Fear of fragging

A couple things I’ve noticed recently about the presidential campaign: (1) Romney doesn’t want to talk about issues like immigration at all and (2) the media narrative has shifted from “Romney will move to the center in the general” to “Romney will govern from the center even though he campaigned from the far right in both the primaries and the general”. Clearly, Romney can’t “tack to the center” even on issues where it would be politically advantageous for him to do so. Why? The answer is obvious, but Jonathan Bernstein is one of the first to spell it out:

So why doesn’t Mitt Romney advance any policy ideas, anyway? In particular, why doesn’t he advance some ideas — on the economy preferably, but any issue would do — to shield himself from the obvious attack that he’s a more-of-the-same return to the still-unpopular George W. Bush?

[….]

So why doesn’t Romney differentiate himself from Bush? It’s pretty simple, and it gets back to what drives much of the Romney program: fear of conservatives.

[….]

And for general election swing voters, Romney is following the same path: substituting attitude such as a vague support for jobs for issues — and taking the hits from the occasional reporter who cares about such things — and hoping that it’s enough. It has a down side; it’s getting him a reputation in the press for ducking issues, and it makes it easier to paint him as Mitt W. Romney — but given his constraints, it’s a rational strategy. Expect plenty more of it.

The fundamental fact of contemporary American politics is that no one fears anything except the far right. There’s millions of examples from Shirley Sherrod to the Bush’s Dubai ports and Harriet Miers fiascos to “Drudge rules our world”, etc. Here’s my favorite: the Republicans started the war on women because DC was more afraid of a few right-wing Bishops than of millions of American women voters.

Romney is right to fear the far right more than he fears mainstream media. No matter what he says or does to the regular press, they’ll report that both sides do it, rate his claims as “mostly true”, etc. etc. The right will eat him alive he goes too far off their reservation.






58 replies
  1. 1
    Violet says:

    Romney is a coward.

  2. 2
    BGinCHI says:

    Great fucking post. Perfect snapshot of where we are in our general fuckedupness as a nation. That is all.

  3. 3
    The Moar You Know says:

    Romney is right to fear the far right more than he fears mainstream media.

    Actually, he is not. I’ve just recently come to realize that every Obama-hating motherfucker in this country will crawl over broken glass to vote for him this cycle, no matter how rich he is, no matter how lame he is, no matter how much he “coddles migrants”. Shit, he could have public gay sex on the Mall every day at 2:30pm from now until election day and every one of them, especially the far right, would still vote for him with enthusiasm and vigor. This is, for them, their chance to make the Civil War right and finally put those darkies in their place once and for all.

  4. 4
    The Dangerman says:

    Actually, I can see keeping the howling dogs quiet until AFTER the convention; Tampa’s already going to be a riot, so why add fuel to the fire?

  5. 5
    Mark S. says:

    I bet if Romney loses, the next GOP nominee softens the rhetoric a la W’s “compassionate conservatism.” The goopers will be tired of losing by then like they were in 2000.

  6. 6
    c u n d gulag says:

    Thank goodness we’ve got a great “Fourth Estate” to keep Mitt’s nose to the grindstone, and ask him nothing but policy questions!

    Wow!
    That was a GREAT acid-flashback – when Mike Wallace asked real questions on “60 Minutes,” instead of his son, Chris, lobbing softball questions to Romney, and wiping Mitt’s jizz off his lips, for an hour.

  7. 7
    Violet says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Actually, he is not. I’ve just recently come to realize that every Obama-hating motherfucker in this country will crawl over broken glass to vote for him this cycle, no matter how rich he is, no matter how lame he is, no matter how much he “coddles migrants”. Shit, he could have public gay sex on the Mall every day at 2:30pm from now until election day and every one of them, especially the far right, would still vote for him with enthusiasm and vigor.

    I think there are things he could do that would put off rightwing voters. The key is finding those things he’s already done and highlighting them.

