After rounding up blogger opinion on the campaign season’s “dumb distraction derby,” Jim Geraghty draws upon a “fairy tale liberals tell themselves” he first recounted in 2010:
The fairy tale is that Americans, deep down, really agree with liberals on all of these issues and would heartily embrace their agenda if only these side issues, scandals, and manufactured distractions would just get out of the way.
Geraghty noted that Dems were playing the politics of distraction in 2010. The midterm elections did not end well for them. Pres. Obama seems bent on trying it in a nationwide campaign for 2012. The good news is that independents tend to base their vote more on the economy than partisans do. The bad news is that voters often care less about issues than they do about a candidate’s character, broadly defined. This is why Team Obama is fueling media coverage of the supposed likeability gap between Obama and Romney, stories about how the candidates treat (or eat) dogs, and so on. And this is ultimately why it’s probably a good thing if some on the right fight those battles, while Romney and the GOP focus on the economy. The right does not want to buy into the inverse of the liberal fairy tale.
On the other hand, the fact that the 7%-10% of voters who end up deciding elections are almost by definition not swayed by ideology does not lessen the importance of making the case for smaller government, economic freedom and personal responsibility. As Jonah Goldberg points out in The Tyranny of Cliches, one of the fundamental cliches of the progressive left is pragmatism, i.e., that they are simply doing “what works.” It is also one of the progressive left’s fundamental falsehoods.
The past century has been one in which progressives have put forth the idea that Soviet communism is what works, that Eurofascism is what works, that Maoism is what works, and that Eurosocialism is what works. The actual history of the past century is one in which Eurofascism was defeated in WWII, Soviet communism was defeated in the Cold War, Maoism has degenerated into a fascism and crony capitalism that only Tom Friedman finds attractive, and Eurosocialism is taking its own road to the dustbin of history. To be sure, voters in the UK and France are resisting, the Germans less so. But fiscal realities will continue to intrude, regardless of which governments they elect. They will eventually figure out what the OECD and IMF already have about the solution to their problems: spending less is the answer.
Voters in America — even the non-ideological, low-information voters — will end up absorbing these lessons as they move through life. The right should not adopt pragmatism as its own cliche, but the decay of 20th century progressivism will continue to push the electoral mainstream rightward.
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