Friday, June 10, 2011

Write Romney's Paul Revere Gambit!

I've been talking about a new Republican strategy this week, the "Paul Revere" strategy, named after Sarah Palin's recent remarks. Well, named after Palin's entire career, or at least the national portion of it. The idea is that you gain support among movement conservatives by saying something pathetic that is designed to elicit mocking and scorn from as many liberals and qualified experts as possible. That's how I understood Tim Pawlenty's "Google test" -- it was a modestly nice little piece of rhetoric in terms of its immediate reception by Republicans, but a great success in drawing derision.

Doesn't it seem that Mitt Romney could benefit from a Paul Revere strategy? Sure, Romney's presumed strength is technocratic competence, but his big weakness is suspicion that he's not really a full-fledged movement conservative. What better way to get conservative points than to be cruelly mocked by liberal and media elites? And with a Republican presidential debate coming up next week, Romney will have a big stage to use for it. Indeed, with Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich (if he's still a candidate) and other potential loose cannons, Romney has to be worried about being cast as the moderate.

So: anyone have a suggestion for what he should say? Note that the full Revere involves saying something wacky, and then regrouping with an explanation that is still pretty nutty, but sends the proper signals.

I'm thinking that if I were doing Romney's debate prep, I'd try to come up with something on abortion. Remember, Romney's current abortion position is fine with pro-life groups, but as a late convert he's generally not trusted. The idea is to pound in a message that he's really one of them. I'd try to write some kind of crazy, seemingly nonsensical statement that didn't mention abortion at all -- and then, post-debate, defend the original statement by referencing some study or research or myth that is fully and totally taken as an important finding by anti-abortion activists but is considered totally bogus and discredited by pro-choice groups.

Sound good? Anyone want to fill in some of the specifics? Suggest a different topic?


  1. I would say "Double Guantanamo!" but I think it's been done.

  2. You know I'm a real cynic when it comes to Republican demographics, but it seems to me that Romney's biggest problem in the Republican primary is that being a Mormon its difficult for him to capture the identity politics vote.

    To put it a different way, if Romney is able to equate Obama's economic policies to reparations he will be doing himself a huge favor with the most adamantly anti-Obama croud. Race-baiting will be rewarded in the primary where the white-supremacist vote will be key, then punished in the general.

  3. Something that ingratiates him with social conservatives/evangelicals, who might still find his Mormonism a bit off-putting. Along the lines of "Our founding fathers intended this to be a Christian nation" or "Jesus would have supported tax cuts."

  4. Race-baiting will be rewarded in the primary.

    This is true. I disagree with the diagnosis that reparations are the key; it seems to me that the racial animosity from Tea Party types is fueled by the perception that Aff. Action and related policies have tilted the playing field too far in favor of minorities.

    I'm not defending the notion, and pertinently to Romney, neither are any Republican candidates, at least not openly, though they find other ways/code words to pander. I recommend Romney rip the scab off the wound and openly stoke such grievances.

    For example, in the name of "fairness", he could propose a law banning any policy that has disprortionate impact by race or gender. Does your school's admission policies effectively apply differential standards by race or gender to increase diversity? Under President Romney, that would be a felony. Any other areas, such as housing, social support, etc, wherever different standards are (effectively) applied, they too would be illegal.

    Just between us, such a "law" would be impossible to enforce in real life (and probably impossible to push through Congress). But if Romney is trying to overcome his Mormon/big business baggage with the Republican primary voter, the "fairness in everything" (!) meme is the way I'd recommend he go.

  5. Sorry, just to follow up on Prof. Bernstein's original request, becoming "Candidate Fairness" also works for Romney because the left-wing elite media will inevitably respond in one of two ways: 1) pointing out the societal benefits that accrue from progressive social engineering, or 2) denying that it exists.

    Either response is silver and gold for Romney's bona fides with movement conservatives.

  6. CSH, we agree. While I'd be pretty suprised if they actually use the word "reparations" (they'll leave it to Fox News to fill in the blanks), the key is to express to the Republican electorate that Obama's economic policies are taking tax dollars from whites like them and redistributing to his buddies. It jibes with the perception that taxes are going up and minorities are getting special treatment. Its the intersecton of perceptions of reverse racism and economic policy - it is about the fear of reparations though they dare not speak its name.

