Mitt Romney’s “Bless his Little Heart” Strategy in Post-Racist America
Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee, we’re starting to get indications of his general election strategy. Apart from trying to etch-a-sketch the radical-right positions he took in the primary, what is emerging is an election strategy based on two tactics: be vague and make liberal use of belittlement.
Be vague, is a publicly acknowledged plan for the campaign. Romney has said he believes he lost a 1994 Senate race and the 2008 nomination because he was too specific about what he’d do as president. In other words, when he said what he wanted to do, people wouldn’t vote for him. So he plans to talk a lot, but not say too much.
Unless you’re a potential donor, of course; in that case he wants you to know that he’d gut federal programs for low income housing and make the Department of Education’s only mission to oppose the right of teachers to organize in order to get better pay and working conditions. You can see his problem.
The second strategy, in essence, is to say bless his little heart; he’s a perfectly nice young man but he’s just not up to the job. I call it Southern-style Snark. You can just imagine TV chef Paula Deen saying it as she throws another stick of heart disease into the roux.
So how will these two strategies work?
Certainly the platitudes-before-policies strategy has had longstanding success for Republicans, even before Reagan made high art of it. Republican voters practice what I like to call “faith-based politics.” They vote for people (like George W) who say the things they’d say. And they operate on a strict belief system. If something they believe in doesn’t work, it never crosses their mind that they are wrong. They just need to do it more, they think.
So for them, fist-pumping while yelling “America is best!” is enough. They’ll turn out for Mitt Romney’s say-nothing strategy will get the votes of traditional Republicans and those “Independents” who always vote Republican. “We’re the greatest, thank God, and pass the ammunition!” is all they need.
But by itself, say-nothing won’t win a majority, much less an election. So Mr. Romney needs the second strategy. He needs to make Obama seem inept and foolish, despite the evidence otherwise. Ridicule is the most powerful force in politics. No one votes for the motley fool.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Michael Dukakis (who was killed by a funny hat) and Howard Dean (whose promising candidacy was killed by an enthusiastic scream.) Either would have been a good leader. But they were winning one day, dead the next.Continued on the next page