WASHINGTON, April 14, 2014 – “Wuss” is the term that comes to mind when I think about recent Republican presidential tickets and would-be GOP presidential candidates. I can still recall the skittish behavior of Mitt Romney who anxiously avoided giving offense to his opponent in the last two presidential debates.
Romney avoided any vigorous response to charges by Democratic operatives that he had been complicit in the death of a woman in Michigan. The husband of this woman, who died of cancer, had lost his medical insurance after having been laid off by a company that Romney was no longer affiliated with. By the end of his disastrous campaign, the conflict-dodging Romney gave the impression of being a corpse preserved in formaldehyde.
His vice-presidential running mate and now presidential aspirant Paul Ryan likewise avoids giving offense to people who would never likely vote for him. When a black Democratic congresswoman, Barbara Lee, reviled Ryan as a “racist,” after he had spoken about the “tailspin” of bad cultural habits among the underclass, Ryan would not criticize his defamer. Instead he spoke about his wonderful relation with Lee and that he had called her on the phone “to straighten things out.”
Needless to say Ryan’s real or affected meekness did not keep the Democratic press, led by Bill Moyers, from going after him for using “coded words” to express his Republican bigotry.
I have memories of other GOP candidates, going back to Bob Dole’s presidential run in 1996, groveling before the “undecided” or “swing voters.” Unless I’m mistaken, these sought-after voters typically break for the other side. Those Republicans who compete with each other in exhibitions of sensitivity, land up crunched between two stools. They neither galvanize their own base nor outbid the Democrats in winning over “fiscal conservatives but social liberals.”.
Certainly I understand the obstacles that confront GOP candidates, starting with generally hostile media and a massive opposition bloc consisting of public sector unions, racial minorities and feminists. What I would ask is whether pandering is the best strategy for winning presidential elections.
Pandering looks and smells like pandering, and no one with half a mind could mistake it for anything else. When FOX-news laments how Obama is oppressing blacks by not supporting the charter schools that black parents want their children to attend or by not relieving black unemployment, the outcry falls on deaf ears.
All these attacks on Obama have not cut into his 99% approval rating among voters he’s supposedly abusing. Blacks support the president as a member of their race and as a leader of a party that talks about spreading around income in such a way as to benefit them. Whether Obama has really spread wealth, doesn’t seem to matter to these voters. They’re not going to vote Republican, no matter how hard FOX-news sheds crocodile tears over their victimization by the Democrats.
If the GOP’s next presidential candidate is Jeb Bush, who has stated that those in this country illegally are engaging in an “act of love” toward their families, the party will again land up between two stools. Most Hispanics would continue to vote for Democrats because these minority voters fully endorse Democratic social programs and Democratic support for racial preferences.
Republicans would stay home in droves rather than vote for a candidate whose views on immigration clash with those of the Republican base. And no matter how loudly the GOP media rails against Hillary, these souls are not likely to vote for another wimpy presidential candidate.
Perhaps the best way for the GOP to end its recent dismal record in presidential races (having lost the last five out of six) is to stop pulling punches while fearing the blows of the other side. Those blows will come in any case and the best way to deal with them is a bold offense. Finally I would suggest looking for votes by broadening already responsive constituencies.
Note Democrats don’t waste their energies by fawning on Fundamentalist voters or by catering to gun-enthusiasts. They try instead to galvanize the base they already enjoy.