  8. 8
    shortstop says:

    Sure, but I wonder if some of it isn’t that those low-info swing voters hate Bush in concept but won’t boycott his specific policies unless Romney is dumb enough to spell them out. In other words, he’s keeping the rabid base happy, yeah, but by not allowing himself to be pinned down on so many issues, he’s also allowing some non-base conservatives and lean-righters to decide it’s okay to vote for him.

  9. 9
    Hunter Gathers says:

    I wonder of the Marquis DeMittens, Lord of the Pansy Asses, will try to duck out of the last 2 debates after he has a meltdown during the first. After he gets confronted with the volumes and volumes of bullshit he’s been peddling over the years, the MittBot will flash the blue screen of death and fall out of his chair mumbling something about being a ‘severe conservative’.

  10. 10
    Elizabelle says:

    @Violet:

    I think there are things he could do that would put off rightwing voters. The key is finding those things he’s already done and highlighting them.

    This.

    Although we do have a problem with rightwing voters not believing evidence square in front of their face. Cognitive dissonance.

    But this is a great tack for “independents” (aka those embarrassed to call themselves “Republicans” after the Bush-Cheney debacle, and low information voters).

  11. 11
    joes527 says:

    @Mark S.: Not. A. Chance.
    When Romney looses the lesson learnt by the GOP will be that he wasn’t far right enough to win.

  12. 12
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Actually, he is not. I’ve just recently come to realize that every Obama-hating motherfucker in this country will crawl over broken glass to vote for him this cycle

    __
    It isn’t the far-right voters RMoney has to worry about pleasing, it is the far-right billionaires. No Koch-cash to use for carpet bombing the airwaves with negative ads and he’s looking at a 52-42 loss and a possible electoral college wipeout that will make him the laughingstock and whipping boy of the GOP for a generation. He has to at least keep it close.

  13. 13
    the Conster says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I don’t know. When the wingtards finally come around to fully understanding what it means to have Willard’s hand on the Book of Mormon at his swearing in, they may stay home or just vote for their local guy.

  14. 14
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    DougJ @ Top:

    Romney is right to fear the far right more than he fears mainstream media.

    True. Question is, is he right to fear the far right more than he fears women? Latinos? GLBT and their suppporters?

    I think we can take it as a given that African-Americans don’t factor into Romney’s decisions. Obama will win the AA vote walking.

    GLBT? There are already GLBT & supporters on the moderate right, and I don’t think their votes are going to switch to D based on GLBT issues alone, so, unfortunately, Romney probably doesn’t have much to worry about there.

    Latinos? That’s tricky. The far right probably outnumbers Latinos, but it’s a growing voter block that the GOP leadership wants to maintain good relations with despite the base’s bigotry, because even if they can’t outright win the Latino vote, they still need something like 35% just to stay competitive. If Democrats start to get Latino votes in the same percentages as we get AA votes, then it’s game over for the GOP — and the base’s anti-Hispanic hate-fest is both virulent enough and widespread enough to make that a foreseeable possibility.

    Women? Oh yeah. This, I think, is Romney’s biggest problem. Women definitely outnumber the far right. If female independents turn out in high enough numbers and swing to the Democrats en masse, this could turn into a rout.

    I suspect the Romney team is not worrying about women as much as they probably should.

    .

  15. 15
    ericblair says:

    @Mark S.:

    I bet if Romney loses, the next GOP nominee softens the rhetoric a la W’s “compassionate conservatism.” The goopers will be tired of losing by then like they were in 2000.

    I dunno about this: what comes out of any gooper defeat is that they decide they must purge the heathens and be even bigger rightwing assholes next time. It looks to me that the GOP has entered a sort of positive feedback loop death spiral, but how long it takes or how much damage it’s going to do before that is an open question.

    Dubya could get away with the “compassionate conservatism” crap because he had the 27% sold on him already. They could believe that when he said any pansy bleeding heart crap he didn’t really mean it and it was just to get elected. They don’t trust Rmoney at all, and won’t let him do the same thing because they think he really means the namby-pamby bullshit. Only Nixon can go to China, and Romney sure as hell can’t.

  16. 16
    MattF says:

    @Mark S.: I disagree. Romney isn’t a true believer. A narrow Romney loss (which is the most likely outcome) will be blamed on his cowardice and dishonesty– which is actually not completely crazy.

