Sophisticated Voters Measure the Contents of Campaigns
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
 Politics
November 05, 2012 08:43 AM | 1537 views | 11 11 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I would never want to be an American politician.  The most innocuous of statements are taken out of context, transformed into “coded” language, or otherwise exploited on Twitter.

Campaigns regularly engage in more cutthroat tactics than the infamous Standard Oil ever considered using to crush competition before being broken up for unfair practices in business.

Character assassination has become a sad matter of course for even journalists who knowingly distort real issues for partisan purposes or to sell papers.

It’s simply a fact in our consummate consumer culture that politicians are packaged like any other product, carefully positioned, and sold to voters like so many tubes of toothpaste. 

This is worrisome.

Citizens—no matter which side of the political aisle is their natural home--must not continue to be complicit in a system that only presents glossy brochures, MTV interviews, and air brushed images during election cycles.  They must strive to engage in more sophisticated analyses in the marketplace of ideas. 

If this happened en masse—if there was less focus on the superficial and more focus on the substance—more people would want to serve in public office.  More people would get elected on merit over image.

So how might we fix the system? 

To start, instead of simply going down a checklist of the most facile planks of a general party platform to make a decision for the next leader of the free world, voters can open the ‘candidate boxes’ right now and delve inside the entire contents apart from the packaging.

After all, we should be able to agree that both 2012 candidates are more complex than a single talking point.  In a two party system, national candidates must appeal to disparate groups to get enough votes to win.  As a result, no candidate is ever going to be a perfect fit for any one special interest constituency. 

In this context, Mitt Romney’s candidacy is worth studying. 

Rather than being a monolithic group with just one outlook, many Romney voters are sophisticated thinkers who don’t rely on one-word labels to inform their decisions.   They feel on measure Romney would make a better president than Obama.  This is true even when many of these voters know they would have honest, vigorous debates with other voters in the Romney coalition. 

For example, Libertarians who scorn government interference in their private lives are often not in agreement with Evangelicals on social issues.  However, after careful analysis, they see a statist approach to governance as more of a threat to an individual’s right to self-determination than any Sunday school sermon. 

Therefore, many sophisticated Libertarians have walked straight into the Republican tent.  They do this because they feel less federal spending will have more of an impact on everyone’s individual rights than the Republican Party’s current position on gay marriage.  (Even hardcore conservative Dick Cheney doesn’t agree with his party on this one.  In fact, he supported gay marriage while President Obama was “evolving.”)

Conversely, as fervently as they advocate for their understanding of Christian tenants in politics, many Evangelicals find common ground with liberty loving Mormons who believe faith is a personal matter of conscience.

Instead of worrying about the semantics of a candidate’s theology, sophisticated Evangelicals want a president to more closely adhere to first principles when it comes to religion.  While they will discuss points of contention, they have grown weary of hearing that everyone’s beliefs have merit except their own.   

Women can also disagree about abortion.  However, smart women need not be manipulated by a false narrative on restricted reproductive rights, which has been designed solely to distract from their financial health and the implications of unemployment on a million choices that have nothing to do with babies. 

As Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, has said, “I am not always in agreement with everything that is written in the Republican platform about social issues, but I know that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to respect the views of those who may disagree….” 

Sophisticated women like Rice may care deeply about choice, but they are not so narrow as to make a decision this election based solely on an issue that isn’t even in the purview of the executive branch.  They—like their pro-life peers—also know Mitt Romney has never once proposed banning birth control.

Then there are Democrats who will vote for Romney.  They may disagree with many Republican positions, but they are sophisticated voters.  National security is a president’s most sacred duty, and they concede it is only intellectually honest to feel the current administration’s response to Libya has been—at best—disingenuous if not downright egregious. 

Ultimately, I would not want to be an American politician, but I believe we all have a duty to become sophisticated voters right now. Political packaging doesn’t matter.  Rather the full contents of the candidate are what should count. 

Comments
(11)
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Kevin Foley
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November 07, 2012
@ Ms. Armstrong - Cry me a river.
LB Armstrong
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November 07, 2012
Obviously, Mr. Foley, this election was all about Bush for you and your demented followers -- again.

You live in a PR world, filled with brainstorming and spin and trying to look good. I know it, I've been there too. But you've obviously never lived in the real world, the one where people are blowing you up, you don't see the births of your children, yada yada on the military sacrifices.

We would never expect you or your latte friends to understand what "500 generals against the CinC" means...but that's ok. Our crappy American media plans to cover it up anyway. But that ad placed by the generals was less about politics and more about them shooting across Obama's bow. You will never be able to call them "low information voters." Obama will never have gravitas on military issues again.

