On National Review Online, Michael Walsh goes on a tear in Where’s Mitt? (Cont’d). He points out the oddity of Romney’s disappearance from the public debate, and uses this as a springboard for some observations about the state of the Republican Party:
The more I ponder the chimerical presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the more I’ve become convinced it was all a practical joke played on gullible suckers by the GOP’s krack kadre of kampaign konsultants, a phantom “run” designed to hoover as much money out of the fat cats’ wallets as possible and deliver almost nothing in return aside from a few swing-state ad buys.
He rolls on from there, and really hits stride in the last few paragraphs:
[E]xtending the olive branch toward an opponent who’s not prepared to extend to you the slightest shred of moral or political legitimacy is suicidal. Unless, of course, you think it’s all a big game, a racket in which both sides have pretended to fight in order to divvy up the near-boundless swag of the federal treasury and keep the suckers back home happy come election time with a little kabuki and pantomime.
. . . .
You can’t win a fight unless you’re prepared to credit your enemy with the will and the capacity to achieve his stated objectives, and as long as the Republicans continue to treat the Democrats as just a slightly more extreme version of themselves, they’ll continue to lose. On November 6, conservatives received a valuable object lesson in living inside their own bubble, slurping up what Fox News told them and believing that the ghost of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 electorate would once again show up at the polls, like the phantom army in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Meanwhile, in the 40 years since they seized control of the Democratic party, leftist radicals have honed their divisive message and perfected their blunt-force tactics — all in the service of a strategy, as the actions of President Obama make abundantly clear.
The reason no one speaks for the GOP is that there’s nothing to speak for — no principles other than accommodation, and thus no message. And until it gets one, something at once fundamentally American and electrifyingly appealing, it’s not going to find its voice.
Nor can Walsh be accused of Monday-morning quarterbacking, because in his initial Where’s Mitt? post, back in September, he fretted:
If the “strategists” would pull their heads away from Rove’s chalkboard for a moment, they might see the larger picture, turn the tables on President Hopenchange, and reveal what his “change” was really about all along — the fundamental transformation of the United States of America, with the results we now see all around us. Indeed, that should be the salient issue of the campaign. But Romney doesn’t appear to be the guy who can explain that.
Walsh criticized Palin in 2011 for “teasing and then not running,” but this seems to me unfair. Sometimes politicians simply must let situations ripen, even at the price of continuing deterioration, until enough people see harsh reality. The precise reason that many of us are Palin fans is that she has both strategic sense and an awareness of the stakes. As Walsh realizes, that cannot be said about many of the Republican grandees, who think they are playing cricket and we can all go out afterward and join our opponents in a Pimm’s No. 1.