Reading some of the recent posts, some of Tod’s and one of Burt’s in particular, the disconnect between the League and the Romney campaign is frustrating. I wasn’t happy about the 47% thing and sometimes I wish Romney would do this or that in the course of the campaign instead of what he did. But whether he does or doesn’t, the energy behind this disconnect is completely misplaced.
About Romney and the Republicans in general, it ought to be clear by now that we need them more than they need us. It’s comical to think about the circumstances here or there where the libs think they’ve scored a punch, to really imagine the consequences if their predictions and judgments really are correct. Mitt goes back to his devoted wife and Christmas card family, his nine figure net worth and multiple warm-weather estates. We go back to our double-digit unemployment, our economic and social stagnation, our foreboding sense of despair and intractability. We really showed him didn’t we.
Rick Astley Redux
If you are an enthusiast of the musician Rick Astley, it is very likely that Mozart doesn’t make any sense for you. But if that applies to you, the most important thing to understand is that turn of events is not Mozart’s fault, it’s yours. For whatever reason, most mainstream commentary seems incapable of considering, even as a hypothetical, the proposition that Mitt Romney is well beyond a sufficiently acceptable candidate, but an astoundingly great one besides. No, for the health of American we must have hope in our political discourse and as it stands today the candidacy of Mitt Romney is that hope.
Mitt Romney saves families from drowning.
Mitt Romney gives millions to charity and, according to his latest tax returns, doesn’t even take the full tax deduction for it.
Mitt Romney moves house for his neighbors with one arm.
Mitt Romney made piles of money for himself, his clients and his investors at Bain Capital.
Mitt Romney is just plain good at stuff. He succeeds.
The complete record of Mitt Romney is not merely that he is a Ken doll with a great family, but also that he has the particular combination of energy, determination, intelligence, managerial skills, willingness to get to the real bottom of problems and take them on. That is, he is not just a great man but the particular kind of great man that we need given the state of American governance as it is today.
There are probably many reasons why Mitt Romney isn’t doing better in the polls but the primary one is that our political discourse is marinating in a noise machine. Said noise machine aggressively squelches any kind of substantive discussion of important topics in favor of relentless agitation over small matters and indulgence of misplaced misanthropy. But it wasn’t until the Libya incidents that the stranglehold reached its peak.
The day after the Libya/Egypt embassy attacks, Governor Romney issued a statement harshly critical of the President for indulging the grievances of those who committed the attacks. I for one found Romney’s statement to be blameless. Nonetheless, over the next few days the media and the punditocracy obsessively criticized Governor Romney and to a lesser extent some completely obscure filmmaker in Florida or California (who has apparently been taken into custody with no justification) at the expense of any information of substance regarding the incident itself.
Maybe the Libya/Egypt attacks are pretty small beer compared to Pearl Harbor or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but they are important enough in their own right. Who perpetrated the attacks and why? What is the relationship between these attacks and President Obama’s invasion of Libya last year? What is the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood, if any? What is the involvement of al-Qaeda, if any? Is there anything we should have known before the fact that we didn’t? Is there anything that we did know before the fact that we ignored in poor judgment?
But even if the Establishment’s tendency to steer the political discourse toward distractions reached its apex in Libya, it certainly not confined to that. In spite of the fact that the American economy is not in a state to encourage complacency, and the fact that economic policy has been center stage of American politics for the entirety of President Obama’s term of office, there has been little or no debate on it during the campaign. Why has this happened? Because the Establishment and other Obama enablers need it that way, and for the moment at least they have been able to manipulate enough of our public discourse for that to happen.
It’s Not Them, It’s Us
One of the more disappointing things I’ve seen at the League recently is Tod’s reaction to this quote from Mitt Romney:
“They’ll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends of course which markets you’re talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets reelected, I don’t know what will happen. I can—I can never predict what the markets will do.”
I for one believe this and in fact it’s a substantial part of the reason why I am hopeful for the future of America if Romney wins.
First of all, we should appreciate that Romney is talking about the markets in the short term and the overall health of the economy in the longer term.
The Obama Administration has been willing subvert the basic norms of American governance and has done it in ways that discourage capital investment in America.
Either one or the other would be a substantial problem in its own right, but the combination of the two of them is devastating. We should expect that the federal government will sometimes intervene in the private sector or the machinery of the economy as a whole. However, it is crucial to our economy that the that these interventions be perceived as the exception, not the rule.
But under President Obama, we have seen a multitude of policies or scandals whose cumulative effect is to place in jeopardy the ability of elements in the private sector from organizing themselves in economically valuable ways for the benefit of all parties. The Administration’s conduct regarding PPACA, Solyndra, the budget, the stimulus package, stimulus, the debt limit crisis, the pipeline, and so on have created the perception (and the reality) that the federal government will intervene in unpredictable ways in matters large and small to subvert the interest of property ownership.
For the most part, this occurs because the Left has a whole has a fundamental misunderstanding of capital and its role in economic production. The Left likes to think that they can provide for human needs by compensating labor and disparaging capital. But the reality is, labor and capital are complementary inputs to economic production. And the main consequence of that is this: creating a world where a significant part of the capital is not in production gives great privilege and return to the remaining part of the capital base that is deployed. And that’s the world we live in now.
