Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Establishment Fallacy

Obama is calling this a choice election and some of the political pundits are claiming if Obama is able to frame the election as choice election rather than a referendum on his performance, he stands a better chance at being reelected. Some political pundits believe that Newt is the candidate that best fits into the Presidents model and thus making him the candidate easiest for Obama to beat in November. The thought is if Obama can make the campaign about Gingrich and his baggage rather than about a dismal performance, Obama is the logical choice. I have to agree that Newt is the candidate that will run on the choices we have and he laid out those choices concerning differing visions for America in his victory speech after the South Carolina primary win. What I disagree with is that Obama can make the case that the election is about Newt and his baggage.

As the nomination process sits right now, the nomination process is about to turn very negative and get very nasty. We saw a taste of that last night when Brian Williams dedicated the first 30 minutes of the 90 minute debate to attacks between Mitt and Newt, rather than go straight to the ideas on the issues that matter most. Mitt was on the offensive with nasty half truths concerning Newt. For Newt, I think the debate concerning his ethics charges, resignation from the House speakership, and Freddie Mac, this early in the process is good for Newt should he win the nomination. Newt will largely be vetted, and the lapdogs in the media will only be bringing up old news the people will be tired of hearing about and those lines of attack will no longer be effective come the general election. Newt effectively parried Mitt’s assault last night. Neither really inspired the electorate with their performance last night and I am not sure it will change much in the landscape. I think the biggest take away from last night is that the media and the establishment politicos from both sides are very scared of what Newt is tapping into.

Brian Williams and the other debate moderators set the debate up for Mitt. First they muted the crowd, telling them from the outset that applause and standing ovations would be frowned upon. Brian Williams of course framed this as taking time away from the candidates to respond questions. Then the moderators began asking question from the left, acting as if they were the Obama stand in rather than acting from a typical voter perspective. The moderators muting the crowd, allowing Newt and Mitt to attack each other, and then spinning questions from the far left perspective took the emotion out of the debate. The debate lacked direction and became boring. This of course helped Mitt as it fit into his campaign style. If anyone believes the media and the left fear Romney as the nominee, I think they should readjust their thinking. In 1976 Carter was the outsider candidate and he won. The media despised Reagan in 1980, and did everything they could to get the establishment choice Bush elected, claiming the right was afraid of the conservative principles of Reagan; Reagan won the nomination and trounced Carter in the General. The media didn’t like Bush in 1988, but there was no meaningful resistance from the right and Bush won, more on the sentimental vote for Reagan than anything else. In 1992, Bush was the establishment candidate and the press attacked the conservative movement. In doing this the propelled Buchanan to lofty enough levels to make Bush appear weak, thus taking down the establishment candidate. Bush lost the 1992 election to an outsider candidate from the Democrats in Bill Clinton. In 1996, Dole was the establishment candidate again the Republican’s lost that election. In 2000, Bush was the outsider candidate in the primaries and won the election. In 2008 the establishment candidate McCain did not fare well at all, Obama beat the establishment candidate in Hillary and then vanquished McCain in the general. For the most part both parties and specifically the Republicans have done better with the grass roots “outsider” candidate than we ever did with the establishment candidate in the general election. Reagan and George W were the outsiders and won the Oval Office, George HW Bush, Dole, and McCain were the establishment choices and we lost those elections. From the left Carter, Clinton, and Obama were the outsider candidates and won, while Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, and Hillary were strongly backed by the establishment and either lost the nomination or the general election. The establishment candidates are pushed by both parties and the media. I believe the reason is the left wants the candidate they know how to beat or feel is safe. The media wants the choice to be between what they consider the lesser of two evils. The Right is afraid of true conservative candidates and prefers a more moderate candidate than the base prefers.

Newt is tapping into the angry electorate. I believe Obama is right in that this is an election about choice. I believe Newt laid out those choices effectively in his SC victory speech. I don’t believe Obama will be able to hide from his poor performance. The choice is effectively between an incumbent’s poorly performing policies that has weaken America both foreign and domestic, or a vision of strong American exceptionalism respected around the world. There will be a choice and right now Newt is articulating that choice perfectly. When the political establishment is scared of a candidate, that candidate wins in November, and that has been good for the country.

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