  17. 17

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I think this is correct. As I wrote a little bit ago, there were successful primary challenges to longtime, solidly conservative officeholders such as:

    Bob Bennett, Bob Inglis, and Richard Lugar. Every single elected and outside leader of the GOP is terrified to propose anything that might run afoul of the GOP’s three-clause credo: “The government sucks, unless it’s targeting out groups like gays or prisoners or foreigners, in which case it’s infallible.”

    That’s why the GOP nominated a flip-flopper like Mitt– every single Republican now repudiates ideas that were boilerplate Republican ideas until about 3 years ago, like cap and trade, the individual mandate, Keynesian stimulus, etc. The primary challenges are related to that pile of money you’re talking about.

  18. 18
    gwangung says:

    I suspect the Romney team isn’t worrying about women as much as they probably should.

    I dunno. Given the apparent lukewarm response the actual war on women is getting from independent women, they’re placing their efforts where it seems needed.

    Romney needs to be hammered, hard. Not just by the press, but virally, by individuals.

  19. 19
    Hill Dweller says:

    If it becomes apparent Romney isn’t going to win in the days/weeks leading up to the election, the far right will turn all their anger, at least temporarily, on him.

  20. 20
    Chris says:

    The fundamental fact of contemporary American politics is that no one fears anything except the far right.

    The current system reminds me of the Klingon story arc in TNG, where they find out that the Duras (despite their hyper-nationalist rhetoric) were responsible for a massive act of treason, but they can’t be called on it publicly because if they did, they’d flip a shit and start a civil war.

    So Worf takes the blame, the Duras are appeased, all to avoid that ugly result. Then a couple years later, the Duras start a civil war anyway.

  21. 21
    flukebucket says:

    @JGabriel:

    I suspect the Romney team isn’t worrying about women as much as they probably should.

    Rmoney does not worry about women because he has always lived in a world where women walk a couple of steps behind and clean up the shit and smile while doing it. Patriarchal. Why a female would put up with that shit amazes me. My wife of 30+ years has always told me that the only time she will be behind me is when she is kicking my ass. And she has remained true to form :-)

  22. 22
    schrodinger's cat says:

    His religion, would be a weak point with the bible thumpers. Find out whether he has any embarrassing relatives who still practice polygamy.

  23. 23
    scott says:

    It’s not an irrational strategy. Why does he need to distingush himself from W? Obama is the president. You can see pretty clearly from Romney’s ads (getting inundated with them on YouTube) that he wants to make the election about the bad economy and hang that on Obama. Maybe that works, maybe it doesn’t, and you can legitimately question whether running as Not Obama is enough for him to win. But the opposition always runs on holding the party in power responsible for a bad economy, and no one questions this economy is pretty bad. It’s the strongest issue he’s got, and from his perspective getting distracted into other things (courting conservatives or playing off them) just hurts him. If you’re Romney, a guy with no principles whose party is still toxic, it’s not a bad way to run a campaign.

  24. 24
    Mark B. says:

    Romney has to run on the “I’m the white guy” platform. Anything else will enrage some part of his base which has nothing in common except they don’t particularly like the incumbent.

  25. 25
    Betsy says:

    The weird, irreconcilable thing is: whenever you hit conservatives on Bush, they disavow him. Half the Tea People at least will tell you they hated Bush, hated his budget profligacy, hated his wars, etc.

  26. 26
    Chris says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Actually, he is not. I’ve just recently come to realize that every Obama-hating motherfucker in this country will crawl over broken glass to vote for him this cycle, no matter how rich he is, no matter how lame he is, no matter how much he “coddles migrants”. Shit, he could have public gay sex on the Mall every day at 2:30pm from now until election day and every one of them, especially the far right, would still vote for him with enthusiasm and vigor.

    Exactly.

