by Robert Stacy McCain | December 15, 2008 11:03 am
That’s the tag the Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack hangs on colleague Matt Continetti, who writes for NPR:
Obama is popular, and his agenda is, too. A recent poll found that 60 percent of respondents support Obama’s plans for massive infrastructure spending. Voters may be split on whether or not to bail out the Big Three auto companies. But they will not like Republicans anymore — trust me on this — if the GOP drives those companies into bankruptcy and is indirectly responsible for massive layoffs.
The GOP’s problem is that it obstinately refuses to address the problems facing those Americans who do not listen to conservative talk radio. Also, the party is tied to the legacy of the most unpopular president since the advent of polling. Democrats were able to invoke Herbert Hoover’s legacy for decades. How long will they be able to invoke George W. Bush’s?
Continetti is an excellent reporter — his account of the Abramoff scandal was wonderful — but he’s another of these Young Turks who inspire me to grumble, “I’ve got T-shirts older than you, kid. Now, go get me a cup of coffee.” He’s just five years out of college, and I get weary of 20-something pundits telling us What It All Means.
On the other hand, I don’t mind Young Turks so much when, as with Jennifer Rubin, their version of What It All Means agrees with my own:
Pundits and prognosticators forget that politics isn’t played in the abstract. Columnists can debate the future of conservatism all they like but back in the real world actual bills (e.g., the car bailout) and real politicians (e.g., Blago) test how skilled and effective each side is in getting its narrative before the public.
Which is to say, “Don’t overthink it.” Intellectuals are too easily mesmerized by “trends,” extrapolating from recent events a Big Picture narrative arc that, in their view, requires some major readjustment. And so you have pundits saying that the GOP is too religious, that it needs to reach out to Hispanics, that it suffers from a lack of intellectual firepower, etc., ad infinitum. In fact, the party’s problems are more prosaic — fundraising, candidate recruitment, communications — and it is incompetence at these political basics that generates the “trend” that pundits (in a reversal of causality) see as the cause, rather than the effect, of failure.
Events create trends, far more than trends create events. But the intellectual’s love of abstraction always causes him to obsess over trends, which allow more play for abstract thinking.
(Cross-posted at The Other McCain.)
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