Our Non-Ideological Brethren &
the Muddle in the Middle

 

independentThere is a great swath of America which has no defined ideology. Nixon spoke of the silent majority. Reagan had his Democrats. Today’s punditry speaks of the “independents,” a growing segment who cannot abide either party. Obama, too, had his non-ideological supporters: people inspired to vote who might otherwise not participate. Though not a majority in themselves, they were enough to make one when cobbled with the otherwise disparate left-wing coalition. Mitt Romney — as competent and good a man as has ever run for president — was outmatched, unable to pull enough votes from those unmotivated by ideology, and too uninspiring to capture sufficient support from the Republican base.

Conservatism, with its less-sanguine view of humanity (history is not exactly proof of mankind’s benevolent nature) can be pretty dark. We distrust others, see more adversaries than friends in world politics, and generally distrust governance. We often seem like the Debbie Downer at the 4th of July picnic. This somber tendency allows us to be caricatured as staid, pessimistic, obstinate, scolding, judgmental, stingy, and even selfish. We don’t like change. We are — at best — cautious and our attachment to the past can seem, well, backward.

Our non-ideological brethren do not share our sentimental attachment to what has worked in the past. They are aware of our country’s problems in a general sense, but grow impatient as we immerse ourselves in the arcane analyses and details of political solutions. They can be drawn to the left by the likes of Obama, who ignores the ugly details and simply forges ahead. Conservatives chatter about fundamental issues like so many chicken littles and nothing meaningful happens. Our non-ideological brethren can only assume that since there has been neither economic meltdown, nor war, nor other catastrophe, then the chattering conservatives were just that and Obama — forging ahead like FDR and LBJ before him — was right: there is nothing really wrong that government cannot juggle, tweak, or fix.

What our non-ideological brethren do share with us (though it is not always evident) is an American optimism, a can-do attitude that says if there is a world war, we will win it; if there is a moon, we’ll walk on it; if there is a way to make a better anything, we’ll find it. They feel this way generally about everything, even — despite all the evidence — government. This is the lure the left and Democrats use to trap them. “We are the ones…” and similar rhetoric speak to this heartfelt optimism. And no matter how many times government falls down — corrupt and wasteful — Democrats still tap into that river of American optimism and convince enough unwary Americans into turning over more money, liberty, and authority to the government to fix things.

Democrats and the left are able to continually use this strategy because the reality of government failure is arcane, specific, and difficult to objectify. Take one of your non-ideological friends and try to explain why Solyndra was a failure of governance. Your friend will beg you to stop before you get to “Department of Energy Loan Guarantees.” Social conservatives sound like scolds to our non-ideological friends. To them, liberty is not judgmental and they tend to be live-and-let-live when confronted with social conservative issues. They see abstract details and firm stances on marijuana use, abortion, homosexual marriage, birth control, premarital sex, etc. as personal choices. Lacking an ideological center, they can be swayed by perceived personal benefits and proposals that might seem like the next big good idea. Again, that can-do optimism holds sway.

In dealing with this muddled middle, conservative Republicans have to first assume that they will not convert them to conservative ideology, at least not immediately. The good news is, however, neither will the left, which means their votes are in play. Second, we have to assume that not many of these folks will be drawn into Hillary’s camp. Hillary is neither charismatic nor a blank slate, the two characteristics that allowed Obama to paint himself as a transformative optimist and attract enough of the non-ideological voters to win election.

So how so we win their votes? Repaint the typical picture of “the Man” as the faceless, heartless, bureaucrat in the federal leviathan. That is where the power is. They are the ones clogging up the wheels of progress and wasting our resources. Our candidate has to be the slayer of the Leviathan, the tamer of the Man. All the while, our candidate has to be rejoicing in America as a land of opportunity, prosperity, and growth. He must, of course, present America as strong, independent, sovereign, supportive of its allies, and skeptical of its enemies, and solvent. Americans must be free to pursue their happiness, but know that happiness is not free nor guaranteed. It requires work, diligence, and perseverance.

These are the themes that will play with our non-ideological friends. This is the political vein that Donald Trump has found. It is political gold.

