Larry O’Connor makes a great point regarding the fixation many conservatives have on presidential politics:
I hear it from half the callers on my talk radio shows. I read it in the comment sections of my favorite blogs. I see it from some of the most well-respected pundits on cable news.
Every time the discussion turns to anything outside the Washington Beltway or to any topic not related to the Democrat vs. Republican horserace narrative of “Who’s up and who’s down” political gamesmanship I hear “It’s not important. We need to get back to the real issues America cares about.”
With all due respect, I have to ask, “Are you high?”
(H/t Robert Stacy McCain)
The problem is that many, many conservatives are not really engaged in the American culture or society. They think that Americans care a lot about what Obama was doing on the night of September 11, 2012, for example, when most Americans really care more more about who just got sent home on The Voice. O’Connor goes on to note:
Barack Obama was mocked for going on Entertainment Tonight and FM Music morning shows during the presidential election instead of the “serious” Sunday morning news programs. You may have mocked it too. “Obama won’t face a serious interviewer because he doesn’t want to face tough questions!” Not really.
Does anyone think George Stephanopolous or David Gregory were going to ask their guy any tough questions? Of course not. Obama didn’t talk to “The Gimp with a Limp” on Miami’s hip hop station because he wanted to avoid tough questions. He went there for the same reason Dillinger robbed banks. It’s where the voters are.
How’d that mocking work out for you? Obama laughed all the way to re-election.
When conservatives stay out of the conversations in America about film and television and music and sports, it means the country is having a one-sided conversation, and our voices will not just be ignored, they won’t be heard at all. We need to get in that game and we need to be heard.
Right or wrong, most Americans are too caught up in daily life to care much about Harry Reid’s whacked out conspiracy theories regarding the Koch brothers, or the latest bit of transparently ridiculous propaganda being peddled by Jay Carney.
Yes, all of this is important, and should be discussed, but many conservatives suffer from monomania and want to restrict all conversation to only one topic: Defeating Obama.
Within this group is a large subset which not only insists upon talking exclusively about presidential politics, but which sees all matters besides their own pet issues as not just irrelevant, but a harmful distraction. For example, the multitude who in 2012 screamed that it was just “The economy, stupid!”, and tried to shut up debate when it turned to any other topic, as though somehow discussing abortion, the decline of the family, immigration, foreign policy, or a host of other issues would derail any chance of ousting Obama. Of course, it was never just about the economy, and people who pointed this out were far from stupid, as in the end the refusal of Romney to engage the wider electorate was his undoing.
People–normal people–are concerned about many various issues, and they see most of these issues as being unaffected–or affected only tangentially–by who is in the White House or which party will win control over the Senate. To an extent, they are correct in this pessimism. Most things in America–including the political realm–will remain unchanged regardless of which party controls the government, and conservatives should understand this better than anyone else. (What, do you really think electing Rand Paul will lead to a much lower deficit and a smaller government? Most Americans are smarter than this.) The conservative battle cry is thus, not “Vote for our guy and he’ll bring utopia!”, but “Vote for our guy, because it will be so much worse if the other guy is elected!”
This is hardly a battle cry that wins elections, however. And since it does not win elections, conservatives need to find a way to appeal to normal Americans. They can do this by engaging in the culture, and by running on a full spectrum of issues that can appeal to many different kinds of otherwise disaffected voters. This was exactly the game plan Obama followed in 2012, and it worked. Obama had a whole shopping list of reasons for people to vote for him, and found ways to target and communicate with people who cared about those issues via social media and the entertainment world.
A single issue conservative candidate who only preaches to the choir will never win a presidential election. A conservative candidate unafraid of talking about the deficit, the economy, social issues, foreign policy, government regulations, medical care, and a whole shopping list of other issues might have a chance, however, if he or she can find away to address the people who sat out the 2012 election because they thought their vote would not make a difference when it came to their personal concerns.
In the same way, when conservatives can begin to start engaging their friends and neighbors on issues that are important to them, and showing them how politics affects these issues and thus their personal lives, then conservatives will start making political headway. As it stand now, however, many conservatives are content to just shout on Twitter or hang banners on freeway overpasses, as though anyone cares or is listening.