“Wisely invested”

PARK CITY, Utah — Mitt Romney’s campaign held its daily strategy session Saturday 2,076 miles from its Boston headquarters. And this time it had some very special guests.

Eight hundred top donors gathered in the ballroom of a resort here to watch the presentation: the Romney campaign for president is organized, efficient and run like a business. In other words, their money is being wisely invested.

Figuratively or literally.


My thoughts return to the PR blogosphere and its substantive commentary (or lack thereof) on political matters. I think I have found a serviceable, though imperfect, analogy to sum up my beef.

Brian Solis, who is generally acknowledged to be a leading writer in ‘big think’ PR pieces and an overall pretty sharp guy, writes a lot of stuff on the intersection of business, the ever-evolving digital age and how that affects organizations. I was not a huge fan of his writing early on but the more that I’ve read, the more it’s grown on me.

One of Brian’s pet points, and one that I’ve seen him make several times in writing, is that often people focus on digital media and social platforms as ends in and of themselves rather than a tactics that fit into a preexisting business model and organizational ethos. Now, if you made it past the embarrassing number of buzzwords in that last sentence, here’s what I’m getting at:

Brands and their marketers suffer from what I refer to as medium’alsim, a condition where inordinate value and weight is placed on the technology of any medium rather than amplifying platform strengths and ideas to deliver desired and beneficial experiences and outcomes.  Said another way, businesses are developing for the sake of development and establishing supporting presences without regard for how someone feels, thinks, or acts as a result. In doing so, “engagement” programs are calculated, brought to life in the form of an editorial calendar that, by its very nature, isn’t not designed to really engage people at all.

Emphasis mine. I misremembered the term he cam up with, which caused me to waste a good ten minutes on Google searching for a combination of ‘Brian Solis’ and ‘mediacentrism’, failing at that, cursing at Google and then even considering using Bing. But no matter. My moniker is ‘mediacentrism.’ It’s the exact same idea and, I have now realized, it’s one of my chief complaints about how PR types write about politics online, if they do write about it at all.

So often, political posts are focused on the delivery mechanism. Here’s a post from Dan Zarrella about how the leading GOP contenders’ Twitter stats. Here’s a David Meerman Scott post about how Obama’s video is a great example of content marketing. Here’s an InkHouse post about the optics early on in the primary process. Etc, etc.

Again, I stress, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with these posts. They can be interesting. I’m aware that it’s not the job of PR folks to analyze policy. I’m aware that much of their professional work does concern image-managing, so this emphasis makes enough sense. But, nevertheless, I think there’s a lost opportunity to look at the way information is disseminated and rejected received. Plus, let’s not kid ourselves: Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker spend almost all of their time writing about trivial, optical stuff. PR people could look elsewhere. And yes, because I am ever the thoughtful and substantive blogger, I’ll give you an example.

Greg Sargent had an interesting post a few days ago. An NYT/CBS poll asked about tax fairness in the context of growth, to steal Greg’s wording, and here’s what happened:

Which do you think is the best way to promote economic growth in the U.S.? 1.Lower taxes on individuals and businesses, and pay for those tax cuts by spending on some government services and programs, or 2. Spend more on education and the nation’s infrastructure, and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses to pay for that spending.

Lower taxes, cut spending: 37

Spend more, raise taxes: 56

And here are a few more figures:

The poll also finds that 67 percent say the government should do more to help improve the situation of middle class Americans; 52 percent say government shold [sic] do more to improve the housing market; 57 percent think the wealthy pay less than their fair share in taxes; and that 51 percent think capital gains should be taxed as ordinary income. People say they dislike government in the abstract, but when the talk turns to specifics, suddenly active government doesn’t look so bad.

Emphasis all his. And wow. Sounds like good news for the Preznit, eh? Except there’s also this:

But a whopping 55 percent are confident in Romney’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy. If Romney clears the basic competence threshold with voters, as seems likely, it could be trouble for Obama.

Waitwaitwait. The public supports, by twenty points, raising taxes on the wealthy and spending more (Obama’s plan) as opposed to cutting spending and lowering taxes (Romney’s plan). 67% say the government should do more to help middle class families, which Romney’s economic plan will not do (see previous link). 52% say government should do more to improve the housing market, an area in which Obama has been quite poor but it stands to reason that Romney would be worse. And 51% think that capital gains should be treated as income, a change which the Buffet rule would mostly accomplish. Romney, if you haven’t been up on it, does not support the Buffet rule.

So: the general public opposes Romney’s general economic plan by 20%. On each discrete issue, the public is more aligned with Obama’s policies than those of Romney. And… wait for it… 55% of Americans claim to be confident about Romney’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy. Now, that’s interesting.

So it begins…

My, my, that didn’t take very long. From the front and center article on Politico (no link for them):

American politics has become so angry and divisive that it favors candidates who appeal to extremists and eccentrics, and even are extremist and eccentric themselves.

The nonstop circus of modern campaigns, meanwhile, has left the county’s most accomplished and capable people on the sidelines, with scant interest in running for office.

Or so the argument goes.

But something strange—or rather something normal—is happening in 2012.

One of the most familiar refrains from this age of polarization—that rhetorical bombast and ideological zealotry are what carry politicians to the top—is running headlong into the reality of Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney.

The general election will pit one exceptionally self-contained, self-disciplined, self-motivated man against another with precisely the same traits.

Voters have a choice between two men whose minds gravitate to rationality and logic—both of whom have expressed disdain for the disorder and surliness that pervade modern governance.

Sigh. Yeah, because it’s not like Mitt Romney has embraced right-wing views on immigration or tax policy or social safety net policies or foreign policy or… you get the point.

