Morning Jay: A Choice Only Among Rascals?
6:00 AM, Jan 26, 2012 • By JAY COST
In his last work, The Responsible Electorate (1966), the great scholar V.O. Key argued against the thinking of political scientists of his age that the mass public was too ill-informed to make wise decisions:
What does this mean in the context of 2012? Conservatives agree that this is the most consequential election of our lifetime. There are huge, existential issues that need to be adjudicated by the public. However, if neither side runs a candidate capable of making the stakes clear, the public will not be able to make a sound determination. It is just that simple.
Let’s review the main contenders among whom the public will choose.
We have Barack Obama, a man with absolutely zero interest in making plain the nature of the problems we face. He wants to make it seem like jobs are coming back, the deficit is under control, things are on the right track. Whether this is cynical positioning or mere delusion on his part is uncertain. It has been evident for some time that he and his advisors are prone to buying their own hyperbolic exaggerations about his greatness; so they might actually be convinced by propaganda such as this. Regardless, Team Obama cannot be counted upon to show the public exactly where we are -- in terms of the deficit, the economy, and the fast-changing relationship between individuals and the state.
What about the Republican side? Mitt Romney is no Tom Dewey in terms of his ideology. Dewey was a truly moderate Republican who tried to win national elections when Democrats were a nationwide majority. As for Romney, I believe that he is, in his gut, a free market conservative, a good man, and a potentially solid president. Much of this is a contested notion, for sure, but I do believe that much as LBJ had to be a conservative in the Senate because he represented Texas, Romney tacked farther toward the center in Massachusetts than he would as president.
Regardless of who the “real Romney” is, he sure sounds a lot like Dewey spouting meaningless platitudes in the 1948 campaign. No big ideas from Romney. No talk from him about the deficit or what to do about it in any of these debates. Instead, it’s a turgid 59-point economic plan, lame slogans like “Believe in America,” and an appeal to biography. He might have Reagan's jawline, but his ideas lack the boldness of the Gipper's across-the-board tax cut.
Finally, we have Newt Gingrich, the so-called outsider of this campaign. Of course, Gingrich is only an outsider now because insider Republicans ejected him some 14 years ago. An election in which he is front-and-center will not be about the big issues, but about his fitness to serve in the nation’s highest office. And Gingrich’s grandiosity seems inconsistent with true conservatism, especially in a moment such as this. When we have a government that does too much, do we really want a president who has a new idea every minute about another project for the feds to take on?