The GOP and Self-Inflicted Wounds

There is little excitement about the current field of GOP presidential aspirants (with the possible exception of the always entertaining and quickly marginalized Ron Paul). What is somewhat striking is the extent to which Perry and Gingrich have framed the core debate, playing right into the hands of Obama’s 2012 campaign.

I think Charles Krauthammer (todays WaPo) has correctly diagnosed the current state of affairs. He notes that the President’s efforts to frame the debate as an issue of economic inequality seemed to get little traction.

Then came the twist. Then came the most remarkable political surprise since the 2010 midterm: The struggling Democratic class-war narrative is suddenly given life and legitimacy by . . . Republicans! Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry make the case that private equity as practiced by Romney’s Bain Capital is nothing more than vulture capitalism looting companies and sucking them dry while casually destroying the lives of workers.

He continues:

Now, economic inequality is an important issue…in a stroke, the Republicans have succeeded in turning a Democratic talking point — a last-ditch attempt to salvage reelection by distracting from their record — into a central focus of the nation’s political discourse.

The end result of “the GOP maneuvering itself right onto Obama terrain”:

The president is a very smart man. But if he wins in November, that won’t be the reason. It will be luck. He could not have chosen more self-destructive adversaries.

Given the way the GOP presidential aspirants have framed the debate, can they make any principled argument against expanded efforts at redistributing income and regulating business post 2012?

Can they make principled arguments at all?

5 thoughts on “The GOP and Self-Inflicted Wounds

  1. I disagree. In the south there is large cohort who express a high degree of respect and accomodation for those who create businesses and jobs and wealth. Those who achieve such tend to be placed on a pedestal. This creates its own problems but I won’t go there today.

    According to this cohort, what Romney did at Bain Capital was not tantamount to owning or running a business or especially creating wealth. To this cohort, Romney is not a business man or creator but a rent seeker and arbitrager. He merely takes advantage of the errors, mistakes and misfortune of others. So yeah, I think it is perfectly natural for a Southern Politician to attack him on this point. Viscerally, most southern conservatives agree with it.

    Also, in the mind of this audience, going after Romney for being a rent seeker has nothing to do with income inequality. It mainly has to do with rules and fair play, Romney gets to play by a different set of rules than the ordinary business man. The Cayman Island story plays well to this same audience.

  2. The failure is not in the attacks from Gingrich and Perry, however detestable and misguided they may be, the failure is Mitt’s inability or unwillingness to full-throatedly defend the work he did while at Bain.

    Meanwhile, my question from many months ago about why the GOP did not attract the “best and brightest” among their ranks to run for POTUS has been answered: who in their right mind would subject themselves to this farce?

  3. Maybe Romney can’t defend what he did at Bain. Maybe, to the listening audience in South Carolina, the explanation would be worse than the accusation. Any explanation would only further expose his membership in the rentier class which, in league with the government, has wrecked the economy.

    Gingrich’s and Perry’s attack is not on Romney’s wealth but the supposedly unfair way he obtained it. Nobody appreciates landlords, real estate developers or land speculators in general. To your typical South Carolina(and Georgia and Alabama and Texas and Oklahoma and….) voter, Romney and his ilk are just super-evolved, slick, over educated, Wall Street versions of their local developer, landlord or speculator. To them, he doesn’t do real work and he has never run a real business.

    As to the quality of the candidates, I think we had a bumper crop this year. They are all personally flawed, but who isn’t. They are being visciously vetted by the press, blogs and public. The upside to that, is that by the time we get to the general election, everything will be out in the open already. Obama, got a free ride in 2008, as far as the vetting process goes. The republicans have been herding their markers for the last three years. I don’t what we will discover about Obama in the general election this time, but I sense that Team Obama is likely to take some mean spirited punches.

  4. It is clear to me that we have much different standards against which we are measuring this field of candidates.

  5. I judge politicians as politicians. My father worked as a lobbyist off and on. ConsequentIy, I got to meet and hear about a lot of politicians in Texas. They were all a bunch of stupid, dishonest louts. But that’s ok, I learned not to judge them for their qualities as friends, spouses, intellectuals or as moral leaders. They are just politicians, they fill an important part of the ecosystem; just like flies fill an important part of their ecosystem. I don’t judge flies harshly because they eat sh!t, I judge flies only by how well they eat sh!t.

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