Tag Archives: us republican

David Frum – now extra ridiculous

The always intriguing Alex Pareene has a lengthy piece up on David Frum’s twin articles from the past month (one about how Ted Cruz could ostensibly become the Republican nominee for the presidency in 2016 and another about how he could then win a general election). Pareene seems to be doing two things in his look into Frum’s head – correcting the more egregious errors (like the plainly inaccurate levels of turnout in past elections he references), but also probing for what the hidden message for Democrats.

Pareene’s answer is a thoughtful look at how delusionally certain Frum is that Democrats “playing” the class card would wreck their chances for the White House in 2016. But he seems to be operating with the assumption that the intended audience for these pieces are Democrats, liberals, progressives, or some other faction in opposition to the GOP coalition.

(Where these columns make sense though, from here.)

It’s a common refrain on the right that the US is a center-right country, so even when writing for the Daily Beast, I don’t think it’s out of the question to consider that Frum might be talking to his political compatriots or just voicing an opinion for his own pleasure of seeing it in print. Taking that approach, of his latter article especially being more of a fantasy for Republicans than a warning to Democrats, there’s something else to be learned from it.

In between the relatively thoughtlessly strung together happenstances that Frum envisions as launching Cruz to the White House, there’s a lot of chestnuts. He says that Ted Cruz could on Spanish language television, in English, “This is America. We obey the law. People who can’t deal with that don’t belong here” and yet not motivate much of the Latin@ electorate to vote against such a hostile take on the issue of undocumented immigration. He has Cruz also simultaneously liberated from conventional fundraising avenues for conservatives (by “angel” donors) but without even a trace of being beholden to either those bankrollers or his conservative base, in terms of what he could run on.

Throughout both pieces there’s an implicit longing for a past formula to suddenly become feasible again. In the first, Frum writes,

“The plan [for Cruz’s ascendancy to the GOP nomination] is obvious enough: to emerge as the next acknowledged political leader of American conservatism in the apostolic succession that begins with Robert Taft, continued through Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, and has had no agreed successor since Newt Gingrich’s retirement from Congress in 1998.”

In case that conspicuous absence at the end there isn’t obvious enough, there’s this gem from the second piece: “Cruz delivered half his convention speech in Spanish and used the other half to rededicate the party to “the compassion of conservatism,” a subtle variant of an old phrase that delighted convention delegates.” Yes, what Frum really seems to want is to reinvent the second Bush administration’s political hallmarks and structures.

In short, all this recent writing reads like an escapist fantasy. In it, in Frum’s own words, a president can win with “the vaguest platform” and the “most issue-free campaign” in immediate memory. It’s basically a push-button presidency, where Cruz simply… wins because the Democrats are divided, the electorate is more White, and US voters aren’t swayed by arguments for economic equality. The imagined world that Frum seems to deeply want is one where Republicans win because why not. It’s important to realize how unrealistic that is, however, and how rooted that is in view what were actually historical exceptions (like the 1984 presidential election) as the norm.

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Failing to see the consumers’ choice

Steve Friess has an interesting piece over at New York Mag, which is an interested (although not precisely “good”) counterpoint to the omnipresent talk about the US Republican Party as hopelessly out of touch with comparatively younger voters. He explains that Republican leadership are taking to heart the advice of Sasha Issenberg – a journalist with a new edition of their political tell-all coming out in paperback – who called them out for failing to engage younger voters in their digital media domains. In short, they’re hoping to imitated Obama’s reelection marketing strategies as described by Issenberg, which Friess believes mainly consisted of “the ways it tested the efficacy of various forms of communication” –  specifically “the use of Facebook to create social pressure to register”.

(Issenberg’s new book, The Victory Lab, on the new computer modeling and online marketing involved in US political campaigns, came out in paperback with a new epilogue this month – but can the GOP glean the right message from it?)

But the issue that the Republican Party is facing isn’t really considered as a whole in the piece, and for good reason. The age-related gap in means of news media consumption isn’t merely an oddity that the 2008 and 2012 Obama election campaigns exploited, they’re the result of deliberate choices on the part of younger people, which aren’t entirely separable from the current lack of GOP talking points in most corners of the internet. From the Ron Paul follower goldbug libertarians to the corporate and posh Huffington Post, the online media landscape is admittedly not always overtly opposed to the Republican Party, but those “friendlier” sections of the internet are in many ways predicated on their opposition and competition with the official Republican brand. And that’s without considering the progressive, anarchist, and even socialist portions of internet media.

People who get their news online aren’t just missing the Republican message, they’re probably looking for news online because they want an alternative. While many of the youngest voters are seemingly aging into that system of finding out important news information, younger middle age voters are also actively moving from Fox News to either other networks, or other means of consuming news, or out of the loop entirely. The internet isn’t the passive recipient of new voters – it’s also a space they’re drawn to because of the relative lack of GOP messaging. Introducing those same political opinions into that environment isn’t going to resolve that aversion.

In short, the party that purports to be the only true advocate for the free market is failing to notice the crowds choice in what messages they want to consume.

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