05 December 2011

“What it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today”

In his New York Times column today, Paul Krugman provided a sharp analysis of the race for the Republican presidential nomination:

Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year — and who, even as they declare their hatred of government, will balk at any hint of cuts to Social Security and Medicare (death panels!).

And you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security.

So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless.

Mitt Romney embodies the first option. He’s not a stupid man; he knows perfectly well, to take a not incidental example, that the Obama health reform is identical in all important respects to the reform he himself introduced in Massachusetts — but that doesn’t stop him from denouncing the Obama plan as a vast government takeover that is nothing like what he did. He presumably knows how to read a budget, which means that he must know that defense spending has continued to rise under the current administration, but this doesn’t stop him from pledging to reverse Mr. Obama’s “massive defense cuts.”
Krugman concludes that Romney’s strategy is “to pretend that he shares the ignorance and misconceptions of the Republican base.” I’m not sure that Romney and his highly paid consultants expect Republican voters to believe what he says. Rather, the Romney team is presenting him as willing to say anything in order to attack President Obama.

Consider the Romney campaign’s much-criticized television commercial “quoting” President Obama. That ad was doubly deceptive. First, Obama never said about his own campaign, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” What’s more, the President has never stopped talking about the economy. For months he’s been pressing the Republicans in Congress to do more of what mainstream economists recommend to improve it.

All that commercial shows is that Romney is willing to play dirty in attacking the President—which is what the Republican base is looking for. Those core voters aren’t really motivated by deficit reduction, or cutting government services and benefits (especially their own, as Krugman notes), or foreign policy.

Grass-roots Republicans today are fired up almost solely about attacking Obama. Romney’s ad shows them that despite his nice-guy manners he’s willing to play just as dirty as the crazier candidates. He’s ready to claim that Obama apologized for American foreign policy, threatens the free market, and never worked in the private sector. All those statements are lies, but Romney has to tell them to keep up with his rivals.


saintfighteraqua said...

Ugh. Politics.
I can't stand democrats or republicans these days.
So much bickering and finger pointing.
Until a candidate steps up that has real solutions and doesn't care about catering to a "party" then I support none of them.

It's your blog, but it makes me sad to pop in to read about Oz to find more politics....is there no where safe?

J. L. Bell said...

Having political responsibilities is one price of living in a democracy.

And I think the Democrats have a lot of real solutions. So do most mainstream economists when it comes to the economy and most doctors when it comes to the health-care system.

saintfighteraqua said...

I do agree Mr. Bell. :) I'm not saying one shouldn't get involved in politics.

It was just depressing to pop in for my Oz fix to read something political.

I agree that democrats and republicans both as people have some solutions, but when it comes to our government I think the future looks bleak on both sides since most people seem to have some sort of personal agenda and get so angry at everyone else.

I also didn't mean any disrespect to the blogger with my comment.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are for welfare for the rich, Democrats are for welfare for the poor. Both parties are against people who try to work and earn an honest living (and that goes whether your job is-or was-programming computers or mopping floors).

J. L. Bell said...

I think that analysis is too simple, Anonymous. Since the early 1970s both major American political parties have been moving away from programs to help the poor—one faster than the other. Our current system, with political spending judicially equated with political speech, gives even more power and voice to people with resources than before, and less to people without.