Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who refused to run for office (certainly his prerogative) chose to reiterate the obvious, bashing Mitt Romney for the 47 percent remarks. (As if everyone in the United States had not already done so.) “Whatever he intended, the candidate deeply offended countless citizens.” Ya think?
He’s right, Mitch Daniels, that is, but there is something churlish about one of the many men who didn’t run in 2012, forcing Republicans to choose among the least weak of a weak field, clubbing the guy who did run. But that is a matter of style (or personal class, perhaps).
That said, he said succinctly what many of us have been trying to communicate to conservatives: “A chronic disease of the Republican Party is the insistence on speaking in abstractions, or worse yet in language that offers no clue, no argument that the principles of liberty are far better for people at the bottom than the statist alternatives. And in language that entirely overlooks and omits the most powerful appeal available: ‘We believe in you, and your ability to decide for yourself, and they don’t.’” Boy, isn’t that the truth.
Conservatives say “free market capitalism” and many voters think they are talking about the little Monopoly man. Conservatives say “limited” government and voters wonder what is going to be eliminated (Social Security?).
The most talented GOP leaders, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), explain in detailed terms what those concepts mean, and more important, tie them to specific policies. Even more effectively, successful Republican governors like Virginia’s Bob McDonnell and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal just talk about what works, what improves people’s lives. They may understand that policies flow from the conservative tradition of Edmund Burke, but voters don’t want a history lesson — they want good schools, good jobs and reasonable health-care costs.
Then there is the other Mitch, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) His role is different, to play the inside game of block and tackle on a team with fewer men on the field than the other team. Republicans shouldn’t expect him (or want him) to wax lyrical about conservative philosophy; he’s there to try to maneuver so that a deal becomes possible or so Republicans don’t look like jerks if there isn’t one. Those who lambaste him for insufficient conservative purity don’t really understand what governance is all about. (And they really do make Republicans look like inflexible ideologues.)
In short, Republicans have a division of labor but should avoid division in the ranks, remembering that fighting among themselves takes the spotlight off the president. There are tactician sand thought leaders, policy wonks and inspirational figures. Right now Republicans can use them all. And those right-wingers arguing that the “enemy” is the conservative leadership need to get a clue. The enemy is jihadist terrorists. The opposition is the Democratic Party. And the goal here is survival — for the country and for the party.