public’s perception. . . only a change in policy will change that.
Third, his immigration stance is absolutely the worst of all worlds. His solution will anger Hispanics because it keeps open the door to deport them, i.e. “it changes nothing.” But it will also anger conservatives because it will stop us from deporting some of them, i.e. “it’s a total surrender.” The only thing his position is guaranteed to do is to anger everyone and to keep this debate alive and angry for another several decades.
Finally, let me point out the big problem once again. This was supposed to be a speech to the American people to get them to see value in our brand again, but what is being offered here? Jack squat. As usual, there is nothing here to assure people about their jobs, their homes, their assets, their pensions, their health, their retirements or their rights. There is a little on education if you fall into the small group who could use vouchers, there’s a nice photo-op if you get turned on by images of cancer patients, and there’s a promise that we won’t deport the kids of illegal immigrants. That’s it.
The fact that Barone doesn’t see this flaw is troubling. He’s one of our more insightful analysts, and if he can’t see this GLARING problem, then clearly it’s time for a change. It’s time we imposed term limits on pundits because these guys are so lost inside baseball that they don’t even know why fans watch the game anymore.