    The John Birchers and McCarthyists still voted Republican in the days when the party was run by actual liberals like Eisenhower. The idea that they’d do anything other than vote for Romney and McCain is ludicrous. Remember James Dobson in 2005 saber-rattling by warning the GOP that they’d better not keep ignoring the religious right, otherwise they wouldn’t vote for them – and also stating that he couldn’t support “moderates” like McCain “as a matter of conscience?” After McCain won the primaries, he ended up meekly endorsing him anyway, because, I can haz seat at table of power plz? Plus, filthy socialist n*gg*r is worse.

    The Romneys of the world need to dig deeper and find a bigger set of balls, because the far right will absolutely bend over and take it if they’re forced to. Sadly, Romney has no more spine than he does conscience.

  27. 27
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @ericblair:

    They don’t trust Rmoney at all, and won’t let him do the same thing because they think he really means the namby-pamby bullshit.

    The exact same thing could be said in 1996 regarding the right’s inherent distrust of Dole and again in 2008. I know 1996 seems like a century ago but the same people who are teatards/Talibangalists now were the same back then and they saw Dole for what he was: a center-right pragmatist, ie., not one of “them”. Same thing in 08 with McGrumps. He obviously saw that which is one reason why Caribou Barbie was selected to make up for that deficiency.

    We ridicule these people for being stoopid, ignorant, etc., but they have sixth sense about who is one of “them” and it drives overall Repup enthusiasm. Dubya was one of “them”, Rmoney is not. Prior to Citizens United, that would mean another decisive win by the Democrat. Now, who knows.

  28. 28
    John Weiss says:

    @flukebucket: I’m smiling. My wife to a tee. Damn! Aren’t you and I two lucky fuckers?

  29. 29

    @Mark B.:

    Romney has to run on the “I’m the white guy” platform. Anything else will enrage some part of his base which has nothing in common except they don’t particularly like the incumbent.

    I would word it differently. Conservatism in the US today is an ever-shifting array of enemies onto whom conservatives project disdain. All that matters is the expression of scorn for outsiders– it’s the only way conservatives know who they are, given that they dropped any and all political convictions by the wayside sometime in the past decade or so.

    That shared disdain is their interest, is what they share in common. I believe that was the point of Nixonland.

    EDITED TO ADD: @Betsy: Needless to say, in real life, all conservatives loved Bush:

    as Bush left office, he had a 28 percent approval rating from independents– and a 75 % rating from Republicans,according to Gallup. According to an ABC/WaPo poll, Bush left office with 34% approval from independents, and 68% from Republicans– but 82% from self-professed “conservative Republicans”. Over the course of his presidency, Bush received an average of about 80% approval of “conservative Republicans”. Those same conservative Republicans, now refashioned as the “Tea Party”, maintain today that they are very preoccupied with the deficit and with federal & executive power. But we know they don’t care about those things, because they were Pres. Bush’s most loyal supporters.

    Links for substantiation for all that data are available at my place.

  30. 30
    Jewish Steel says:

    ‘Vague, general or downright evasive’

    Maybe if you and cousin Steve keep squeaking, our worse-than-useless press will notice greaseless wheel that is the Romney campaign.

  31. 31
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    because DC was more afraid of a few right-wing Bishops than of millions of American women voters.

    I don’t get it, but the polls seem to make this a rational decision. I saw at TPM today that Maccaca Allen has a big lead over Kaine, and Governor Transvaginal still has solid approval ratings, no?

    The most interesting explanation I read about Romney’s playing footsie with Trump, a man I have a strong hunch both Romneys look down on, is that he fears a splashy third party run by Trump could peel off enough support to cost Romney a possible narrow win. Immigration is definitely an issue that could spark a Tea Bagger write-in campaign that might could put several swing states out of Willard’s reach.

  32. 32
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @scott:

    you can legitimately question whether running as Not Obama is enough for him to win.

    That can work at the House level, even at the Senate level (the only reason “my” Senator, the wankerific Claire McCaskill won in 06 was because she wasn’t Jim Talent) but at the Presidential level? I don’t think that’s ever been the case. Thus, if Rmoney is pinning his hopes on that and a bazillion dollars in SuperPAC money, he’s playing long odds.

