Here are some comments made by political pundits following the election.
“The Republicans will have to change their messaging if they are going to appeal to Latinos.”
“Mitt Romney had to pivot to the center in order to attract independents.”
“Republican candidates have to stop saying things like, ’A woman’s body has a way of shutting that down [in cases of rape],’ and ‘[Pregnancy from rape] is God’s plan.’”
All that “how to win elections” talk is completely misguided, wrong-headed and even dishonest. It seems to say that all that matters is winning an election and, therefore, that manipulation of the message and of voters is what is important.
To which I say, “Nuh-uh.” What is important is not the pivot to the center, the crafted messaging and avoiding making stupid, physiologically erroneous statements. All that pivoting and messaging is about attempting to fool people. It is the beliefs and the values of the candidates as indicators of what they would do that is important and however you dress up those rape related statements, it’s clear what these goofballs would do. Fixing their words to be more palatable would leave them just as radical.
Mitt Romney has shown his true value to America, that of being a finely honed example of disingenuousness. John Huntsman called him, “a perfectly lubricated weather vane,” and that makes him useful and instructive about this messaging business.
Romney was “severely conservative” during the primaries, telling far righties what they wanted to hear. If the principles he espoused at that time are his core principles, then what are we to make of the opposite views he declared during the general election campaign? He pointed his messaging weather vane in whatever direction he figured might be to the liking of his then-current audience, even lying about his previous statements, leaving us to wonder what his actual principles (other than getting elected) might be on issues like abortion, healthcare, the auto industry bailout, Libya, a date certain for our troops to leave Afghanistan and so many others. That left us clueless about what he might do if elected.
The abandoning of his prior, polarized positions and then claiming a moderate middle left President Obama apparently perplexed and nearly speechless during the first debate. If you weren’t perplexed by Romney’s pivots to moderate positions, perhaps instead you felt insulted by his apparent lack of respect for your intelligence, as though he assumed you lacked memory function.
Now that the Republicans have lost big, the hand-wringing over Latino voters has begun in earnest and the talk is all about the messaging that will be needed to attract them for the next election. All of that misses the point. What is important isn’t the messaging; it’s the meaning.
MESSAGE TO FUTURE POLITICAL CANDIDATES: You need to understand that Latinos don’t care much about what you say about immigration reform; they care about what you would do about immigration reform. They don’t care any more than any other Americans how you flap your lips about Medicare and Social Security; they care about what you would do about them. What can they count on from you? If you’re all about the hot air of your messaging, then all you are is a manipulator and Latinos are as good as any of us in sniffing you out.
This election was about many things, including voter disenfranchisement backlash, big money influence and the price to be paid for lying to Americans. All that pivoting and crafted messaging and biological stupid stuff gets seen for what it is, sooner or later.
So, it turns out that Lincoln was right: You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Eventually, they will figure out who and what you are. You may have had your way with them for a while, but if you have been dishonest with the American people they will swat you like they would an annoying housefly and flick you away.