One cannot simply diminish the service or expertise of these men and women, even though people like you try. You reveal yourself to be contemptuous of them and flailing for any response when it comes to their indictment against your boy president. It is what it is, and now good luck with your business. It's going to be quite interesting, watching you libs attempt another four years of blaming Bush.
Timus
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November 06, 2012
How can you measure the content of Romney's campaign when the content keeps changing?
B D Lane
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November 06, 2012
Mr. Foley has shown through his hyperbole that he is not amongst the "intellectually honest." Or interested in civil, thoughtful discourse.

Regardless, thank you, Ms. Armstrong, for your husband's service. And for yours as well as military families are asked to give in ways that civilian families simply don't. It's always amazed me how some people scream they care for those in the military for purely political purposes, while those who are actually in the military make real sacrifices.

Yeah. For that reason, I put a lot of weight in what military men and women say about who they want to lead them.

Make your vote an educated vote... regardless of whom you choose to support.

Kevin Foley
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November 05, 2012
@ Ms. Armstrong - Wow. A bunch of senior officers don't like a Democratic president. Stop the freakin' presses.



Ask your Marine what they called Bush, Cheney and the other GOP the chickenhawks who sent our troops to Iraq. It's not a name I can use here.
Kevin Foley
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November 05, 2012
Concerned Citizen - Were you speaking out when Bush ran up the debt on two unfunded wars and an unfunded Medicare benefit to the tune of $5 trillion? I doubt it.

Women are worried...that's why they favor Obama by 16 points over Romney.

Samuel Adams' wife
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November 05, 2012
Foley and the other Democrats try to patronize us REpublican women, but what they don't understand is that we do think and know many things.

For example, the condom industry isn't going out of business, Mr. Foley, and neither will "Big Pharm" as you demonizing Dems like to call them.

That means, no matter who is in office, American women aren't in danger of losing birth control options. Can you imagine them even trying? No, the scary thing is that Democratic women actually believe this crap. Hey, they're mostly the same ones who don't use birth control correctly and have unwanted pregnancies, right? And then go on welfare? Are you seeing a pattern here?
Concerned Citizen
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November 05, 2012
I can't believe that anyone who considers himself sophisticated would stoop to such ridiculous statements about Romney wanting women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Such comments show an utter lack of understanding of the crises this country is facing. Think $16,000,000,000,000 in debt! Think about borrowing from China to spend money on stimulus packages that don't work. Think about $4,000,000,000 per day in interest payments on our debt. Think about a President who goes to bed early when our ambassador is killed and who quickly goes to Vegas to fund raise. Women are worried about the economy and the future of their children. Look to other countries for a true war on women, and God bless the people in our country who have enough money to hire the unemployed.
LB Armstrong
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November 05, 2012
Count me in as a fan, Ms. Lane. Your nuanced columns are informative factually and well thought out on more than one level, unlike some partisan hacks who sometimes command column inches and waste time that might be better spent on real research for their own columns.

Did you see that 500 veterans, all flag officers, meaning every star practically that exists in the U.S. military's veteran ranks, signed a letter today that ran in the Washington Times, supporting Mitt Romney? This includes the first woman general, Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, USMC. Now, maybe Gen. Mutter is a raging feminist (of course she must be, breaking the military's glass ceiling the way she did) but even she puts national security above any partisan type politics, as you suggest, joining the others in their rejection and public condemnation of Obama as commander in chief!

The list also includes former Marine Commandant P.X. Kelley, former Clinton National Security chief Hugh Shelton (big guy on the Clinton team),Gen. Tommy Franks, Gen. Singlaub, Four star Marine General Dake, former Chief of Aviation for the corps Gen. Magnus and the list goes on and on and on.

This move is an indictment of this White House and unprecedented in American history, as close as we'll ever come to a military coup. It's a condemnation of Obama's role in the murder of the Americans in Benghazi and his removal of general officers in the field, Gen. Hamm, and also the commanding admiral of the Med battle group that would have responded to save American lives. Obama has ordered the military ranks to keep silent until after the election, but their mentors will NOT keep silent.

This is a big issue, unlike the small, fake issues focussed upon by partisans like Kevin Foley. Dolts focus on fake issues in this election, and you are right: thinkers have the ability to see through the small stuff. And that just makes Obama supporters crazy.
Kevin Foley
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November 05, 2012
Sophisticated voters for Romney. That's a good one, Ms. Lane. You must be talking about frogbreath, mrbill, Devlin Adams, Marie and snake eater, all shining examples of the far right sophistication of which you write.

I've documented Romney's "full contents" over the last several weeks and to the extent there are any, it's tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% and crumbs for the 47%. He also wants women in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.

Dr. Mike Donnelly
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November 05, 2012
Well said. I hope you are getting paid because I like your thoughts as well as any national columnists that I see.
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