I apologize for assaulting you with a Mitt piece on the heels of yesterday's, but this timely quote caught my eye, prompting a chuckle and sapping my resistance:
"The great vulnerability of Romney that's taking hold across the nation is that he will say anything to get himself elected."
That insight was brought to us by a senior advisor to the gentleman who had just been kicked in the head by Mitt's "vulnerability." He then pursued his line of conventional reasoning: "This [how, that is, Mitt scored a victory in Michigan] will be one more item to add to the list for Romney's strategic plan to tell voters whatever the polls tell him to say."
One senses that the advisor believes that Mitt's slithering and pandering are ... ill advised? Why of course. For what evidence, pray tell, is there of such a strategy's democratic success, other than poll-tested, electoral scams like the 1994 Contract for America, preceded by 20 solid years of the most shallow but ingeniously targeted political pandering imaginable -- on busing, school prayer, the racial divide, a woman's choice, even on one's innate and inalterable sexual orientation, and so on.
What evidence, indeed.
There is only one constant in American politics, and it litters the history of the vastly successful: the willingness to say anything to get oneself elected. Voters don't mind. They enjoy being soothed, pampered and caressed by strategic flapdoodle.
And Mitt, of course, is the "strategic plan's" Platonic Ideal. He is the very Darwinian model of political adaptation, a minute-by-minute evolutionary wonder, a marvel of Spencer's fit survivalism. Like a Borg, he's learning and assimilating. Whatever it takes. For to the shameless, go the spoils.
There are only two ways to battle the phenomenon -- to fight the "vulnerability" of the practitioner of dēmos agōgos -- and both immediately reveal their weaknesses.
The first is to do what John McCain tries doing from time to time: to lather the crowds with a little "straight talk," which, in our declining society, is, of course, tantamount to soaking them in pure gloom and doom. It's pretty well bloody hopeless, folks. For God's sake, just look around you. Now give me your vote and I'll see if there isn't something I can do about this horrendous mess.
That route speaks for itself, as it did in Michigan.
The other option is one that McCain, in fact, folded into his Cassandra-like message there; furthermore, it's one that Democratic pols have specialized in for decades, usually to their post-election regret. This is the option of reasoned, step-by-step policy proposals. They offer a gentle roadmap of how to get from Point A (the horrendous mess) to Point C (the Promised Land) through assorted Point B's (those often recondite policies).
McCain, for instance, hammered on the need for new job training programs and "even a plan for the federal government to pick up the difference between workers' old, high-wage jobs and the new, lower-wage jobs they are falling into" -- a free-market intrusion that would, to put it mildly, require some further and quite fast-footed commentary on McCain's part, and still he'd be crucified by the free-market gods at CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, the Democratic hopefuls have pressed the button of their always-primed Wonk Machine, which instantly spit out all manner of spiffy stuff in answer to, What to do, oh dear, what to do. To wit, they have ballyhooed "specific and pricey pledges to secure immediate, one-time tax cuts, extend unemployment insurance, address the subprime housing crisis, and send billions of federal dollars to the states to stave off counterproductive state and local program cuts or tax increases."
Yet the Washington Post piece from which I've drawn these quotable solutions hit the proverbial nail on the head regarding Mitt's Michigan success in the face of such complicated reason: "Romney responded not so much with a program but with an image: of Mr. Fix-It."
In short, Mitt comprehends the power of soundbitten humbug. He can say "we are going to take innovation and change to Washington" and know it will make the network news. He can deride the "insiders in Washington" and gleefully watch his derision replayed that night. He can trumpet that he's "going to turn Washington inside out" -- and the audiences in their living rooms, parked behind their Walmart TV trays, will lap it up.
Try countering that in nine seconds with a catchy explanation of precisely why and how it is you intend to "send billions of federal dollars to the states to stave off counterproductive state and local program cuts or tax increases," compounded with incomprehensible references to the subprime-mortgage rathole and how that ties in. Huh?
No, Mitt understands that the shortest route between two points -- from A to C, from horrendous mess to Promised Land -- is to just skip Point B. The studious pol aims right for the heart, not the head. And it works, almost every time.