Fighting Fire with Milquetoast

Imagine that instead of playing the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl this Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers were matched against a group of 22 business people who happened to get together to play football once a week just for the sake of exercise or camaraderie. Needless to say, it would not be a fair fight or a pretty sight.

This mismatch is what comes to mind when I contemplate Professor Rahe’s post regarding…

  1. Leigh

    No, we don’t have to be like them.  If we do, it’s not worth winning, because if we are like them we’ll govern like them.

    But we do have to get tougher, and be more prepared for what they will be like.

    And we need to start pushing back harder outside the electoral arena — to stop expecting politicians to do all the convincing for us. 

  2. Colin B Lane
    Leigh: And we need to start pushing back harder outside the electoral arena — to stop expecting politicians to do all the convincing for us.  

    Just had a thought: what about a Ricochet speaker’s bureau, in which we cultivate a decent-sized group of regular Ricocheters to speak or debate at various events,, guest lecture on college campuses, etc. Someone on the vast Ricochet staff (smile) could help identify events and coordinate speakers.

    We really cannot leave any stone unturned if we want to turn this around while not playing dirty.

  3. Leigh
    Colin B Lane

    Leigh: And we need to start pushing back harder outside the electoral arena — to stop expecting politicians to do all the convincing for us.  

    Just had a thought: what about a Ricochet speaker’s bureau, in which we cultivate a decent-sized group of regular Ricocheters to speak or debate at various events,, guest lecture on college campuses, etc. Someone on the vast Ricochet staff (smile) could help identify events and coordinate speakers.

    We really cannot leave any stone unturned if we want to turn this around while not playing dirty. · 7 minutes ago

    I suspect there are people on here who would be really good at this.  (Not me.)

    An idea that’s been floating around Ricochet is having the RNC run a “finishing school” where they basically train candidates not to make gaffes.  Why not have seminars for ordinary conservatives, to sharpen our ability to communicate to our fellow-citizens?

  4. Mendel

    I take some issue with two of your premises.

    First, the notion that conservatives “shun politics as a profession.” The truth is that many of the brightest lights in the Republican party today are, for all intents and purposes, career politicians: Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, just to name some of the most prominent.  Obviously none of them have the sleaze associated with most Democrat career politicians, but let’s not pretend “our guys” all devote themselves to more noble lifestyles and enter politics unwillingly.

    Second, I disagree that the “best and the brightest” on the left go into politics.  Compare Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi with Bill Gates or Eric Schmidt.  It would be a nice change of pace if the Democrats actually ran people with real intelligence as opposed to manipulative skills.

  5. Mendel

    Also, I don’t agree that Republican candidates are milquetoasts.  Today we all rue Mitt Romney as a gentleman who honorably refused to reply to Obama’s dirty personal attacks, but a year ago he was a heartless monster ripping his less-well-funded Republican opponents to shreds.

    Dirty politics is part of the game, and both sides use it to their advantage.  I agree that it would be nice to see a Republican take the high road and succeed, and perhaps it will be possible.

    But in the meantime, the main focus should be on the substance: figuring out what message to emphasize, and figuring out how to sell that message in a positive way.  That is always a better bulwark against dirty attacks.

  6. Colin B Lane
    Mendel: I take some issue with two of your premises.

    First, the notion that conservatives “shun politics as a profession.” The truth is that many of the brightest lights in the Republican party today are, for all intents and purposes, career politicians: Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, just to name some of the most prominent.

    I said our side “tend not to be political careerists.” And by the way, Daniels had a significant career in business, most prominently with Eli Lilly, but also with the Hudson Institute. Jindal worked for McKinsey after getting his Master’s Degree. Walker worked for IBM in college and the American Red Cross after (and credits Ronald Reagan with instilling the political bug in him). 

    Mendel: Second, I disagree that the “best and the brightest” on the left go into politics.  Compare Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi with Bill Gates or Eric Schmidt.  It would be a nice change of pace if the Democrats actually ran people with real intelligence as opposed to manipulative skills. 

    Touche. I guess I had Bill Clinton in mind with that comment, who could have succeeded in business but ruthlessly pursued politics instead. Again, generalizing.

  7. Mendel
    Colin B Lane

    Mendel:

    And by the way, Daniels had a significant career in business, most prominently with Eli Lilly, but also with the Hudson Institute. Jindal worked for McKinsey after getting his Master’s Degree. Walker worked for IBM in college and the American Red Cross after…

    And Paul Ryan also gained valuable “business experience” working a year as a consultant for his family business. Sorry, but if you tally the years the guys above spent in the private vs. public sector, none has spent more than a quarter of his working years in business. 

    And to pick some more nits, Mitch Daniels worked as a “VP for Strategy and Policy” for Lilly after serving as a Capitol Hill staffer.  This is also known as becoming a lobbyist.  (And I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool Daniels supporter.)

    My point is this: both Democrats and Republicans have their share of career politicians, because the system is designed to favor those people.  That doesn’t mean that our career politicians aren’t much better than theirs, or that a career politician can’t make a fine leader.

  8. dittoheadadt

    No, we only have to do this.  And we’ll keep our honor and integrity in the process.

