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The Transitional Voter: Winning the Actual ‘Bitter Clingers’

How can Romney target the swell of ex-leftists not yet comfortable changing orientation?

by
David Steinberg

Bio

August 28, 2012 - 12:00 am

You ended up of one of two minds:

A) All that restrained you from defining yourself as conservative was the belief that conservative’s prescriptions were correct, yet their motives impure.

Prior to the Second Iraq War, I referred to myself as a pro-war Democrat, following the reasoning of Chris Hitchens and Paul Berman. Removing Saddam was the moral thing to do as he had violated some 20 or so UN resolutions/sanctions, and his country was listed as the world’s worst offender of human rights by Human Rights Watch (a group which ironically, or not at all, doesn’t primarily concern itself much with human rights. They do perform a tremendous amount of “watching”).

So I supported Bush’s behavior — yet I insisted on the conclusion that Bush was doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

I presumed this war about his father, or about — wait for it — oil. But I was OK with that, despite it being a revolting example of political demonization and scapegoating. I just couldn’t consider the possibility of a moral Republican, or that acting in the best interests of the United States is always moral. I later understood this as a defense mechanism I invented to keep from facing that I was a conservative, with nothing left separating myself from conservatism but my bigotry. The bigotry was a safety blanket.

This voter is extremely susceptible to Romney and Ryan, but Romney and Ryan do not have much time, and they would benefit by being confrontational towards this voter: a direct challenge to provide evidence of immoral behavior, of unethical living, or to shut up, because you wouldn’t tolerate that crap for a moment, and we’ve put up with it for a century.

This would have worked with me — George W. being aggressive. The discomfort with calling myself conservative would have been overwhelmed by the guilt and shame of how I had scapegoated a race, gender, a geographical region and culture, a religion and a demonstrated kindness. At that point, becoming a conservative would have been a relief. (Also, telling me to read Who Really Cares and then to shut up would have worked. I would like to see conservative politicians reference important works more often.)

This leaves one other possible point along a transitionals journey:

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