There are 17 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @JudgeMental

    While I generally agree with what you’re saying here, I’m not sure about the second to last sentence.  I think Trump is tapping into something else.

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    There is a lot of truth here. Let us hope someone at Republican headquarters is reading Ricochet.

    Which brings up my biggest problem these days:

    The Republican Party really needs to get organized and provide meaningful support, and sometimes cover, for its candidates.

    • #2
  3. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    I am not so sure of your analysis. I meet very few people that haven’t chosen sides. So I don’t think there is much to be mined in the middle. Where I do agree with you is the bureaucracy. Even leftists know that the federal leviathan is a large part of why nothing seems to get done nowadays. Howver, instead of going after the bureaucrat go after the insane agglomeration that is the federal register and the federal tax code.Simplification can be a good theme.

    • #3
  4. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Our solutions are typically simultaneously to convoluted and ineffective.  See: Plan, Ryan.  or Social Security Private accounts.

    There is a willingness to accept “we need to eat our peas” in american politics, but nobody is going to accept peas mixed with an unholy witches brew.

    Gingrich had this pegged in 2012.

    I disagree on the extent to which republicans lose on social issues.  We lose on gay marriage, but generally win on the rest of them.  Pretty much everywhere.

    When the boomers die, unrestricted abortion will never again have any serious political viability.  Seriously.  It will be an outpost of a few cranks and weirdos that nobody takes seriously.

    Same with gun control.

    Pretty much nobody except the far left is for the overt sexualization of schools.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @IWalton

    Conservatives do not have a darker view of humans and human nature.  It’s that progressives believe they are  morally and intellectually superior to just about everybody else.  Conservatives want people to be accountable for their own decisions.   That’s not dark it’s common sense and conforms to all of life’s lessons from amoeba to Einstein.  Progressives want everybody but themselves to be accountable to them.  It isn’t dark to believe in freedom and law.  The Federal bureaucracy isn’t dysfunctional and oppressive because it is evil, it is dysfunctional and oppressive because it is not accountable and has no mechanism for correcting or learning from its errors.  Now to the worst of the private sector, some corporate and financial company CEO’s are not greedy and dangerous because they operate in the private sector, some are greedy and abusive because progressives give them access to government protection, special deals, dysfunctional non accountable officials and tax laws drive a wedge between them and stockholders.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Conservatism, with its less-sanguine view of humanity (history is not exactly proof of mankind’s benevolent nature) can be pretty dark.

    One could easily argue that progressivism shares conservatism’s less-sanguine view of humanity, considering their malthusian enthusiasm for reduction/elimination of humanity’s numbers.

    After all, if man is inherently evil rather than good, does not not make man worthy of destruction?

    On the other hand, one could argue that traditional conservatives holds that man is inherently sinful, rather than being inherently evil. There is a subtle distinction.

    • #6
  7. Mr. Dart Inactive
    Mr. Dart
    @MrDart

    I find it interesting that people see “independents” as residing in the middle.  I hear that formulation on Ricochet podcasts and read it on the site quite often.

    Sure, some independents are in the middle between the two parties.  But lots of us who see ourselves as independents reside nowhere near any midpoint between the two big parties.  I’ve been a voter since 1972 and I vote for Republicans when they give me a good reason to do so– as in not being the Democrat Party at a slower speed.

    If the Republican Party thinks they need to nominate someone in the center or middle because that’s how they attract “independents” they should also realize that a lot of Conservative and Libertarian independents will not bother voting for that candidate.

    • #7
  8. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Thanks for bringing up the question of the political “middle.”

    The Democrats have largely abandoned this territory, and so has much of conservatism. The middle is not the province of socialists, social conservatives, or anyone else with a “big answer” to life’s questions.

    Still, the center is not wholly without ideology.

    I would identify “muddled” as mostly the low information voter segment, people attuned more to celebrity and entertainment news than political news cycles, including many young folks.

    They go largely by emotion and instinct. The youth segment is characteristically pro-sexual, pro-individual freedom, with a strong element of altruism for those born less fortunate.