  9. Rachel Lu
    C

    The Republicans don’t do a great job making people believe that their policies are good for ordinary folks, even though they are. We need people to associate conservatism, not with fat cats on Wall Street (most of whom don’t vote Republican anyway) but with people who are employed (instead of drawing welfare checks), raising kids (instead of killing them in utero) and building businesses, churches and community organizations (instead of casting themselves as victims and waiting for the government to help them.) I think it’s potentially problematic that most of the talking is done by a relatively small class of people who, for all their virtues, are often more members of the pundit class (which has its own concerns and assumptions and may consequently drift away from the concerns of ordinary middle-class citizens.) Obviously this is a hard problem to fix, since any person who becomes influential in the public sphere sort of by necessity *becomes* a part of that class. Still the Democrats are very good at grooming “representative members” of the groups they want to represent (e.g. Sandra Fluke) and our people need to get better at doing the same.

  10. Aaron Miller

    As I keep saying, conservatives need to institute a draft. Stop waiting for the right people to step forward. Push them forward.

    But I am certainly sympathetic to the desire not to be destroyed by calumny.

  11. The Mugwump
    Leigh

    Colin B Lane

    Leigh: And we need to start pushing back harder outside the electoral arena — to stop expecting politicians to do all the convincing for us.  

    Just had a thought: what about a Ricochet speaker’s bureau, in which we cultivate a decent-sized group of regular Ricocheters to speak or debate at various events,, guest lecture on college campuses, etc. Someone on the vast Ricochet staff (smile) could help identify events and coordinate speakers.

    We really cannot leave any stone unturned if we want to turn this around while not playing dirty. · 7 minutes ago

    I suspect there are people on here who would be really good at this.  (Not me.)

    An idea that’s been floating around Ricochet is having the RNC run a “finishing school” where they basically train candidates not to make gaffes.  Why not have seminars for ordinary conservatives, to sharpen our ability to communicate to our fellow-citizens? · 1 hour ago

    If you can arrange this, I will be there.

  12. Leigh
    ~Paules

    Leigh

    I suspect there are people on here who would be really good at this.  (Not me.)

    An idea that’s been floating around Ricochet is having the RNC run a “finishing school” where they basically train candidates not to make gaffes.  Why not have seminars for ordinary conservatives, to sharpen our ability to communicate to our fellow-citizens? · 1 hour ago

    If you can arrange this, I will be there. · 21 minutes ago

    I have precisely zero influence, connections, or experience in arranging such matters… and I claim nothing in communications ability.  But if we could get some of these expert columnists and former presidential speechwriters into it?

    I do have one humble idea that might turn into a post, though.

  13. Leigh
    Mendel

    That doesn’t mean that our career politicians aren’t much better than theirs, or that a career politician can’t make a fine leader. · 1 hour ago

    This.  I get the value of private sector experience, but while I know that most people in politics are in it for unworthy reasons, I dislike the assumption that someone who has devoted their whole life to public service is automatically inferior to someone who got rich first.

    As to the whole “best and brightest” thing, I think part of the issue is that, except for in the reddest states, the bar is lower for a Democratic candidate.  It’s usually going to take a top-tier Republican to beat a second-tier Democrat, and a second-tier Republican to beat a third-tier Democrat.  And I don’t know what we can do about that.

  14. Xennady
    Mendel: Also, I don’t agree that Republican candidates are milquetoasts.  Today we all rue Mitt Romney as a gentleman who honorably refused to reply to Obama’s dirty personal attacks, but a year ago he was a heartless monster ripping his less-well-funded Republican opponents to shreds.

    You’re describing a big honking part of the problem.

    The GOP establishment never hesitates to ruthlessly attack candidates who threaten them in the primaries. Yet they never seem to ever get around to telling ugly truths about the people they run against in general elections.

    So Mitt Romney and his campaign were quite willing to nastily destroy Gingrich, but wouldn’t dream of doing the same to Obama.

    That’s failure, and I am exceedingly weary of the endless failure of the GOP. If the party doesn’t get its act together in 2014 and 2016 I doubt it will get another chance in 2018.

    Assuming, that is, that the country is intact enough to hold elections in those years. Watching the idiocy of Obama I have my doubts.

  15. Xcheesehead
    Mendel: Also, I don’t agree that Republican candidates are milquetoasts.  Today we all rue Mitt Romney as a gentleman who honorably refused to reply to Obama’s dirty personal attacks, but a year ago he was a heartless monster ripping his less-well-funded Republican opponents to shreds.

    If only Romney had taken that same strategy to Obama…

  16. Jonathan Cast

    We don’t have to become ruthless liars; we just need to be much less ruthful truth-tellers.

  17. DocJay

    I should run.  How sealed are inpatient psych records?

  18. Jonathan Cast
    Mendel: Also, I don’t agree that Republican candidates are milquetoasts.  Today we all rue Mitt Romney as a gentleman who honorably refused to reply to Obama’s dirty personal attacks, but a year ago he was a heartless monster ripping his less-well-funded Republican opponents to shreds. · 2 hours ago

    Second what Xennady said.  What you describe is exactly what happened during the two campaigns: ruthless attack-dog Romney during the primary, polite gentleman Romney during the general.  If Republicans would only reverse that pattern — and more generally, treat those more conservative than themselves as friends they happen to agree with about some things and those more liberal as enemies to be destroyed, the way Democrats do — we’d never lose another general.

  19. Devereaux

    The part we don’t need to become is liars. But there is no question we need to be far more ruthless. One can do that with truth as well as lies, and the former often works better.

  20. dittoheadadt
    Devereaux: The part we don’t need to become is liars. But there is no question we need to be far more ruthless. One can do that with truth as well as lies, and the former often works better. · 5 minutes ago

    Lee Atwater.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In