It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”
Luntz knew that he, a maker of political messages and attacks and advertisements, had helped create this negativity, and it haunted him. But it was Obama he principally blamed. The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president’s message of class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution. It was a message Luntz believed to be profoundly wrong, but one so powerful he had no slogans, no arguments with which to beat it back. In reelecting Obama, the people had spoken. And the people, he believed, were wrong. Having spent his career telling politicians what the people wanted to hear, Luntz now believed the people had been corrupted and were beyond saving. Obama had ruined the electorate, set them at each other’s throats, and there was no way to turn back.
Why not? I ask. Isn’t finding the right words to persuade people what you do? “I’m not good enough,” Luntz says. “And I hate that. I have come to the extent of my capabilities. And this is not false modesty. I think I’m pretty good. But not good enough.” The old Frank Luntz was sure he could invent slogans to sell the righteous conservative path of personal responsibility and free markets to anyone. The new Frank Luntz fears that is no longer the case, and it’s driving him crazy.
I had no idea Luntz was trying to persuade people. I thought what Luntz was doing was focus groups and learning what people thought about things and going on TV with it. I didn’t know that Luntz was trying to win anything. I didn’t know Luntz was trying to come up with slogans to help beat Obama.
I had no idea that’s what Luntz was trying to do. His focus groups were an attempt to persuade people of conservatism? Get this from the piece. “Luntz mostly all says he wishes we would stop yelling at one another. He dreams of drafting some of the rich CEOs that he’s friends with to come up with a plan for saving America from its elected officials.” Well, the No Labels bunch? I’m just telling you, I’m honestly surprised here. I did not… Look, if Luntz was trying to affect the outcome of elections, he coulda done those focus groups in an entirely different way.
Obama could not have been elected (remember what he said to Joe the Plumber?) without the ground having been prepared by nearly a century of ever-increasing entitlements, and most especially a “progressive” takeover of the major institutions that shape both the growing mind and the adult one (education, the MSM, and entertainment), as well as the slow and steady undermining of the traditional family…
Reagan in the 80s and Gingrich in the 90s were speaking to a different electorate in different times. Even though it was not all that long ago, the attitude of the public was more easily receptive to the message back then.
That does not mean it can’t resonate now, however. Despair about this is not an option, although it is sometimes a temptation. Obamacare is a little window of opportunity that needs to be opened. But the stupid party (you know who you are) had better get a lot smarter very soon. It’s late, and getting later.
Now, these monarch-curious folks are still a tiny minority of the American Right. And as I noted, these movements aren’t directly related (tech libertarians, for example, probably hate Putin, who — in any event — isn’t a “monarch.”)
Still, they all have some things in common. First, they are boldly venturing outside the bounds of what would have been considered acceptable shared political opinion just a few years ago. This is, perhaps, indicative of the low level of confidence we have in our system and our leaders, of the atomization and feeling of alienation that is plaguing our nation, and also of the way technology can empower people whose opinions are outside the mainstream to spread what unconventional ideas…
Additionally, these movements tacitly accept that conservatism as a political force is utterly incapable of slowing the leftward march of liberalism. By definition, conservatives, who want to conserve the good things about the past, are always playing defense. When you consider that many of my conservative views aren’t terribly different from John F. Kennedy’s views in 1960, this becomes self-evident.
Some on the Right have given up the belief that they can fix our country by working within the current paradigm
[O]n core questions involving social justice, we are far more united than our politics permit us to be. A survey released at the end of December by Hart Research, a Democratic polling firm, found that Americans supported extending unemployment insurance by a margin of 55 percent to 34 percent. Several recent surveys, including a Fox News poll, found that about two-thirds of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage.
This leads to two conclusions. The first is that most Americans broadly accept the New Deal consensus. We may disagree about this or that regulation or spending program. We may squabble over exactly how our approaches to policy should be updated for a new century. But there is far more agreement among the American people than there is among Washington lobbies, members of Congress or political commentators on the core proposition that government should help us through rough patches and guarantee a certain level of economic fairness…
The minimum-wage increase is typically labeled a “liberal” idea. Yet many grass-roots Republicans see respect for those who work hard as rooted in sound conservative principles demanding decent compensation for a day’s labor. An evangelical might see fair pay as a biblical imperative while a secularist might view the question through a more worldly philosophical prism. Nonetheless, their distinctive reasoning processes lead them to the same place.
[W]hile upper-middle-class voters are happy to support higher taxes on 1 percenters — not least because they’re tired of trying to compete with them for schools and real estate — they don’t necessarily want a program that would require their own taxes to rise substantially.
And this is a problem for the populist left, because to build the kind of welfare state — European, Scandinavian — that seems to really level incomes, you need lots of tax dollars from the non-rich. Yet the current Democratic coalition has been built on a promise to never raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 … or maybe $400,000 … or possibly $500,000, the threshold de Blasio chose.
That promise has made it safe for many well-off voters, in New York and elsewhere, to cast votes for liberal populism. But it’s also made it impossible for the populist war on inequality to ever actually be won.
Republicans and conservatives can succeed only if they come home to Reagan’s vision of America. That vision sees government as a danger but not an enemy, and looks for ways to make it useful rather than harmful to the advancement of a free society. It is a vision in line with the spiritual heritage of Lincoln’s Republican Party — one that gives average people a hand up, not a hand out.
Many conservatives fear that this vision means Republicans will become the second party of big government, but that need not be true. Enabling government to do what it should do also involves pulling it back from all that it should not be doing. Fully implementing this vision would create smaller government because, over the years, we have extended so many handouts to people in all classes who do not need or deserve them. Congressional Republicans have tried to rein in entitlement spending in recent years, but they have failed, in large part because they are using arguments that do not resonate with the majority of the electorate. If Republicans instead simply restored the historical hand-up approach to government, they could shrink the size of the state by as much as or more than their recent budget proposals have suggested — all while increasing the political appeal of the conservative agenda.
Finding this new path will require both new rhetoric and new policy. First and foremost, however, it requires a renewed emphasis on an old goal: helping the common man advance in life. This has long been the driving purpose of American politics and the stated aim of just about every successful political coalition in our history. But in many respects it has ceased to be the goal of the Republican Party, and it needs to become so again…
If conservatives can understand that they are the party of government by and for the people as opposed to the party that wants to repeal all government entirely — that they are the party of a hand up rather than the party of the handout or of hands-off government — then, and only then, can they continue to lead America further on what Ronald Reagan called mankind’s journey from the swamp to the stars.