Hillsdale College Professor Paul Rahe — author of Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, hard-headed historian and observer of the Age of Obama — foresees a “Landslide on the horizon.” As Professor Rahe surveys the scene, he senses tremors missed by pollsters and analysts (“psephologists”) taking the pulse of the public:
In my opinion, none of the psephologists…has reflected on the degree to which the administrative entitlements state – envisaged by Woodrow Wilson and the Progressives, instituted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and expanded by their successors – has entered a crisis, and none of them is sensitive to the manner in which Barack Obama, in his audacity, has unmasked that state’s tyrannical propensities and its bankruptcy. In consequence, none of these psephologists has reflected adequately on the significance of the emergence of the Tea-Party Movement, on the meaning of Scott Brown’s election and the particular context within which he was elected, on the election of Chris Christie as Governor of New Jersey and of Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia, and on the political earthquake that took place in November, 2010. That earthquake, which gave the Republicans a strength at the state and local level that they have not enjoyed since 1928, is a harbinger of what we will see this November.
It’s not the job of the pollsters to reflect on these things, but simpatico observers such as Walter Russell Mead have been following the demise of “the Blue State social model” over the past year. I’m afraid the death rattles will be playing themselves out for a while yet, but the movement toward limited government isn’t going away either, and, unlike the Blue State model, it has a viable future.
I hope someone inside the Romney campaign will pick up on the questions that Professor Rahe poses as voters’ questions, because they are the questions that Governor Romney should place squarely before the American public:
The question that everyone will pose to himself on the first Tuesday in November is this: “Do I want four more years of this?” And Romney can drive it home: “Do you want four more years of massive unemployment? Do you want four more years of food stamps? Do you want to lose the job that you have? Do you want to be out of work when you get out of college? Or do you want to see this country get moving again? Barack Obama took his shot – the stimulus bill, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank. And where has it left us? With the most anemic recovery in the history of this country!”
And let’s not lose sight of this:
Romney can go on to speak of Obamacare. He can point to the corruption that Barack Obama brought from Chicago to Washington. He need only mention Solyndra and sound the theme of crony capitalism. Romney can also point to the President’s systematic misuse of the executive power – to defraud the salaried employees of Delphi and the bondholders of General Motors and Chrysler, to gut the welfare reform passed by New Gingrich and adopted by Bill Clinton, to let school systems out of No Child Left Behind, to sic the IRS on political enemies, to force people into unions, to encourage voter fraud, to deprive Catholics and other Christians of the free exercise of their religion. The list is long.
Professor lays out the road map:
If Romney wants to win really, really big, there are three things that he needs to do. First, he needs to tie his argument for paring back the administrative entitlements state back to first principles – back to the origins and purpose of government – and he needs to assert the necessity to return to limited government. What I am saying here is that he needs to occupy the moral high ground, to defend free enterprise not only as efficient but as right and just, and to criticize “spreading the wealth around” and taking from Peter to pay Paul as shameful and unjust. Politics is ultimately about justice, and justice should be his theme.
Second, he needs to force Obama to make errors. To this end, he needs to get under the President’s skin. He did this to Newt Gingrich in Florida, and it worked like a charm. Obama is even vainer than Newt, and he cannot stand mockery. Moreover, he hates Romney with all the resentment that phony intellectuals ordinarily harbor for successful businessmen. The gentler the mockery in this case, the lighter the touch, the more devastating it will be. Romney’s theme should be that the poor fellow is just not up to the job and that he should be left free to spend all of his time doing what he really enjoys — playing golf. The SuperPACs may be able to carry the ball on this.
Third, when the debates come, he should do a Newt Gingrich. When one of the pundits asks a really stupid question that is of interest only to the credentialed elite (and this is inevitable), he should disembowel the man, asking him how he could waste the time of the American people on a matter of this sort when we are on the verge of a second recession and millions are looking for work. In the debates, the trick is to show strength – and nothing shows strength like a dramatic gesture of this sort. He might even find an opportunity to do this to Obama himself. It would be a knock-out blow. At some point, Romney needs to set aside his natural caution and timidity and go for the jugular.
Professor Rahe’s post is, like everything he writes, worth reading in its entirety.