The danger of this problem is more urgent in a time where public finance is unstable such as the present. It’s not just a matter of paranoid speculation that the Obama Administration is going to put its grubby fingers all over the economy. Unless we can restore public finance to a stable trajectory, it will have to. Otherwise it will not be able to meet the basic demands of its political and governmental constituencies.
This is where the leadership of Mitt Romney and the Romney Administration can change things, independent of whatever policies he puts in place. Because he can negotiate with the Republicans and Democrats in Congress to create a stable trajectory of American public finance, because he can streamline and dial back our contemporary Leviathan, we can hope to restore employment and growth to the American economy. More than that, by voting for Romney we are in an important way not just voting for Romney but also voting for the other Americans who are voting for Romney. And because those are the Americans who are committed to stable public finance and limited government we can place our hopes in them as well.
State of the Race
I might as well talk about this as well. Some on the Right have consoled themselves that the polls are wrong, that Romney is either tied or leading. But that’s not true. Even if the conservative critiques of polling are true, they difference is not enough to help Governor Romney as things stand. In the main the polls are correct, and Romney is losing. In my view, there are two important below-the-surface considerations required to get a complete understanding of the race from the polls. They are the state polls vs. the national polls, and the sample by party affiliation, and the key to interpreting these two factors is largely a matter of timing.
For party affiliation, as a general rule voters change the candidates they support in an election race sooner than they change their party affiliation. But if this is true most of the time, it’s not true all the time. From say, two months out until Election Day, voters care more about the candidates they intend to support more than the party they sympathize with. Therefore, the oversampling of Democrats is bad news for Mitt Romney. It means, that the voters are shading toward affiliation with the Democratic Party in order to be consistent with their support for President Obama in the election.
And for that matter, the same dynamic applies to the Presidential approval rating and the right track/wrong track numbers.
The news is better for Mr. Romney in the states. Some of the President’s enthusiasts have tried to argue that the race is essentially over, because even if the race is close in the national polls, Mr. Obama has a commanding lead in the states Romney would need to get to win 270 votes in the Electoral College. That doesn’t really hold up. The Electoral College really doesn’t come into play until two weeks before Election Day, and only then if the difference in the popular vote is less than 2%. If Mr. Romney wins the popular vote, especially if he wins by a sufficient margin, the states will take care of themselves.
That’s why this particular moment in the race is so critical for Governor Romney. We are in a national race for now, and we will be for two more weeks, three at a stretch. He must use this time to generate movement in his favor in the national polls (and state polls as well, swing state or otherwise). Because somewhere around the 20th or 25th of October, the focus of the race will shift to the states, and the importance of logistics will go up, and the importance of message will go down.
Advice to the Candidate
I’m sure this will have little if any effect but I couldn’t end this post without it. That last part is the foundation of the guidance I would give to Governor Romney. Romney is behind, not by much, but by enough so that he will definitively lose the election if the state of the race is the same on Election Day as it is today. Therefore Romney must do things now, such that the state of the race is changed in his favor, even if only a little bit, by Election Day relative to today.
That might sound easier than it is. The problem is that whatever the Romney campaign decides to do has to be credible with what’s happened in the past and also has to be flexible enough to be able to execute on through the distractions and contingincies that come up during the course of the campaign. (Hat tip to Reihan for this excellent link, which isn’t exactly topical but illustrates the point well enough.)
If I could summarize my advice for the Romney campaign into one word it would be: brag.
Governor Romney has plenty of material available to brag about if he chooses, as I mentioned above. Anybody can criticize the President, but even if it makes Mitt Romney uncomfortable, at this stage of the race it must be the candidate who praises himself. I thought of what Governor Romney might say along these lines, and what I came up with is below. It’s very unlikely that Mitt will use me as his unpaid speechwriter, but whether he does or not this is the sort of thing that is capable of changing the race in his favor. This is what he really believes, and more importantly other people will believe him as he says it.
“When I was a boy I met the prettiest girl in Michigan, and when I was a young man I persuaded her to be my wife. We have five sons together, and they are all successful adults.
After I graduated with two degrees from Harvard, I joined a consulting firm which later transitioned into venture capital. I was a success there. I made money for myself and my investors.
Around that time I was also made a Mormon bishop. Now, in our church being a Mormon bishop comes with substantial repsonsibilities to provide for the less fortunate members of our congregations, and I fulfilled those responsibilities as best as I was able.
The Salt Lake Olympics were on a path to failure when I took over there. We changed what wasn’t working, we quit spending on things that weren’t important, and we turned the Salt Lake Olympics into a success.
When I was governor of Massachusetts, I worked with the other party in the legislature. We had to make tough decisions of what was important and what we could get by without. As a result we closed the largest deficit in state history without raising taxes.
By contrast my opponent has never accomplished anything meaningful in his professional life. He never accomplished anything in the law. Before he went to law school, he was a community organizer. Now, when he was running for President the last time my party made fun of him for that. But all humor aside, he never accomplished anything there either. He didn’t accomplishing anything as a State Senator, he didn’t accomplish anything as a US Senator. We shouldn’t be surprised that he’s been a failure as President.
We all know our nation is facing difficult issues. Some of them we have talked about tonight, we will talk about others in later in the campaign. But some issues we can’t talk about, because we don’t know what they are, and we won’t know until we have to adapt to them one way or another.
But for all these issues, we need a President with the capability for leadership in difficult circumstances, who has demonstrated that through the course of his life. For that I ask for your vote and your trust.
I succeed. I win. I am good at things.”