VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, December 23, 2012 —
The conservative failure in 2012 was not an inability to appeal to hyphenated groups on the basis of ethnic, gender, and age identification. Instead, there was a general cluelessness about how to reach the middle and working classes of all races and ethnicities by explaining how conservative principles are not just for the rich.
Consider what messages candidates send by the issues they choose to address. Rather than write off the 47 percent of Americans who receive entitlements and do not pay income taxes, conservative candidates needed to wade into those groups to talk with them and debate them rather than merely lecture them. Why not a symbolic minimum $500 income tax on everyone who is working, if only to remind all of us what April 15 portends? Getting booed for supporting school vouchers is a lot better than not talking about them at all to those who would most benefit. The Michigan episode reminds us that when the message is democracy and freedom to choose rather than union-busting, liberals lose. Hundreds of millions of dollars given to Washington and New York PACs and consultants is not a good bargain, at least in comparison with funding grass-roots registration and get-out-the-vote efforts in key states.
Vocabulary should change as well. It would be wiser to rail against “wasteful” or “callous,” rather than just “big,” government. “Borrowing” is preferable to the drier “deficits.” Republicans always lose when “taxes” become “revenues,” “borrowing” becomes “investments,” and mega-borrowing becomes “stimulus.” “A trillion” means nothing to most people; “a thousand billion” might still shock a little. The “campus” (Latin: “field”) is much better referred to as a “country club.” If you wish to cut PBS funding, then focus not on Big Bird but on the insiders who expect six-figure salaries for providing public-television entertainment in a largely uncompetitive environment of crony capitalism. Can’t expensive and government-subsidized wind and solar power be seen as the obsessions of the affluent, while cheap, free-market natural gas is a lifeline to the poor and the middle class?