He raised some $400 million to help alarmed multimillionaires spread the message that America was going to Hell. It’s little wonder that Karl Rove chose to say dark and angry things when Obama was re-elected on Tuesday night.
He got his numbers wrong; rather than “suppress turnout,” Obama’s campaign got out far more votes than most observers expected. Nevertheless, Rove’s complaint that Obama brutally engaged in the Politics of Fear was on the money.
This is no laughing matter, but coming from Karl Rove, it’s still very funny. His party and his career have relied on the artful, unrelenting, and just occasionally sincere use of fear on the campaign trail.
Republicans are conservatives and, so, are natural worriers. The modern Republican Party, however, raises its millions and wins elections as America’s pre-eminent fear monger. The Red Menace, European socialism, mind-altering drugs, sex, moral relativism, the free lunch, Greek-sized debt, and Ayn Rand’s behemoth have all been used to brand their opponents and explain why Republican gentlemen and ladies feel obliged to participate in the vulgar business of asking for our votes.
Yet in 2012, they lost at their own favorite game to a Democrat who they believed was a wimp, who couldn’t throw a punch.
Certainly, Obama isn’t the boyish social worker they thought. However, Obama won’t be back for another round with Rove and, in any event, the Republican Party’s failing grip on the Politics of Fear isn’t automatically going to go away with Obama.
Republicans don’t connect with the 47%-plus who backed Obama, above all, because they don’t understand people’s fears.
Republican commentators like Charles Krauthammer now imagine that if they go along with the Dream Act and are more restrained in the way they talk about social issues and morality, they’ll appeal to Hispanics and other American minorities with their core anti-government, free enterprise message.
They believe a majority of Americans are also anti-government because they agree with Pew Research’s question: Sure, government does too much.
Skepticism toward the disproportionate responsibilities that have accumulated at the center of the US federation is healthy—and is something prudent liberals are also starting to worry about. However, it’s ridiculously naïve to say that new Americans, poor Americans, Americans with disadvantages in the labor market, and Americans who continue to live, in effect, in ghettos worry about the proper size of the federal government or that their bosses have to fill out too many forms.
Ryan and Romney and their platform would make government relatively weaker. They said: Set aside your fears and try to live like us. But Joe Biden’s little guy just isn’t that gutsy—he’s a bit of a conservative, but without Paul Ryan’s Coles Notes. It just doesn’t make sense to be told that everything he counts on will be there after cutting taxes again, in an aging society undergoing an unprecedented economic transformation.
Democracy, not wealth, is America’s great equalizer. Why would those with little financial power want to shrink the power of their votes by shrinking the power of their government to help them out?