Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard is suggesting that the Romney campaign put forth a concrete plan for fixing the economy or face defeat. It is evidence of Mr. Kristol’s bush-league understanding of political realities and campaign tactics. A definitive economic plan would be tantamount to promises made that Mr. Romney may not be able to keep based on prophecies no one is capable of making. Any economic plan more refined than a broad-based attack on the present president’s policies would be an exercise in not only futility but sheer prevarication, hardly what the electorate wants.
It’s a calculated stalemate anyway. Obama hasn’t a plan either besides another ridiculously unaffordable and useless stimulus scam with the working title of “Jobs Bill” or some such being purposely stalled by Democrat Senators. We assume Mr. Kristol thinks Romney could trump Obama by putting forth a detailed missive for everyone, including the Obama camp, to study.
It is political folly of the first order to do so however. A comprehensive plan of action in a presidential campaign is stupidly suicidal and will only be seen as a slew of promises based on a larger slew of what-ifs and maybes. To go beyond a general statement of economic philosophy and principles at this or any stage of a presidential campaign runs counter to all good political sense. Mr. Kristol’s demand for particulars underscores how removed beltway thinkers are from politics in the trenches.
In my book, Running: How To Design and Execute A Winning Campaign, the fundamentals are spelled-out to one purpose, no matter the scale of the election, they never change. The idea is to get as many voters to agree with you as possible, then motivated in sufficient numbers to vote for you in the election. Internally, politics is a game of details and specifics, but externally it is a game of energy and emotions. It appears Mr. Kristol does not understand that concept, nor apparently do establishment Republicans.
Ask a voter if he wants to see a detailed plan of economic action and he will very likely say, “Yes.” Then show him one and you will have a snoozer on your hands within ten seconds. The dumbest political operative in the world knows Americans have the attention span of baby chimps. Only a fool, or someone stuck in the fifties, doesn’t understand the one hundred forty character rule.
In short, details bore. If Kristol and others within the gated Republican establishment Beltway community need proof of how much detailed plans of action bore and how effective are high flying generalities meant to stir the soul, all they need do is rewind to 2008. Indeed, look back at 2010. There were no details, just fervor based on an amorphous idea that some way, somehow if the electorate sent new and different people to Congress things would change.
It is well that the Bill Kristols of this world are not conservative campaign strategists (although one wonders if his clones have infiltrated the Romney camp), they would lose elections by the bushel via an off-the-chart boredom factor. No election has ever been won by offering voters a detailed plan of action, especially in this age. One wins by being bold, brash, vague and inspiring.
A detailed economic plan puts a giant target on both candidates’ backs. Neither man is willing to risk it. Even Obama’s cadre of clowns know, to come out with another Keynesian-based economic plan would serve only to invite ridicule from the Friedmanites and vice versa. Avoiding so worthless a parry and thrust is obvious to everyone but so-called “insiders” like Mr. Kristol.
Romney’s strategy should be based on a two-prong attack. First he must understand that a growing number of Americans are fearing and hating their own government. Next, he must link that government to Obama’s total failure as president while characterizing him as what you get when unbridled government as a result of fifty years of creeping liberalism is allowed to take control of your lives. Then Romney should subdivide further by running against not only Obama, but the federal government of the United States of America as a frighteningly monolithic, out-of-control enemy of the people. Thus, while not directly blaming Obama for government’s growth, he can blame him for embracing and encouraging it, and being inept at managing the monster.
The second prong should be straight from the Reagan book of presidential politics. This is an unhappy country, but no president can make us happy. Only we can make us happy, which is precisely the message Romney must broadcast, a solemn oath to break down the restrictions of government on our freedom to pursue our own happiness, to bring the federal government to heel with bold, general plans which include remaking the government in the image of the Founders design. That message will resonate.
Americans love high talk and generalities. Obama was elected precisely because he’s good at both, but an abject failure at the job. The best executives are not only those who can inspire, but those who know how to manage assets and people in a grand drive to realize intended goals. Unfortunately, Obama is the former while Romney is the latter, and as posited here, Americans tend to vote with their hearts, not their heads.
Mr. Kristol is a pundit, and pundits have a way of getting it wrong from beginning to end. They throw political dice. Whenever a pundit is correct it’s because of dumb luck. Mr. Romney best not listen to people like Bill Kristol. Instead, he should be listening to us, we who have our ears to the ground. See, we don’t need no stinkin plan right now, we need a soaring soul.