  7. OT- except in so far as it relates to a candidate pushing progressives' buttons- credit must be given to JB for refusing to rule out Rick Perry as a plausible nominee when most, me included, took Perry at his word he wasn't running. Actually, for all we know, JB's posts encouraged Perry to reconsider.

  8. If he wants to go the abortion route, his most liberal-elite-riling-up options are definitely (1) civil rights talk and slavery analogies and (2) making statements that presuppose that "exemption for the life and health of the mother" clauses are an excuse and an open door. (1) is rhetorically more outrageous (and has hitherto been avoided by everyone with more chance at future success than Rick Santorum, so bonus points for being the first serious candidate to go there), while (2) is actually important to the people he's courting (and wouldn't be a general election liability unless he were dumb enough to make the point explicitly).

    Plus he should say he's moved on from Stephenie Meyer to Dr. Seuss and that although he doesn't know any fetuses personally, "a person's a person, no matter how small."

  9. I think we're missing the spirit of the post. Although, rereading it, I think my interpretation of a Revere gambit might be different than JB's (and everyone else's).

    People are mentioning policies that would get some support in the GOP base and be disliked by liberals and/or the media. But, that's not how I read Palin. Palin is a frickin moron. The GOP didn't defend the idiotic notion that Revere warned the British UNTIL she said it. They're not defending an ideology; they're defending one of their own from the mean liberals, who themselves are attacking because they already hate Palin (so schaudenfreude/partisan politics).

    Pawlenty's google idea is just stupid. Paul Revere warned colonists. And Romney could say anything stupid...heliocentric galaxy, global warming denialism, Beck caliphatism...anything that's just plain idiotic.

  10. Except, Matt, Romney isn't basking in conservatives' warm embrace right now, unlike Palin. He can't just say something dumb, he's got to say something dumb and pandering.

    I like the idea of Mitt saying something wildly anti-Islamic like hammering away on a new caliph, or something wildly racist like a screed against "reverse racism". Either one could give him some momentum where he has least.

  11. What about Romney's recent remark about America ceasing to be a free-market economy?

  12. Kylopod,

    That was a pretty good one, but...while it did draw some ridicule, I don't think it really scored as strongly as the Google test -- and besides, it's the wrong place to go for the Mittster, since no one really doubts his commitment to GOP economic policies.

    So far, I like the reparations idea that best.

  13. Romney presents a jobs plan to get America working again. He'll establish aggressive targets for employment growth, and every quarter the numbers come in below target, he'll reduce taxes on high earners by 3%. If unemployment persists and the tax rate on the rich is reduced to zero, the government will refund the budget surplus that will surely accrue from all those tax cuts to millionaires as an unearned income tax credit.

    The liberal media will look ridiculous trying to poke holes in that.

  14. Given that Romney has such a problem with his health-care plan, he needs to establish some bona fides in that area. I'd say he should come out in favor of abolishing the Department of Health and Human Services. Maybe throw in a few other cabinet departments (Education? Housing?) and the CDC while he's at it.

  15. The downside of the Revere gambit is that what works with partisans in a primary can be offputting to persuadable moderates for the general. Folks of all political stripes would be watching the Republican primary and passing judgment on the Revere gambit.

    In meeting the need of winning a primary and general election, the reverse racism gambit, if handled correctly, could work perfectly. As Jason suggested, Romney could have his attack dog proxies frame progressive engineering as a plot by minorities to extract "reparations"; the financial version of which would never fly. Romney would carefully distance himself from such rhetoric during the primary.

    For the general, nominee Romney would steer away from such extreme comments but then say, you know, this progressive social engineering was really only a stopgap measure, a temporary solution on the way to a more equal society, and aren't we pretty much there? Isn't it time to dial it back a bit? Those that disagree with these rhetorical questions would almost certainly never vote for Romney anyway.

    The danger, of course, with reverse racism is that its easy to mismanage it and make yourself seem racist. But if handled correctly, it could be a platform to ride all the way to victory in November 2012.

  16. The Paul Revere Gambit is what social scientists would call "costly signalling".


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