The Voice Of Moderation: Form Counts, Too

As irked as I am with the DC smarty-pants set (Frum, Brooks, Parker), I get where they’re coming from. They inadvertently hit on a truth, because they themselves reflect the new truth: Americans are now, more than ever, influenced by the superficial and emotional, the form and the packaging.

The smarty-pants set loved Obama because he sounded and looked good and said things in a way that was appealing. For those pained by George W. Bush’s malapropisms and uncomfortable mannerisms, Obama was a welcome aesthetic relief. John McCain was more of the same old, white, curmudgeonly Republican awkwardness. Moderates, independents and swing-voters have short attention spans and McCain looked too McSame. Obama looked young and fresh and vibrant and exciting.

Conservatives can curse this cultural reality and most, right now, do. Look at where moderation is taking the country. However, ignoring the culture doesn’t change the culture. For 40 years, or more, the country has been on this collision course. It’s still shocking now that it’s here.

It’s important to note that liberals and leftists have not changed their stripes. They hated Bush, were free about saying so and still hate any form of strength, capitalism, freedom, and America itself, it seems. Until America becomes the socialistic, even-Steven, mediocre, complacent haven for the average and lazy, the left won’t be happy. Until America is the same as every other 3rd rate socialist state, the left will curse American exceptionalism and decry the inequity. Until America is hamstrung by laws and regulations and rules only she will follow, in the name some warped morality, the left will curse the lack of justice and fairness.

But the left cannot take America to this hell alone. They need moderates to do it. This election, they had them. They had moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans. They had just enough everywhere to do it.

Moderates Republicans poison the soup by choosing unelectable candidates. First it was John McCain. The new favorite, as iterated by Kathleen Parker, is Mitt Romney. Mitt outspent everyone and got no traction, he’s won three straw-polls and yet my gut tells me that his chances of winning next time around are somewhere between slim and none. Not that he knows this, of course. Why will he lose? Because he’s boring as hell, too slick and the very image of what moderates and independents don’t want. Parker, herself included.

Conservatives need to recognize the fickle middle and adapt. Since it’s mostly form, Republican elected officials and those running for office simply need to be better at communicating positively.

The Republican establishment needs to choose more youthful, hip, good looking candidates. Sorry. In this media age, looks matter. Part of the reason the left was terrified and pretty successfully destroyed Sarah Palin was because she looked so good. They knew that her beauty and ease in front of the camera would be tough. Thus, the hate.

Republicans need to keep messages simple, sound-byte-ish and understandable. For all the supposed sophistication of the Moderates and Left, they just can’t handle nuance. “Hope and change” delivered with an eye-sparkle counted as substance to these people. Meet them where they are. Make sure the message is dazzling and simple.

The message needs to address concerns. Republicans can’t ignore health care, the unions, the plight of the working poor, the environment, etc. and stay relevant. McCain never could come up with a cohesive idea around the economy. That’s a problem. A few slogan ideas:

Taking the “wacko” out of environmentalism. Conservation counts.
Free choice for workers. No card check.
Health care choices not government control. Your health. Your choice.

You get the idea. Being silent on an issue isn’t enough. Playing non-stop defense is not enough. Republicans, and the conservative base need to be positive, hopeful and clear.

Ronald Reagan won because he was optimistic, cheerful, the “happy warrior” and clear. The moderate middle, the Reagan Democrats, felt good about themselves which is why they voted for him.

The moderate middle voted for Barack Obama because he made them feel good about themselves. Do not underestimate the attachment people have to how a candidate makes them feel. People are heavily invested in this man. They want him to succeed because if he fails, it’s a reflection on them.

I told a friend last night that it’s not unlike an abused girlfriend. She doesn’t stay with the guy because he’s so great. She stays with him because leaving him would mean everyone else was right and more importantly, she was wrong. She can’t admit that. So she stays and sings his praises and tells people “you just don’t understand him.” That will be the press. That will be the moderate middle. They are too far down the path with him. They can’t come back and save any sort of face if they wanted to.

But I digress. Conservatives and the Right in general need to accept that we live in a softer, more feminine, emotional, feeling, superficial society. Speaking the language of Patten won’t work now. And anyway, Reagan didn’t win his landslides by having the form of Patten, even if it was his substance and that was decades ago.

Winning means substance and form. The form needs to be easy on the eyes and ears, gentle to the touch. The substance needs to be conservative. Squishy centers get Republicans maligned. They end up looking like Democrats. Why not just elect one, the populace thinks, and so they do.

Republicans need charisma, a clear message and core conservative values.

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