Archives for: June 2012, 15
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you.
Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
The economic speech in Cleveland was a disappointment to members of the reporting media. It lacked drama. It lacked a memorable soundbite. It didn't add sufficiently to the horse race narrative that overlays every national election.
The too wonky, too technical, too policy oriented speech only did what it was intended to do. Where was the "one word"? What happened to plastics?
Going past the addictive stuff political aficionados absorb, going beyond the "who let the dogs out" and "I like to fire people" and getting rid of firefighters and police and teachers, the pattern of the Romney campaign emerges, hidden in plain sight. They want a throw-the-bums-out narrative, a referendum on the incumbent, an are-you-better-off sort of choice. The way things are versus the way they ought to be. Mitt Romney wants to run as Mitt I'm-not-Obama Romney.
The President wants a more complex message to resonate. Look what we started with. We avoided the worst. We dodged a cannon ball.
I'm relieved. The time of Roosevelt policies is still with us, but the Hoover happy talk is, praise God from Whom all blessing flow, gone. Prosperity is just around the corner? Give me a break. I have wished every day of every week that President Obama had spent every spare moment, sleeves rolled, up at some employment office helping folks fill out claims, talking about we need more jobs, holding sidewalk press conferences about Congress needs to meet with these folks and see what the President sees. If he had taken that approach ... well-l-l-l ... if my aunt was a man she'd be my uncle. And if I'm so smart why ain't I Bain?
Pointing to a horrible set of events that never happened is a tough sell, even if it is valid. Low information voters, reading the newspapers for the baseball scores, watching television for situation comedies about hilariously dysfunctional families, will eventually pay just enough attention to make some superficial judgments. That will be enough. Gaffes and procedural issues, who gets to vote in Florida, are way too far in the tall, tall weeds at the moment. Day-to-day living is hard enough. General impressions will do for now.
But those general impressions will come to dominate as a national narrative gathers less moss. Shaping that narrative will influence those open to influence when the time for influence has come. All battles now are a preparation.
If the Mitt Romney plastics word is referendum, the Obama word is compare. If the election becomes a comparison, the campaign question will be "Compared to what?"
Mitt Romney's apparent strategy has been to keep his programs vague and unassailable. It's hard to punch a cloud. But this leaves an obvious opening for President Obama. If Romney won't define his programs, we'll do it for him. He has left every opportunity an opponent could want. In his madcap rush to out flank the primary season's conservative opponents, he has embraced, at least in concept, every wacky idea that came along from the right.
The wackiest have had a common theme. The last President, George W. Bush, was a failure. His policies of deregulation that led to economic disaster were horrible because they didn't go far enough. His tax cuts, heavily favoring the wealthy, were terrible because they didn't provide enough to the very, very rich. His military adventures into other lands were egregious because we didn't send our troops into enough combat zones.
And so it is not at all unfair for the President to hang those policies around the neck of his otherwise undefined opponent. And that was the thrust of the economic speech in Cleveland: "This is what they’re presenting as their plan. This is their vision. There is nothing new -- just what Bill Clinton has called the same ideas they’ve tried before, except on steroids."
Most Americans remember how this mess started. At least that's what they say to those who ask. Most folks don't know about Keynes or economic theory. But everyone can spell B-U-S-H. The one question Mitt Romney will eventually find confronting him will produce an answer that will frame the comparison Democrats want.
In what way will your policies differ from that of President Bush?
And there is your soundbite.
I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.