Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | January 22, 2012

Salvo from South Carolina: Darn voters thinking for themselves again

There are several explanations we’re likely to hear about the outcome in South Carolina on Saturday.  Most of them will involve the voters being silly and not knowing what’s good for them.  (I especially like the variant that says South Carolina voters went for Newt Gingrich – Newt Gingrich! – because they’re right next to Georgia.  Yeah, right.  Gingrich is Mr. New American South.)

If the voters weren’t silly, they would understand that it has to be Mitt Romney, because, well, primary voters were silly and picked Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell over Mike Castle in Delaware, not to mention running with that goofy Sharron Angle in Nevada, and look how that turned out.  You can’t get California and you probably can’t get New York, if you’re the GOP nominee.  But you have a good shot at Pennsylvania and Ohio, Michigan and maybe even Illinois, if you’re Mitt Romney.  Newt Gingrich?  Forget it.  Gingrich can’t even win Georgia.

And the truth is, this analysis isn’t necessarily wrong.  If I had to make a bet, I’d bet that a Newt Gingrich nominated to run for the GOP in November would implode on the campaign trail.  He’d still make a better president than Obama, but his “sticking it to the media” shtick in the debates would lose its luster when he faced Obama.  He comes across as easily annoyed; the feistiness that resonates with voter sentiment in the primaries would weather time and tides poorly.  As between an irritable Gingrich and a cool, scripted Obama, I would predict without hesitation that the latter’s jokes during a debate would come off better.  All things being equal, that is.

As with the O’Donnell-Castle primary outcome in 2010, however, it’s not the voters who are silly.  They know that all things aren’t equal in 2012.  The voters who put Gingrich over the top yesterday believe that we can’t keep going down the same political path in the United States – and that that holds for Republicans at least as much as for Democrats, if not more.  Their perception is that the GOP leadership is invested in the current path of government: that it doesn’t want change; it is not committed to restoring liberty and limited government, but instead is comfortable with the growth of regulatory intrusiveness, and seeks merely to broker pragmatic accommodations to leftist activism as a sort of rear-guard action.

Considering that the GOP has been doing this for most of the last 80 years, the voters aren’t wrong.  They aren’t wrong about Mitt Romney: his record of enthusiastic accommodations to the left is a set of rusty, clanking weights tethered to the back of the Mitt-mobile.  Gingrich and Santorum both have some ‘splainin’ to do as well, but Gingrich has specifically repudiated some of his earlier faux pas (such as the snuggle-up with Nancy Pelosi on combating “global warming”).  He also speaks trenchantly on the issues that exercise the most voters:  federal debt, health care regulation, regulation in general, government intervention in the economy, illegal immigration.

It does matter to primary voters, moreover, that Gingrich “takes it to” the media by rhetorically denouncing the questions posed in the GOP debates.  Voters on the right perceive the one-sided political attitude of the media to be a significant problem for American politics.  And while I don’t get as excited as others do about Gingrich’s little rhetorical broadsides in the debates –responding with broadsides isn’t, per se, a component of leadership – this is another thing the voters aren’t wrong about.  Media bias is a problem, not only in politics but for our public life in general.  People believe a lot of things that aren’t so today because of the particular narratives favored by the major media.  The perception of public assent generated by the media’s formulations produces an environment for government taking actions that jeopardize our liberties.

Many voters are determined not to be ruled by federal executive agencies whose agendas are approved by MSNBC and the New York Times.  These voters are voting for the candidate they deem most likely to reverse America’s slide into precisely that method of government.  That they see such a candidate in Newt Gingrich speaks more loudly about the general state of the GOP than about anything else.  Voters are seeking to break the inertia and conventionalism of the Republican Party; this is, in fact, a power struggle, and one in which I would not bet against the voters.

The famous salvo from South Carolina in April 1861 precipitated a shooting war under old conditions that no longer prevail.  The Union had all the material advantage in that war, as it had the moral advantage in being determined to preserve the national union while ending slavery.

But today’s South is no longer under such a disadvantage.  A political salvo from the South is a different portent now.  Likewise, the Republican Party doesn’t hold a Union-like advantage over its members, nor is there any valid reason for our federal government to hold such an advantage over a law-abiding people.  Today’s “rebel” GOP voters in South Carolina aren’t the slave-regime old guard, they’re the abolitionists.  We need not be deceived that wanting to reverse the encroachments of the federal government, and defeat the plantation mentality in Washington, is evidence of irresponsibility or lawlessness.  The truth is closer to the opposite.