Meanwhile, that radical in the White House is proposing to raise the top marginal tax rate by… 4%… and that top rate is the lowest it’s been since the 1930s (first few Reagan years excepted).

Gonna be a looooong six months, folks…

The NYT goes there

From a story that ran a few days ago, discussing the Mittster’s stance towards “entitlements”:

The 2-to-1 level of support found for spending on the poor for health care and other social services disappears when voters are asked specifically about welfare, according to the General Social Survey; when that word is used, voters by a better than 2-to-1 margin, 49.3 percent to 21 percent, say that “too much” is spent. In other words, a politician can either use the phrase “spending to help the poor” or the words “welfare” and “entitlement” to describe the government programs to alleviate hardship and therefore produce antithetical reactions in the public.

Emphasis all mine. This is interesting, though, innit? Exact same issue, differing responses based just on language. Could be an area for the NYT to look into, what with the idea of Social Security privatization individual accounts still floating around and the rest of the Luntz-approved tropes for ye Grand Ole Party. But such an expose might suggest (perish the thought!) that most Americans don’t know jackshit about politics and are easily manipulated, so I’m not gonna hold my breath.

Kindred spirits

Daniel Larison has a post up that talks about how Mitt Romney will screw over conservatives that settle for him. Which he will, I suppose, although I’m betting his economic policies will still be regressive as and quite plutocrat-friendly. The social policies, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mitt’s a lot more milquetoast than the fire-breathers would prefer. Larison concludes:

Bush assumed that he could take conservatives for granted, and he could, which is what he proceeded to do. Bush presented himself as a conservative while arguably governing farther to the left than anyone, including his father, in the previous thirty years. Most conservatives accepted the act, and largely ignored the substance. If there’s one thing we know about Romney, it is that he is quite capable of pretending to be conservative without being one. He may govern that way for as long as he believes it is advantageous, but there is nothing to stop him from keeping up the pretense of conservatism while enacting policies that are nothing of the kind.

Yup. Because that’s the way that politics works. For this reason, and yes I’m aware that a huge part of politics is tribalism and hating the Other, it nevertheless surprises me that there isn’t more of a kinship between liberals and conservatives, even if it’s a very grudging one. Obviously, there are huge differences in policy prescripitions between those two groups, but they have the same experience each election. Social conservatives reeeeeally want abortion to be banned, or at least heavily controlled, so they vote for Republicans. Do Republicans ever make real efforts to ban abortion? Well, yes, in terms of defunding Planned Parenthood and the personhood amendments, but it’s never as far as conservatives want.

Similarly, liberals throw in each year for Democrats, who kinda sorta creep towards policies that liberals want, but never do as much as the passionate activists desire. See the recent health care legislation and financial legislation for examples of this dynamic on the left.

In terms of practicality, the reason that the parties do this, and Larison writes this out, is pretty simple: because they can. Arch-lefties like me are far more animated by opposition and contempt for Republican policies than love, joy and respect for Democratic policies. And this is the same for conservatives, too. Are any of the carnival barkers or intellectual pundits enthralled with the current crop of candidates? Far from it. But they’ll grit their teeth and get in line for those candidates when the time comes, because the alternative is so much worse.

The two parties know this. No matter how much Obama has screwed the pooch on drones, foreign policy adventurism and in his stance towards the banks, what am I  gonna do? Vote for Mitt Romney’s insanely regressive economic program? Vote for Michele Bachmann’s divinely-inspired Jeebus parade?

And with conservatives, it’s the same thing. Even if they get Romney, which I think is the most likely outcome, what are they gonna do? Erick son of Erick and Rush may not like the World’s Foremost Flip-Flopper™ but dyou think they’re gonna pull the lever for the Islamosexual Kenyan socialist usurper? Not on your life. This was basically what happened in 2008 with McCain, and despite some hemming and hawing, the right fell in line.

I guess it’s worth pointing out too that there’s a section of the electorate on both sides that are willing to break with the nominated candidates, but that portion of the electorate remains relatively small and inconsequential except for that time in 2000 when they caused Bush to be elected and changed the course of history for the worse. But, for the most part, people fall in line.

In light of these similar experiences, it surprises me there isn’t more of a grudging sense of solidarity among the left and right wings, given that policies are never up to what we want and our parties don’t really give a shit what we think because we have no other option. But we’ve all been taught to hate for quite a long time. So I’m not holding my breath waiting for this brotherhood to materialize.

Department of HUH?!

God knows why I was reading Jennifer Rubin in my spare time, but it happened. From the gazillionth piece that describes how conservatives aren’t thrilled with the Mittster:

For one thing — and I think this is key — Romney should have to earn their votes. He should step up to the plate with a complete tax reform plan. He should show more leg on Medicare. He needs to convince conservatives he has conservative convictions? Well, the best way to do that is in outlying his policy preferences.

I dunno what that means. And I don’t think I want to find out.


Good catch from Kevin Drum. Perry, in response to the fact that his tax cuts would give a significant tax break to the wealthy in a time of already-high income inequality:

But I don’t care about that.

Oddly refreshing honesty, as Drum says. Perry must think that this is to his advantage.

I read a piece earlier this morning, can’t remember where, that said Perry was gearing up to really throw some dirt at Romney, thinking that Perry will be the next-best option if Mitt goes down. Given Perry’s recent overtures to the birthers and the fact that the debates won’t be helping him any time soon, I can see this. The above comment about his tax plan pushes me closer to thinking that Rick’ll just go full-metal wingnut and see if it hurts him. And if Perry really is gonna go hard after Mitt, he could do some real damage. Lord knows that Romney’s got weak spots. I guess I’ll go make some popcorn.