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    I guess Mitt figures that if voters can’t judge his policy specifics on the merits, at least they won’t be able to reject him. So his plan is to run on as undefined a policy agenda as possible. And all that’s left for him and his surrogates is to stonewall on policy specifics, and keep repeating the main message: OBAMA BAD. OBAMA BAD. OBAMA BAD.

    As for tacking to the center, that’s never going to happen, is it? Mitt had to start on the far right in the primaries to attract the Teabaggers. As the nominee, he must continue on the far right or lose the Teabaggers. And in his first term (God forbid) he’ll have to stay on the far right or the Teabaggers will primary him in 2016. If President Mitt is re-elected in 2016, will he then finally tack to the center? I doubt it: why mess with success?

  34. 34
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @Betsy:

    Half the Tea People at least will tell you they hated Bush, hated his budget profligacy, hated his wars,

    And yet gladly voted for him and would have gladly voted for him again and again. The Teatards are poster children for the entire “What’s The Matter With Kansas” thesis.

  35. 35
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @gwangung:

    Romney needs to be hammered, hard. Not just by the press, but virally, by individuals.

    __
    The mainstream press is a lost cause. They are bought, sold and paid for. Either we hammer Romney virally, or he doesn’t get hammered at all.

  36. 36
    Soonergrunt says:

    @joes527: That’s always the lesson true believers learn first, regardless of political stripe.
    Look at how long it took the Dems to react to the change in political landscape after the rise of the right in the late 70s/early 80s.

  37. 37

    This is why I wrote earlier this week that conservatives are trying to frame Democrats as the rigid partisans. Mitt Romney can’t actually say anything concrete to pander to the “independent” and “undecided” voter, so the Republicans are left with putting negative labels on Democrats. It’s the Democrats who refuse to compromise, who reflexively hate all things Republican, who are overly partisan and biased! Big fat meanies!

  38. 38
    lacp says:

    @Hunter Gathers: It’s not going to be pretty watching a cyborg go rogue on national television. But it might be pretty entertaining.

  39. 39
    Chris says:

    @reflectionephemeral:

    I would word it differently. Conservatism in the US today is an ever-shifting array of enemies onto whom conservatives project disdain. All that matters is the expression of scorn for outsiders—it’s the only way conservatives know who they are, given that they dropped any and all political convictions by the wayside sometime in the past decade or so.

    That shared disdain is their interest, is what they share in common. I believe that was the point of Nixonland.

    Very well said. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

  40. 40
    The Voice says:

    All you need to know about “Fast and Furious” from Fortune Magazine.

    http://features.blogs.fortune......ous-truth/

    Pass it along to the Breitbart Dimfarts.

  41. 41
    slag says:

    @JGabriel:

    Women? Oh yeah. This, I think, is Romney’s biggest problem. Women definitely outnumber the far right. If female independents turn out in high enough numbers and swing to the Democrats en masse, this could turn into a rout.

    Seconded.

    I had an incredibly depressing dream the other night in which all the light blue on the electoral map was turning to red right before my eyes. As Rmoney was coming to the stage to give his presidential acceptance speech, they were playing a montage that included some interview with him from back in the day where he said he was pro-choice. A bunch of women cheered. After I woke up I couldn’t get back to sleep for hours. Seriously, hours. All I could think about was how we get more women to stand up for themselves for a change. And I never dream about politics.

  42. 42
    El Cid says:

    @Chris:

    …. Then a couple years later, the Duras start a civil war anyway.

    But weren’t they still grateful for the nice way they were treated earlier? That sounds very mean. Surely our conservatives would be better principled than those mean old Klingons. Though I think the Ferengi are basically Star Trek’s GOP.

  43. 43
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @El Cid: The Ferengis are more principled than the GOP, besides they don’t go on starting wars or torturing people.

  44. 44
    Nellcote says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    Thus, if Rmoney is pinning his hopes on that and a bazillion dollars in SuperPAC money, he’s playing long odds.

    Voter surpression should help.