The people have one tool – the vote – by which to express the sentiment that things have to change.  In 2008, Mitt Romney didn’t look all that different from George W. Bush.  The Obama tenure has been a wake-up call that has put Romney in a new perspective: in 2012, he doesn’t look as different from Barack Obama as conservative voters would prefer.  Obama is less an outlier than the end-gamer of the same big-government principles embraced by both major parties over the past 80 years.  We have now seen with our own eyes where those principles lead, and the voters don’t want to go there.  It’s not the voters who need to wise up; it’s the Republican Party.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


  1. I notice that your idea of “voters thinking for themselves” is in fact merely thinking as you yourself think. In any case the unqualified reference to “voters” is misleading. The voters in question are that very peculiar subset of voters – South Carolina Republicans. They may well not have voted for Professor Gasbag because he was the helium baloon from over the fence – but the Prof well enough knew what would tickle the erogenous zones of his target audience. we heard lots of coded references to “food-stamp President” and “welfare mums”. You know the sort of stuff. Just the ticket when appealing to an angry resentful self-pitying minority with jurassic sensibilities. Prof Gasbag mightn’t have the attention-span of a goldfish (The view of fellow Republican legislators who tried to work with him in a previous life) but he sure knows his target audience. Presumably, he also knew his audience when he held contrary views on a raft of social policy issues in the good ‘ol days before he “specifically repudiated” some of his earlier “faux pas” (unfortunate use of French term given Prof Gasbag’s recent campaign ad’ – ref. campaign joke: French speakers not wanted. French marriage OK!)
    And lets not forget his reference to the “elite media” which went down a treat with the target audience. I confess to having some sympathy. The hand-wringing presenter who hadn’t the guts to stand up to the bullying Prof didn’t deserve much respect. Instead of apologising for himself he might have reminded Prof Gasbag that it was he himself who made Christian values an issue when Monica was being very very nice to Big Bad Bill. You will remember that Prof Gasbag’s own secretary was being equally “considerate” at the same time. And the Prof is also the same guy who bemoans the decline of Christian values while apparantly interpreting “in sickness and in health” in a manner not quite what most of us had in mind when we recited our marriage vows.

    And I feel the pain of the Republican grassroots at the terrible persecutions it has undergone at the hands of the New York Times which has prevented them from thinking for themselves. Might I suggest that they opt instead to take their orders from the Murdock Empire (Alas, slightly diminished these days as a consequences of having been caught red-handed hacking the phones of bereaved parents in the UK). And if these poor people hadn’t enough to put up with – the Republican Party establishment is forcing them to pick an Obama look-alike rather than Palin, Bachmann, or even (I can’t remember the third one)

    It seems that because of the machinations of the MSM and the Republican elites, these poor victims will end up choosing a candidate which they actually don’t want.

    Perhaps you are right. They really can’t think for themselves.

    The real electorate of the American people is well able to think for itself. In November it will opt for the sensible centrist candidate. Romneycare or Professor Gasbag (whichever) will win the silver medal.

    • “… an angry resentful self-pitying minority with jurassic sensibilities.”

      Didn’t you forget the part about them bitterly clinging to their Bibles and guns?

      • Ah yes! You will have to prise their victimhood from their cold dead hands

        • I never thought about it that way but when people object to having their wealth confiscated to finance the pet projects of the utopians it’s obviously a symptom of victimhood.

  2. p.s. South Carolina is the same state where last time around Republican campaigners who thought McCain was too liberal started the rumour that McCain had fathered a black child. Yup. The conservatives know what goes down a treat in SC.

  3. Running another McCain against Obama, AGAIN, just spells out the classic definition of insanity. If the Republicans, and the voters, haven’t learned that lesson yet, I guess it’s just going to take another dose. People think things are bad in this country now, but a look at history shows that it can get way worse before it hits bottom, and people figure out which way is really up. The political class that is running the Republican party is going to have to be totally discredited and out of power before anything will change, and I plan to do my part to speed that up by making the consequences come sooner rather than later.
    The fight against the Republican Establishment has been postponed way too long. Everyone saw where nose-holding got us in 2008; the Live Free Or Die approach is long overdue. Regardless of anything else about him, Gingrich is valuable as a successful kamikaze to stop Romney from getting elected. That alone gets him my vote. You can’t win a war if you’re not willing to take your chances. I don’t expect that conservatives will ever completely defeat the Establishment, but we have the numbers to prevent them from winning. Sooner or later they’ll learn they have to bargain with us if we’re willing to go nuclear, so now it’s time to prove it. The timing is near perfect – with the national debt situation under a socialist administration in the next four years, Obama may very likely crash the economy in an epic way.

