It looks as if the plutocrats over at the Wall Street Journal have lost all sense of the political realities of our time, and are, incredibly, at a loss for as to why Mitt Romney wasn’t more specific about his policy vision for the country during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. A recent Op-Ed in the paper lamented of Romney’s speech,
“His platform is brimming with ideas, most of them good and many excellent. He simply didn't talk about them. No doubt this was a strategic political calculation—perhaps a judgment, based on polling, that Mr. Romney's main challenge is to reassure undecided voters that he's not heartless, scary or extreme.”
There are two main reasons Romney shied away from specific policy prescriptions in his address on Thursday night. For one thing, national political conventions in general are not places where bold policy visions are laid out, not in any meaningful way, anyway. Instead, nominating conventions are grand, well-choreographed spectacles featuring speeches that have been filtered through a series of political spinsters and focus groups in order to produce the vaguest and least offensive appeal to the sensitivities of the American electorate. That electorate sadly no longer demands a clear promulgation of candidates’ positions, but instead is content to cast votes based on candidate likability.
The second reason Romney avoided going into any real detail about his “excellent” ideas is because vast swaths of the American public want nothing to do with them. Romney’s aides are no doubt well-aware that the more specific they get about his plans for the country, the less viable he becomes as a candidate. Although he isn’t harping on them now, in the past Romney has called for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, a la his running mate’s “Path to Prosperity,” an amazingly transparent scheme to finance tax cuts for wealthy Americans by gutting social programs that benefit mostly middle and lower class Americans.
It’s a simple fact, really, which the Op-Ed writers at the Wall Street Journal have overlooked. This isn’t because they’re stupid, but because they are so out of touch, they actually can’t see why Joe Six-Pack would have a problem with the health of his Social Security nest egg being contingent on the boom-and-bust cycles of the stock market.
Even if you think Romney’s plans for Social Security, Medicare, foreign policy, and so on are The Greatest Things Ever, there is no denying that many of his ideas are widely unpopular. This is fact, not opinion.
On Medicare, six in ten Americans say Medicare should continue to exist as is, while 34% said it should be transitioned to the voucher-based system proposed by Paul Ryan’s budget that Romney supports. The news is even worse for the GOP ticket in three key swing states. In Ohio, 64% of voters want Medicare to remain untouched. In Florida, the figure is 62%, and in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, it’s 59%.
On Social Security, an AP-GfK poll shows that 53% of Americans favor raising taxes in order to preserve the program—something that Romney and the Republican Party have pledged not to do, even if it means cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. (It should be noted that Romney says he now opposes private Social Security accounts even though he favored them during his failed 2008 run. But really, who knows what he believes at this point?)
On Medicaid, the Romney-supported Ryan budget would cut Medicaid by $810 billion over the next ten years, with states receiving 34% less than they do currently under the program. This is in stark contrast to public opinion, as 67% of Americans actually favor expanding Medicaid.
And on the war in Afghanistan, where Romney’s stay-the-course position is essentially that of Obama’s, 66% of Americans say their country should not be involved in the conflict anymore. Even more amazingly, only 37% of Republicans say the U.S. should continue on with it.
So these are the ideas of Mitt Romney that the Wall Street Journal says he needs to broadcast to the American electorate, one stump speech at a time. It’s a good thing for Romney the WSJ editorial board isn’t running his campaign. This isn’t to say that the country should necessarily always be governed in accordance with polls—definitely not. But to say that Romney’s problem is that he hasn’t conveyed his ideas well enough to the public is to completely ignore the giant chasm between the positions of Romney and those of the general public.