Being sincere and clueless still leaves you clueless: On the need to understand your social environment
I have read the National Review blog 'The Corner' every day for the past month or so. It is a blog with various conservative contributors. The writers seem certain that John McCain needs only to hit harder on Sen. Obama's associations with Ayers (and now Rashid Khalidi), and to re-open the whole Jeremiah Wright bit. When giving this advice, it is clear they are genuinely impassioned by what they feel would be a better America under Sen. McCain than under Sen. Obama.
The problem is, they are articulating a certain cluelessness regarding the actual sentiments and motivations of the American public. This election is not about culture wars. It is not about identity politics. It is not about associations with shady characters way back in the past. These things may be what matter most to the National Review people, but they ain't what matter to the great majority of Americans. This election is about the economy -- or more specifically, jobs. It is about jobs.
If the National Review -- or any conservative out there -- wants Sen. McCain to be the next president, they had better start convincing Americans that Sen. McCain's policies will create jobs, jobs, and more jobs. As a country, we've already lost 760,000 jobs this year alone. That's 760,000 fewer jobs than there were at the start of the year. Sen. Obama is starting to do a good job of using that bit of data to his advantage. On the other hand, every day that goes by that Sen. McCain and outlets like the National Review fail to say convincing things about jobs means they are one day closer to defeat.
Because even if we Americans don't know the hard numbers, we can feel the economic anxiety around us. We know the economy is in trouble, and we know that jobs aren't being created. This is why the Republicans must have something to say about jobs, or Sen. Obama is going to win. The 'Joe the Plumber' schtick is not good enough. There needs to be more substance.
So, in this spirit, I sent the following email to Jonah Goldberg at the National Review:
I read your work pretty faithfully, and NRO too. I think you all are missing the point about this election. It is harder to get traction with Ayers-Wright-cultural things because of the economy. I think you and your ilk should take more seriously the job performance of the last two administrations. America has lost 760,000 jobs this year alone. For those of us who would like to vote Republican, give us a reason to think that Republicans can create jobs. Talk about jobs. Write a post about jobs. Please! If you want your candidate to win, he has got to talk about jobs!
This is the third email I've sent to NRO over the past two weeks or so. I doubt they'll come around to answering me, but who knows.
The funny thing about human behavior is it depends on interpretations of the environment. And not everybody interprets that environment the same way. It is my position that the Republicans have massively mis-read their environment this election cycle. They need a new game. The culture wars have worked in past environments, but will not work and is not working in this one.