By David Beilstein
THOMAS SOWELL has been bobbing and weaving for generations as a public intellectual. Sometime recently, he wrote a column, explaining the need for Republican candidates to “exegete” their ideological formulations – it’s consequences, especially, in order to roll back electoral defeat.
The good doctor is correct. Dr Sowell, a political and economic maestro, demonstrates how the Republican Party jettisons explanatory philosophy concerning policy when running for high office, typically losing to the pie-in-the-sky moonbat hysteria of leftist rhetoric. It becomes all the more frustrating then, because when men such as Barack Obama run for public office, they speak a lot, saying little. President Obama’s lofty paean is stylish – soaring ideals, poised gestures – but it is prestigiously saccharine.
Like most conservatives, the Hoover Institute electric brain brings the noise, as it were, going back to former President Ronald Reagan and demonstrating the political maturation of the “Great Communicator” was one of decades – of generations – in parturition, not instantaneous.
As much as the mainstream press tried to counter Reagan’s rise and political effectiveness, they could not counter the “Great Communicator.” Reagan spoke past the progressive media pogrom to the American people directly. Moreover, it was a former actor – a man of commercials coming into the living rooms across America, generationally, that helped Reagan the Great win two landslides against a Democratic Party even more presumed to be for the common man than now.
If there is something Reagan The Great proved, it was the value of communicative ability over skill-sets. Say, like being a business tycoon. History, as they say, matters. Recall, Mitt Romney, the champion of the business world garnered less votes than progressive Republican John McCain. The former titan of Bain Capital tackled just over a paltry 200 electoral votes.
This is not to say skills do not matter – it is to say communication is palatial in electoral politics.
Reagan’s communicative prowess slipped and countered for 489 electoral votes in 1980; Reagan got 530 in his 1984 reelection against tax-and-spend provocateur, Walter Mondale. Few candidates or presidents win 49 state landslides.
Important to comprehend is the shape and texture of Reagan’s electoral triumphs. Reagan’s victories were prescribed in his past of learning and experience. Practise makes perfect, after all. That past went back decades, where Reagan traveled the country explicating classical liberalism. Reagan might have won the presidency in November of 1980, but he gave one of his best classical liberal speeches for Sen. Barry Goldwater during the latter’s presidential run in 1964. Reagan’s speech in terms of classical liberal performance – of ‘Ooo and awe’ momentum – was far more effective than Goldwater’s own speeches.
In war the battlefield must be prepared. One can know words without knowing the language of the people. It is like the joke told between friends who experienced an comedic event in the moment. The joke lands on those persons who were absent from said experience, who miss out on the joke’s effectiveness.
The common rejoinder for the moments disconnect often becomes, “You had to be there.”
Republican politics reside in such a specious universe. Watching GOP candidates run for office is like watching a joke go over poorly – or over the audience’s head. The Republican Party, then, appears to speak a foreign language to the people; a language disconnected from shared experience.
Dr Sowell laments effectively,
The most successful Republican presidential candidate of the past half century— Ronald Reagan, who was elected and reelected with landslide victories— bore little resemblance to the moderate candidates that Republican conventional wisdom depicts as the key to victory, even though most of these moderate candidates have in fact gone down to defeat.
One of the biggest differences between Reagan and these latter-day losers was that Reagan paid great attention to explaining his policies and values. He was called “the great communicator,” but much more than a gift for words was involved. The issues that defined Reagan’s vision were things he had thought about, written about and debated for years before he reached the White House.
Reagan trained to become president. The worst hue of the modern Republican Party is candidates run for office because they have resided in office before – but they have not worked out their ideological philosophy. Rick Santorum is a perfect example, here. Had Santorum worked out his ideological stance over decades, he might have come to realise the texture of contradiction between his political stances, and classical liberal philosophy.
Sowell on the horn, again,
Reagan was like a veteran quarterback who comes up to the line of scrimmage, takes a glance at how the other team is deployed against him, and knows automatically what he needs to do. There is not enough time to figure it out from scratch, while waiting for the ball to be snapped. You have to have figured out such things long before the game began, and now just need to execute.
The last two sentences are of fundamental importance. Classical liberals need boot camps of a sort. Republicans lost the 2012 presidential election preciously because Dr Sowell’s point. Romney-Ryan ran on many concerns of the past, not the present, and the current American malaise creates despair for stability – not so much risk taking. Economic freedom is crucial to expanding wealth; but so isn’t economic stability. Those things are not understood in a vacuum. They have to be defined and Republicans have allowed statists (namely Obama) to set the premise of the debate before it begins.
Republicans, then, are out hustled and outmanoeuvred before the pill has been snapped to the quarterback. Consequently, it becomes far too late in the game to make adjustments.
If it is precision one desires, Dr Sowell connects,
Very few Republican candidates for any office today show any sign of such in-depth preparation on issues. Mitt Romney, for example, inadvertently showed his lack of preparation when he indicated that he was in favor of indexing the minimum wage rate, so that it would rise automatically with inflation.
That sounds fine. But the cold fact is that minimum wage laws create massive unemployment among black teenagers. Conversely, one of the lowest rates of unemployment among black teenagers occurred in the 1940s, when inflation virtually repealed the minimum wage law passed in 1938, since even unskilled labor was paid more in inflated dollars than the minimum wage law required.
Dr Sowell’s point requires a Republican party committed to ideas, not noise.
A committee on the counterproductive effects of liberal policies such as minimum wage laws on minorities could be headed by someone like economist Walter Williams. Here too, there are many writings in plain English that could expose the huge harm done to minorities by liberal policies that claim to be helping them.
It is not necessary to explode every single lie put out by liberal Democrats. All that is necessary is to thoroughly discredit a few of their key claims, exposing them as liars.
We need more communicative voices like Dr Sowell’s. The brilliant Negro who used to grace daytime news shows, sporting horn-rim glasses and a crop of an Afro, is immensely timely. But let us remember. There is always hope.
Thomas Sowell used to be a radical leftist. Used to be, that is.