But to some extent, I’m wasting pixels and time even writing all this. Most of those who voted for Barack Obama for a second time are not persuadable by fiscal appeals or national security or anything grand. They’re not ideas voters. A core of them may think they are, but there is no viable intellectual foundation to the idea that government can print and spend as much money as possible, and can at the same time tax our most productive citizens to punitive levels. It won’t work. Point that out to a liberal and they either become non-responsive or hostile. It’s what we’ll be doing in Obama’s second term.
As for the free stuff voters, they have always been out there in large numbers and we have known they were out there but for the most part they figured into no one’s Election Day calculations. They’re the reason we pay more attention to polls of likely voters than registered voters, and pay almost no attention at all to polls of generic Americans. But Obama has turned many of those generic Americans and registered voters from spectators into actual voters. That’s a big part of his magic. If that sounds condescending, tough. If you think it identifies you, it probably does. Have a nice day.
The problem of persuasion looms large. Qualifications for the office may not matter. Records and resumes apparently don’t matter. The economy and other issues — honesty, standing up for America’s interests and image — may not matter. Content matters less, apparently, than tone. Except that even in tone, Obama can promise punishment and revenge and get a pass. So maybe it’s not tone. Obama certainly did not run a unifying or uplifting campaign. He ran on fear and blame and giveaways and envy, and it worked. Obama may be a historic one-off. It’s hard to see Joe Biden replicating Obama’s wins in four years’ time. For one thing, the Republicans will improve the ground game and turn out our couch potato voters to match the Democrats. For another, Biden is not very bright.
Demographics have finally passed the GOP by. It’s unfair given the two parties’ histories, but it’s a fact. The ideal Republican candidate from here on out, it seems, should be female, at least one kind of racial minority but two are preferred, self-made but not so successful that it’s intimidating to anyone or can be cast as rapacious, and a member of no Christian group that anyone has any real problem with. Methodists and Episcopalians are probably fine but we’ll never see a Southern Baptist president who is also a Republican. Democrats obviously get a pass and can be as fringe or radical as they please. The ideal future Republican candidate can also can have no track record in office to dog them, but they have to have won office somewhere (but done nothing with it), and must be an Oscar-level actor so that people know that the candidate is truly feeling their pain. Democrats can recruit rich and radical numbskulls and win, as they did in Massachusetts. Republicans have to check an awful lot of boxes and be perfect just to have a chance.
Are we now the land of free stuff and the home of the knave? I hope not, but as of November 6, 2012, that’s the way to bet.