  45. 45
    japa21 says:

    @the Conster:

    I don’t know. When the wingtards finally come around to fully understanding what it means to have Willard’s hand on the Book of Mormon at his swearing in, they may stay home or just vote for their local guy.

    It would be pretty interesting to see how he would answer if someone asked him “If you are elected, what would you use to swear you oath of office on, the Bible or The Book of Mormon?”

    The question isn’t attacking his religion.

  46. 46
    redshirt says:

    @Chris: Excellent! All politics should be filtered through a Star Trek prism. The lessons are all right there.

    Also: Republicans = Cardassians.

  47. 47
    the Conster says:

    @japa21:

    Also, if he’ll be wearing his Temple garments. It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

  48. 48
    chopper says:

    @scott:

    It’s not an irrational strategy. Why does he need to distingush himself from W?

    because obama’s going to paint him as the second coming of g-dubs. and a majority of americans still hate that guy and still blame him for our shit economy.

  49. 49
    Chris says:

    @redshirt:

    To be an even more massive nerd –

    The Ferengi, Klingons and Cardassians all remind me of our conservatives for various reasons. The Ferengi thing requires no explanation. The Klingons, it’s the huge discrepancy between their self-image and their reality – as Ezri points out, they talk about courage and honor until they’re blue in the face, but the reality is that they’re run by a corrupt, ass-covering pack of honorless crooks.

    The Cardassians, it’s mostly just Dukat: the fact that he’s not only a monster but still wants to be loved and admired, sincerely thinks he deserves it, is sincerely bewildered when he isn’t, and reacts by going into temper tantrums and concluding that he needs to be more monstrous because really, the problem is that he’s been too soft and cuddly all this time. The image of Dukat comes to mind whenever I hear the latest smug, ignorant, sociopathic fuck mewl about how “the Iraqi people don’t appreciate us enough.”

  50. 50
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @redshirt: Not as smart or cunning.

  51. 51
    Valdivia says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    That lead is based on a poll from yesterday from a Republican outfit that also had Romney winning Virginia by five. That race is tied with advantage to our guy.

  52. 52
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Chris:Dukat had some redeeming qualities though (before he became a minion of the Pah wraiths) he loved his daughter Ziyal beyond reason. Remember how he was battling Klingons all by himself after his fall from grace over Ziyal.

  53. 53
    Thoughtcrime says:

    You can’t expect me to clearly state my plans or opinions. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake!

  54. 54
    Barry says:

    @Mark S.: “I bet if Romney loses, the next GOP nominee softens the rhetoric a la W’s “compassionate conservatism.” The goopers will be tired of losing by then like they were in 2000.”

    I’ll take the other side of that. Remember in 2008, after getting righteously spanked, they doubled down on the crazy.

  55. 55
    Barry says:

    @the Conster: “don’t know. When the wingtards finally come around to fully understanding what it means to have Willard’s hand on the Book of Mormon at his swearing in, they may stay home or just vote for their local guy.”

    I doubt it, for two reasons – first, they’ll use a Bible; second, the right is good with him on the basic theological questions (details like Jesus, God and such are not the basics).

  56. 56
    redshirt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Hitler loved his dog. Means nothing.

    You think the Carddies were cunning? Examples please.

  57. 57
    Elie says:

    I disagree that Romney’s reason for staying to the right is because he is afraid of the right. There may be some part of that which is true, but my thought is that Obama has taken all the reasonable, centrist positions and prevented him from making any more moderate stance on anything — and I mean anything. One by one, on immigration, jobs, anything, the logical policy option that he could move to is not available leaving him essentially without much policy to articulate — except vague euphemisms or right teatard bromides. Sure, right now its not hurting him as much, but it is going to put the clamps on any blood flow towards developing solutions later in the campaign (and he is already started to be criticized by even some Republicans on his lack of ideas). I of course, never say never to the horrible vagueries of what fate has in store, but I would say that Romney is in way more trouble than he looks like to many…

  58. 58
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @redshirt: Garak is an example of a cunning and smart Cardassian. In the Pale Moonlight is one example. I agree with what you say about Dukat, all I am saying was that he was compelling character and that made him an interesting villain.

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