    There are also more politically awake centrists: the JFK / early Bill Clinton Democrats, a very large and largely unrepresented group in the 50+ age range; fiscal Republicans who defect to Independent status to disassociate from religious or highly ideological conservatives; Libertarians, a growing group which embraces the left on foreign policy and social issues, and the right with regard to size of and interference by government; the female dominated “let’s all get along” segment which detests division, discord, and heated rhetoric; and true Independents, who are informed and have the backbone to stand alone with their own eclectic mix of firm policy choices (left, right, and perhaps center on average), positions often based on personal experience or expertise.

    Like any group which feels under-represented in the media culture, many centrists are capable of rallying around charismatic figures who emerge to give them voice. That’s the difference between Donald Trump and Jon Huntsman, the charisma.

    • #8
  9. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    The first post I ever wrote on Rico was called The Muddle of the Middle.  My point was that these are people who are just busy living their lives, and who consequently don’t pay a lot of attention to politics, just follow the broad outlines.  In a way it’s an enviable position to be in.  Following politics, though engaging, is an exercise in frustration. I think I agree that the best way to reach them is through a positive message, plus making sure they know how utterly corrupt Obama has been and Hillary is.  I think these things are sinking in.  Also, most of them agree that things are going badly.  Right now, that’s pretty much in our favor.

    • #9
  10. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Judge Mental

    While I generally agree with what you’re saying here, I’m not sure about the second to last sentence. I think Trump is tapping into something else.

    JM

    Trump is resonating with some folks and they aren’t ideologically minded Republicans.  His political history makes him nearly radioactive among both conservatives and mainstream Republicans.  His appeal is not ideological at all.  Since I don’t think the Left is flocking to his candidacy, that leaves only those who while they may be affiliated, are not tied what is typically Republican or conservative.  They are not so much independent as they simply do not have hardened ideological leanings.

    • #10
  11. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Z in MT

    I am not so sure of your analysis. I meet very few people that haven’t chosen sides. So I don’t think there is much to be mined in the middle. Where I do agree with you is the bureaucracy. Even leftists know that the federal leviathan is a large part of why nothing seems to get done nowadays. Howver, instead of going after the bureaucrat go after the insane agglomeration that is the federal register and the federal tax code.Simplification can be a good theme.

    Z

    Trust me.  There are many people who are not engaged in politics or who do not adhere to a typical party oriented or left right political ideology.  Some are registered voters and some aren’t.  The key is to get their attention (often short spanned) and motivate them to register and vote.  Trump gets attention.  He speaks something other than Washingtalk.  He doen’t get all wadded up in political history or legislative machinations.  He’s not senatorially fawning or reverential.  He’s blunt and calls them as he sees them.  That get’s the attention of the non-idealogue.  Trump is them, only richer.

    • #11
  12. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    John Penfold

    Conservatives do not have a darker view of humans and human nature.

    JP – I believe that we do, but that does not mean that we don’t believe in individual redemption.  But we know of the darkness that all too often invades men’s souls.  The Left, on the other hand sees mankind on a perpetual advance evolving to perfection, a process that they continually try to push.  For them it is a matter of cooperation and elimination, a collective effort.  The value is in the progress overall, not in the individual.  Take the Castros as an example.  The Left looks at the Castro’s and Cuba with envy; a collective with free healthcare, jobs for all and equal distribution of wealth.  Conservatives see two despots who (at best) enslave and impoverish their people; as evil.  I’ll never understand why the Left misses that.

    • #12
  13. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Misthiocracy

    Conservatism, with its less-sanguine view of humanity (history is not exactly proof of mankind’s benevolent nature) can be pretty dark.

    One could easily argue that progressivism shares conservatism’s less-sanguine view of humanity, considering their malthusian enthusiasm for reduction/elimination of humanity’s numbers.

    After all, if man is inherently evil rather than good, does not not make man worthy of destruction?

    On the other hand, one could argue that traditional conservatives holds that man is inherently sinful, rather than being inherently evil. There is a subtle distinction.

