Paul Begala extrapolates from Walker-Barrett to Obama-Romney, and so unleashes advice such as "Money Matters Most ... You cannot get outspent by [a huge] margin and win, period"; the "Ground War Can’t Counter Air Superiority ... person-to-person campaigning is necessary--but it is not sufficient"; and "Go Ugly Early. Negative ads saved Scott Walker’s job ... They began in the gutter and wound up in the sewer."
In other words, for all the extraordinary exceptionalism of the Walker-Barrett brawl, the recall election--in execution--was shockingly banal. Monied nastiness tends to win. And for Walker, the vulgarity of savage Big Lies, backed by control of what effectively became the "state media," won big. Move along; nothing really to marvel at here, folks.
Begala does point to one abnormality--that of negative advertising's meager if not vacant effect on turnout: "Despite a remarkably negative campaign from both sides, turnout was 56 percent--higher even than during the 2010 general election." It would seem that this only mitigates Begala's preceding maxim about the insufficiency of ground operations in countering air wars, especially to the notable extent that Team Barrett managed to counter Team Walker. Still, we take Begala's point: negative advertising's obliterating effect on turnout may be more of a "myth," to use Begala's word, than we thought.
What really recommends Begala's piece, though--or at least I thought so, because I agree with him--is his weariness with progressives' Andy Hardy-'Strike Up the Band' School of Game-Changing Enthusiasm, a wearniess I'll quote at some length:
The Base Ain’t Enough.... [E]ven with remarkably high turnout from progressives, exit polls showed that just 21 percent of Badgers consider themselves liberal, while 36 percent are conservative. There’s more of them than there are of us--so in order to remain president, Barack Obama has to capture the majority of independents. That means a base-only strategy cannot suffice. I don’t doubt that the president knows this. I suspect he wonders why his liberal supporters, who love to complain that he didn’t propose a Canadian-style health-care system, don’t.
There’s more of them than there are of us. Jesus! how many times must this prodigious, arithmetical simplicity be driven home to Master Hardy's Booster Club? And when Begala says "them," I'm confident he doesn't mean that all the 36-percent conservatives are right wingers, and I'm damn sure he doesn't mean that all the uncited, conservative-leaning independents are right wingers.
And before I make my final point--again--I'll let Begala make his:
It will be fascinating to see if liberals, who say they believe in evolution, are able to evolve, adapt, and overcome the forces that reelected Scott Walker and are poised to dump President Obama.
How best, in my opinion, for liberals to "evolve" and adapt"? I apologize for my tediousness, which I redeployed, yet again, just four days ago:
[I]f your political policies reflect a conservative ideology of stability, tradition, continuity and preservation ... then ... Why don't you call your team conservative?
After all, that's what liberalism is: the new conservatism--which is to say, the old, authentic conservatism. Some of those "36 Percent" are also of the older school but don't quite "get" the distinction; and many among the independent vote are unquestionably older-school, as opposed to right-winging, conservatives.
So why don't liberals just bloody scream it to the electorate?--What modern conservatives deride as liberalism is in reality little more than genuine conservatism: quite simply, the preservation of what's best, and most valued, in our society.
Once more, sorry to be so tedious. But to me this wholly ingenuous--and, it would seem, utterly rejected--strategy would only demonstrate contemporary liberalism's capacity for a bit of life-giving, adaptability-grabbing, evolutionary thought.