November 22, 2010

Important lessons for conservatives from Obama - Part 2

Obama, on the left side of the post.
Just under two weeks ago I posted the first of what I thought were some important lessons for conservatives from President Obama - not just lessons in what to do but also in what not to do. Today I'm going to take a look at a DO item - being responsive. This lesson obviously applies specifically to governing conservatives in the upcoming Congress, and the reinforcing lesson from President Obama is just another piece of the lesson that the Republicans should have learned from their drubbings in the 2006, and 2008 elections.  Let's hope with the lesson being pounded home by the President's actions over the last two years, the Republicans, or most of them at least,  get it.  Being responsive is important to electoral success.  With the electorate seemingly better understanding the nature of the fiscal mess the government is in than the government itself understands, right now it's critical for the country's success as well.  Importantly,  being responsive is also a DON'T item in some respects, and there's a reason why.

Being unresponsive can be a tactical problem in real world situations.  Think of President Obama's slowness on the Gulf oil spill.  The President seemed unprepared and unable to cope with the situation.  Not only was it bad optically, the slowness and inaction (other than seemingly paying lip service to the problem) led to the oil spill taking seemingly forever to get solved.  Sure, it was going to take a long time to solve anyway, but the President's apparent non-response to Governor Bobby Jindal's plea to let Louisiana take action it was prepared to take, was clearly unresponsive.  And it was clearly a contributing factor to the increased scope of the problem.

Being unresponsive can create an image of being out of touch.  Whether that image has caught hold for President Obama probably depends on who you ask.  But in some quarters it certainly has.  The issue is especially acute for Republicans thanks to the mainstream media's double standard.  Consider the Bush golf outings versus Obama's golf outings (HT: The Liberal Lie);
Over 40 Rounds Of Golf. “President Barack Obama has played a remarkable 41 rounds of golf since becoming president, easily outpacing his predecessor and possibly damaging his ability to portray himself in 2012 as a populist advocate of average folks… The former community organizer’s 41 trips around the links – a standard of recreational activity well beyond the budgets of most Americans – compares to only 24 total outings for former President George W. Bush, according to statistics compiled by White House chronicler Mark Knoller of CBS News. Bush, whose golf outings were used to help deride him as a callow, lazy, rich boy, played his 24th and last round on Oct. 13, 2003, saying he was ending the practice out of respect for the families of Americans killed in Iraq.” (Keith Koffler, “Obama Has Shot 41 Rounds of Golf as President,” WhiteHouseDossier, 7/16/10)
Republicans have to be extra vigilant about being responsive when the press would be more than eager to have some Republican unresponsiveness in their cross-hairs. That is especially true in light of how the Tea Parties and the anti-Obamacare town halls of the summer of 2009 portrayed Democrats so poorly in this regard.  Not only is it politically beneficial to liberals, it's also a sort of payback for what the Tea Parties did.

Conversely being responsive can create a sense of 'getting it'.  If the public perception is that what needs to get done is what the Congress is focusing on, then regardless of whether the solutions are helping quickly enough, at least the feeling will be that the Congress is tackling the right issues.  Nancy Pelosi trying to spin Obamacare as a 400,000 job creating piece of legislation is spin to the point of absurdity.  Nobody ever believed that, probably not even the Uncool Whip herself.

Being responsive to the electorate and to the real needs of the country, particularly fiscal restraint shows that you aren't in it for yourselves.  It will help get things done, and they will be things that don't have an underwater approval rating, like Obamacare.

Being responsive to liberal and/or Democrat distortions is important as well.  There is being responsive and there is managing perception of your responsiveness.  Both are important.  The GOP cannot afford to let misrepresenting talking points go unchallenged.  This one should be self-evident, and the evidence doesn't just come from President Obama.  While he waited a long time to get started on the oil spill, he did come back and overly aggressively responded to try to re-capture the sense of being in control of the situation.  Meanwhile, the image of his disengagement from the issue had already formed.  It wasn't health care, it wasn't part of his agenda - dealing with an oil spill was just a nuisance job for the President.  That's not the case if you are a shrimp fisherman in Louisiana. 

Taking things one step further, it is possible to be too responsive too.  There are dangers in presenting yourselves as mere vessels of public opinion.  Being too responsive shows no leadership.  It can certainly appear to be government by polling, or pandering to voters in an effort to win votes by bad policy.  It can also actually seem to be unresponsive in the sense of being responsive to a core base that is itself out of touch.  Obama provides a great example of this with his position on the closing of the Gautanamo detention center, his position on gays in the military, and his seeming insistence on civil trials for terror suspects. 

Lastly, 99.99% of American conservatives who aren't actually in Congress have a responsibility too.  Conservatives need to be responsive to events by letting the Republicans know what to be responsive about.  They need to make their positions CLEAR.  They need to hold the GOP accountable. If the Republicans start to stray from understanding what they need to be working on, conservatives will need to respond to let the GOP know that they are taking notice and will hold them accountable too.

Next up in part 3 - DON'T be out of touch.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Disagreement is always welcome. Please remain civil. Vulgar or disrespectful comments towards anyone will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Share This