    Misthio:

    I would say that the Left makes no distinction at all.  They certainly don’t abide the term “sin.”  Too judgy.  And as for evil, it’s as if when they acknowledge and speak it, only then does it become real.  So they abide it and say nothing until it gets too close (while others step in to deal with it.)  How else can you explain the current reaction to ISIS or the deal with Iran?  Those who speak its name, Netanyahu for example, are vilified, as if by admission, one is instigating evil.

    • #13
  14. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee
    @RobertELee

    I see the difference in what democrats say and what they do.  I see what the republicans say and what they do.  And I see my country sliding ever more rapidly into the toilet.

    I don’t care what others think about how we got to this state because they will mostly just point fingers.  Usually the middle one, and probably at me.

    Me, I remember that it wasn’t conservatives who founded this country, those folks went back to England.  It isn’t conservatives who honor freedom, rights, and liberty.  They want to dictate what is right and force you to obey their dictates.

    So no, I don’t see myself as a republican, and I won’t allow conservatives to dictate morality to me.

    I don’t like liberals either.  Generally I find what they want to be liberal with is my money and my freedom.  They talk a good game but they don’t deliver for anyone but themselves.  I feel like they want to look over my shoulder all the time, appoint themselves approval rights to my actions, and take whatever they see I have that they want.

    I’m in the middle.  I’m genuinely disgusted by the corrupt, self-serving actions on both sides and think whatever I do I can be sure that both sides are contemptible.  All I have to do as look at their actions and hear their words to know I want neither.

    • #14
  15. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Robert E. Lee:I see the difference in what democrats say and what they do. I see what the republicans say and what they do. And I see my country sliding ever more rapidly into the toilet.

    I don’t care what others think about how we got to this state because they will mostly just point fingers. Usually the middle one, and probably at me.

    Me, I remember that it wasn’t conservatives who founded this country, those folks went back to England. It isn’t conservatives who honor freedom, rights, and liberty. They want to dictate what is right and force you to obey their dictates.

    So no, I don’t see myself as a republican, and I won’t allow conservatives to dictate morality to me.

    I don’t like liberals either. Generally I find what they want to be liberal with is my money and my freedom. They talk a good game but they don’t deliver for anyone but themselves. I feel like they want to look over my shoulder all the time, appoint themselves approval rights to my actions, and take whatever they see I have that they want.

    I’m in the middle. I’m genuinely disgusted by the corrupt, self-serving actions on both sides and think whatever I do I can be sure that both sides are contemptible. All I have to do as look at their actions and hear their words to know I want neither.

    Bravo, and thank you.

    You make a convincing case. I’d re-register as an independent, except (a) you never know when the California primary could actually swing the nomination; and (b) re-registering appears to reboot activity in the jury duty selection system.

    • #15
  16. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    Meh to hating both sides.  Sure, politics is ugly and dirty, but so much hate and disgust takes too much energy and isn’t very productive anyway.  I want to support someone with conviction even if political realities can be very complex.  I’d rather push the side I support to be more principled than waste my energy resisting everyone.  My two cents.

    • #16
  17. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Robert E. Lee:I see the difference in what democrats say and what they do. I see what the republicans say and what they do. And I see my country sliding ever more rapidly into the toilet.

    I don’t care what others think about how we got to this state because they will mostly just point fingers. Usually the middle one, and probably at me.

    Me, I remember that it wasn’t conservatives who founded this country, those folks went back to England. It isn’t conservatives who honor freedom, rights, and liberty. They want to dictate what is right and force you to obey their dictates.

    So no, I don’t see myself as a republican, and I won’t allow conservatives to dictate morality to me.

    I don’t like liberals either. Generally I find what they want to be liberal with is my money and my freedom. They talk a good game but they don’t deliver for anyone but themselves. I feel like they want to look over my shoulder all the time, appoint themselves approval rights to my actions, and take whatever they see I have that they want.

    I’m in the middle. I’m genuinely disgusted by the corrupt, self-serving actions on both sides and think whatever I do I can be sure that both sides are contemptible. All I have to do as look at their actions and hear their words to know I want neither.

    This is so perfect!  Thanks Robert.

    • #17
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.