    • Kamikazi tactics don’t work when the other side has a nuclear bomb. The Bomb in a presidential election is acceptability to a majority of the electorate. Obama has it, Gingrich hasn’t, and never will. Neither have Santorum nor Paul for different reasons. Palin and Bachmann have never been within a wet week of electability in a general election. Even if he moved towards the centre Gingrich would still be unelectable because of doubts about his character and because he isn’t trusted by almost anyone – particularly the Republican legislators who had to work with him. Lord Romneycare, if he moves to embrace the centre in the general election, and if the economy fails to pick up, might just shade Obama in November.

      Happily, the economy is showing signs of a revival from the Bush crash. The growth which will kill the recession and dilute the debt to insignificance is appearing. Employment growth will follow in due course once underutilized capacity again becomes productive. Obama is playing a blinder in this regard, and is doing exactly what any electable Republican would probably do in the same position. The only fly in the ointment is the possibility that Europe will implode and bring everything tumbling down. Ironically, the Europeans (under the stern supervision of Chancellor Merkel and the European Central Bank) are following the Tea-Party prescription of fiscal retrenchment rather than printing money. While the US shows signs of recovery, Tea-Party policies and tight money are at risk of driving Europe into economic implosion.

      Part of the reason why we are doing so much better than Europe is our wonderful Constitution which enshrines the checks and balances which ensure that a sensible consensus always trumps small doctrinaire minorities.

      • “The growth which will kill the recession and dilute the debt to insignificance.”

        How does one “dilute” debt? Can I dilute my electric bill? Would it be possible to dilute my house payment? What are the mechanics of “debt dilution”? Ordinarily, in normal English, to dilute something would be to mix it with a different probably less valuable or effective substance, ie. to dilute good whiskey with water. So if a debt is going to be diluted what would be poured into it? Is English your native tongue or are you just linguistically pretentious?

        • I can’t imagine that you’re so silly that you don’t “get it”. I presume you’re just being disingenuous.

          When I purchased my home in the late ’80s the mortgage repayment was 15% of my salary. The same monthly repayment was something like 2% of my salary 20 years later. That’s debt dilution. The same principle applies to the national economy. Inflation and the growth in productivity, not repayment, reduced the huge debt incurred as a result of the Vietnam disaster to relative insignificance by the time Reagan came into office. As a proportion of GDP the national debt in 1980 was significantly higher than it is now.

          • Good lord Paul, you did not “dilute”, pacify,massage,truncate,emaciate,pontificate,expurgate,
            or agitate your debt.
            Your house payment remained the same. Your compensation rose. The percentage you spent on housing compared to your total income was reduced. Your housing “debt” as stated as your house payment (not your principal reduction) also remained the same.

            • No, it became diluted as the economists say.

              Now, might I suggest you dilute whatever you’re imbibing.

        • Actually, I thought that Paulite may have hit upon a point, but he soon disabused me of that notion. Debt could be said to be diluted by a recovery insofar as an economic recovery pours revenue into the federal coffers. In fact, you can’t tax your way out of a huge federal debt, you can only grow your way out.

          Has anybody else noticed the irony of a former Speaker of the House running as the anti-establishment candidate?

          • You can neither tax or untax yourself out of a recession. The secret is getting the correct balance between printing money and reducing public expenditure. Some judicious tax breaks and some tax increases may assist.

            • Great stand up routine. Don’t forget to keep a straight face. People are laughing at you not with you.
              Personally, I think a strong mixture of printing money, more un-employment benefits, more stringent regulations, less national energy production, more public union folks, more govt in general, will turn the tide. It will get us to the next level. Basement anyone?????

            • Inflation, the devaluation of currency, is the central feature of your “debt dilution” strategy but one that genuine economists regard as a negativity because it destroys the wealth of people that hold money and is a hidden tax that the state uses to finance its profligacy. If you indeed celebrate the fact that the amount of your current monthly mortgage payment seems to be a pittance compared to what it was initially, you’re hopelessly misguided. It wasn’t too long ago that a draft beer at the saloon down the street was a quarter, or maybe even a dime. Today it’s more like $3.50 or $4. That’s how debt dilution works.

          • “Has anybody else noticed the irony of a former Speaker of the House running as the anti-establishment candidate?”

            Indeed, that was why I said the voters’ view of Gingrich speaks most loudly about the quality of the total field in this primary season.

            • Not the “total” field. Only the Republican field. The other half of the field has a competent sensible centrist candidate.

              • That sounds like the Soviet Politburo view of who is a centrist. By that frame of reference, every single Founding Father, not to mention the sainted JFK, would have been a right wing extremist.

            • I have always felt that “Packaging” is far superior to substance in the United States.
              Look at MacDonalds. Look at Obama.
              I saw a lot of Obama Hopey/Changey bumper stickers there for a while. They seemed to have gone overseas with the General Electric jobs.

              • Overseas?
                With Romney’s money.

