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January 17, 2014

John Hawkins Interviews Scott Walker

In the below excerpt, Walker talks about how we ought to talk.

... that the Left, they want you under their thumb. They want to control you. They want to control your lives. They want you to be dependent on the government. We should say we’re the ones, not only for the poor, but for young people coming out of college, for working class families, for immigrants, for others out there. We should say we are the ones who empower the American Dream.

We’re the ones who say you can do and be anything you want, but it’s because we empower you with the ability and the platform to do that. Then it’s up to you to make that happen. The other side tells you they want to help you, but in the end they want to keep you limited in how far you can grow.

We want to make sure everyone’s a part of the recovery. We’re not going to leave anybody behind, but we’re going to do it by empowering people to control their own lives and destiny.

He expresses his frustration at Mitt Romney's campaign, and why Romney lost:

It was, I mean, it’s so frustrating. I mean, you think in modern American history we’ve never had someone running for re-election with an unemployment rate so high that ultimately won the election. I believe Mitt Romney is a good man. I think he would have been a good president, but I think he was mis-served by many in his campaign, many of whom believed, I think incorrectly, that Ronald Reagan won under similar circumstances almost exclusively on the idea that the question was making the election an referendum on Jimmy Carter. In fact, I quote the famous line that Reagan used, “You’re better off today than you were four years ago.” The problem is the Romney camp thought that was the entire focus of the campaign.

They failed to see that Reagan’s campaign…… that statement was the closing argument in one of the last debates. It was a way of wrapping things together, but his campaign was much more than just being against Jimmy Carter. It was much more aspirational and Americans could see — and to this day 33 years later — you can still look back and say that and vote for Ronald Reagan. I remember, I was a teenager, had just become a teenager and voted for Ronald Reagan — limited government, you know, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense. You knew what you were getting. You knew how a Reagan administration, a Reagan presidency was going to be better for you....

I think that was a huge disservice, but that’s what happens when you fail to make your case positively, affirmatively — make your case about how life will be better if they elect a Republican.

Althouse (where I saw this) comments favorably on Walker's pitch, particularly on his recognition of the "aspirational" nature of a presidential candidacy.

Minor elected officials don't have to worry about the aspirational. They can afford to be entirely transactional-- vote for me, I'll do the things you want me to do. You don't have to look up to me, and you don't need to know I have a coherent vision of the Platonic Ideal of America. In exchange for your vote I'll do these things.

Period.

And that's fine for House members. Senators tend to need a little of the aspirational -- a little of the "poetry" of campaigning, as opposed to the "prose" of voting on legislation -- and governors need even more.

Presidents need a whole lot.

In fact, you can be a completely unaccomplished, never-did-nothing parvenue from the corrupt districts of Chicago and get elected President if you offer mostly the aspirational (with some vague promises about the transactional -- like how much of the federal kitty you're going to redistribute to your coalition).

He's right that Mitt Romney failed to deliver that. Mitt Romney, as far as conservative policy, offered us transactional promises. Not aspirational ones, transactional ones.

For example, he promised us he'd make illegal aliens self-deport. A fine transactional guarantee for those who seek to eject illegal immigrants. But nothing aspirational about it -- he didn't really even try to sell that as a humane and good policy. He just said he'd do it, because Republican primary voters demanded it.

He reported himself as "severely conservative." Another transactional promise. Hey, vote for me; I'll be stingy. Aspirational? Of course not. Who describes himself as "severely" anything?

The one area where I got excited -- and thought Mitt Romney was getting it on this aspirational thing -- is when he began talking about a "government-centered society," contrasting that (not as much contrast as I'd've liked, but it was there) on a society centered around the individual and family.

He began talking less about purely transactional bargains and more about a unifying theory of why conservatism works, and why statism in its various forms do not.

Because statism does not value the individual, only the masses in their corporate collective. Because, as I think Romney said, the larger the state, the smaller the citizen.

While that was good stuff, he didn't really add too much to it, nor find a way to link most of his announced policy preferences into that coherent narrative.

This aspirational stuff is triply important:

First, because it flatters those already inclined to vote for you by telling them not only that they're right -- and everyone loves hearing that -- but by telling them they're right in this novel, exciting way they hadn't previously considered. This gins up enthusiasm in the base, and that translates to more votes.

Second, because it gives people who don't necessarily agree with you another possible reason to vote for you. Someone may not agree with you on most of your transactional promises... but if you've announced a larger thematic rationale for your candidacy, he might like that, and he might even vote for you despite disagreeing with you on details.

And third, because a coherent framework of ideas and vision is a plausible method of persuading the on-the-fence, marginally-invested voter.

On this last point, we don't just nominate candidates to do the mechanical bits of governance. We don't just elect Presidents to sign the bills we like and veto the ones we don't.

We want candidates who can do more than that -- we want candidates who can take our beliefs and persuade more of our countrymen that we're right.

And we want them to do that better than we can ourselves, because most of us aren't terribly good at it, and even if we were halfway good at it, we don't have a the commanding heights of the White House to proclaim it.

I don't see much in the interview where Walker actually offers an aspirational vision. But there's time for that, and at least he recognizes that need.

Congrats to John Hawkins for landing that interview.

And... this has been a longer week for me than the calendar would indicate, so I am officially f*cking off for the night. And I'm going to be f*cking off MLK Day too. (It would be racist of me not to, you know.)

Open Thread.


Bonus: Oh Dear Lord.

And another bonus: Democrats want to study "hate" on the internet.

The future tense of the verb "to study," in the Democrat Dictionary, is "will legislate and restrict freedom."

More:

please make it stop god i promise i will be good


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