                And Callista when she’s buying her bling.

                And I’ve seen the “hopey changey” bumper-stickers too. Hilarious. Particularly the cute racist code it conveys. What a hoot. Says a whole lot about the drivers.

                And you.

                Bye now.

  4. I’m not American but the polls constantly indicate that while voters are tired with the endless bailouts and the failed stimulus packages of Obama’s admin, they care even less for the small-government agenda of the Tea Party, as shown by the dismal polling figures for the Ryan Plan.

    The reason why Romeny’s campaign is imploding is that he is sitting back and waiting for Newt to self-destruct, rather than getting out there and aggresively pointing out his opponent’s flaws in adverts, debates and on the stump. Not only does this let the former Speaker choose his ground, but it also leads voters to question how he will deal with Obama. Romney seemed to have grasped the idea a few weeks ago when he killed Gingrich’s momentum in Iowa with negative advertising – let’s hope that he will re-learn the message.

    • Welcome, Matthew. My apologies that first posts require a one-time “approval” — but now that you’re “in,” your comments will post automatically. Don’t be shy about joining the fray.

      I’m not at all convinced that the April 2011 polling on the Ryan plan means very much. If you asked people what’s in the Ryan plan, they couldn’t answer correctly. You can also get a poll to say anything you want, as long as there will be no real-world test of its results. Pre-election polls are generally pretty accurate, because the pollsters will meet an inevitable test of their polls’ predictiveness.

      General-sentiment polls on specific issues never meet any kind of real-world test. No one will fire Rasmussen for collecting inaccurate poll results on something like “Do you think the Ryan plan is a good idea?” because there is no way to disprove the accuracy — representativeness or predictiveness — of those results.

      There is also inherent bias in the methodology of all national polling organizations. They use random phone-number generation to administer their polls. This inherently biases polling toward area codes with higher concentrations of subscribers — that is, the big cities.

      The reason this produces bias is that the sentiments of people in big cities versus those in less-populated areas show a definite and historically consistent bias on a number of issues. In American political terms, the big cities are uniformly “blue” — left/Democrat-voting — and the less-populated areas are red. The “red-blue” map consistently shows the big cities as islands of blue in a sea of red. The city-rural difference in political bias is pronounced — but it is NOT taken into account in data-norming. Polling organizations data-norm based on factors like age, sex, race, and income level, but never on whether respondents are in high-concentration area codes — meaning they are more likely than average to have left-leaning ideas — or in lower-concentration area codes, meaning the opposite.

      Big-city dwellers in the “blue” areas are oversampled as if their political sentiments are representative of all Americans. Moreover, the total population of the “red” areas still outstrips that of all the “blue” areas combined. The bottom line is that national polling on general-sentiment issues should take this repeatedly demonstrated political divide into account — but it doesn’t.

      It’s quite possible that the early 2011 polls on the Ryan plan were accurate, but there are valid reasons to suspect that they understated support for the plan. A much stronger trend in US politics is the resistance of a majority of Americans over time to nationalization of health care. Passing the Obamacare act required an intense period of vicious arm-twisting in the legisltaure because so many Democrats in Congress turned against it due to pressure from their constituents. There has never been a majority in the US supporting national health care. Obamacare was passed — barely — over the strenuous objections of a huge number of the people.

      • Welcome JED.

        And what is the scientific basis for your assumption that there has never been a majority in the US supporting a national health care?

        Perhaps you might be on safer ground saying that there has never been a majority supporting a single particular formula of health care provision. And, as an aside, I wonder what percentage of those not personally benefiting from our national Medicare and the gold-plated socialized provision for civil and military public servants, support those particular programmes?

        However, when the actual voting results are out our pollsters are usually proven to have got it pretty correct. That’s because they actually factor in the matters you have listed in arriving at their final figures. That’s what the statisticians who work for these outfits do. Or are you adding the pollsters to the MSM and the Republican elites on your list of conspirators who are persecuting the Republican grassroots and stopping the poor dears thinking straight?

        As the cliche goes, the real poll is in November. you won’t be able to argue with that.

        • Assumptions usually come before proof there Paul. Once they are proved “scientifically they become facts and can be offered to back up one’s point.
          I assume you are still living in your Mom’s house, but I have not worked out the proper tests (blind in your case ) to verify my hypothesis.

  5. Where’s Fuster?

    hope he hasn’t been squashed by a truck crossing the road.

    • He was crushed by the weight of your ignorance and the splendid un-awareness of your plight.

      • He’s been uncharacteristically quiet.

        Hope he hasn’t croaked……..

        (p.s. I don’t do plights)

        • Plights do unto others Paul, we don’t do them. Think of measles.

          • Oink!

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