The Voice Of Moderation: Form Counts, Too

March 5, 2009 / 12:29 pm • By Dr. Melissa Clouthier

As irked as I am with the DC smarty-pants set (Frum, Brooks, Parker), I get where they’re coming from. They inadvertently hit on a truth, because they themselves reflect the new truth: Americans are now, more than ever, influenced by the superficial and emotional, the form and the packaging.

The smarty-pants set loved Obama because he sounded and looked good and said things in a way that was appealing. For those pained by George W. Bush’s malapropisms and uncomfortable mannerisms, Obama was a welcome aesthetic relief. John McCain was more of the same old, white, curmudgeonly Republican awkwardness. Moderates, independents and swing-voters have short attention spans and McCain looked too McSame. Obama looked young and fresh and vibrant and exciting.

Conservatives can curse this cultural reality and most, right now, do. Look at where moderation is taking the country. However, ignoring the culture doesn’t change the culture. For 40 years, or more, the country has been on this collision course. It’s still shocking now that it’s here.

It’s important to note that liberals and leftists have not changed their stripes. They hated Bush, were free about saying so and still hate any form of strength, capitalism, freedom, and America itself, it seems. Until America becomes the socialistic, even-Steven, mediocre, complacent haven for the average and lazy, the left won’t be happy. Until America is the same as every other 3rd rate socialist state, the left will curse American exceptionalism and decry the inequity. Until America is hamstrung by laws and regulations and rules only she will follow, in the name some warped morality, the left will curse the lack of justice and fairness.

But the left cannot take America to this hell alone. They need moderates to do it. This election, they had them. They had moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans. They had just enough everywhere to do it.

Moderates Republicans poison the soup by choosing unelectable candidates. First it was John McCain. The new favorite, as iterated by Kathleen Parker, is Mitt Romney. Mitt outspent everyone and got no traction, he’s won three straw-polls and yet my gut tells me that his chances of winning next time around are somewhere between slim and none. Not that he knows this, of course. Why will he lose? Because he’s boring as hell, too slick and the very image of what moderates and independents don’t want. Parker, herself included.

Conservatives need to recognize the fickle middle and adapt. Since it’s mostly form, Republican elected officials and those running for office simply need to be better at communicating positively.

The Republican establishment needs to choose more youthful, hip, good looking candidates. Sorry. In this media age, looks matter. Part of the reason the left was terrified and pretty successfully destroyed Sarah Palin was because she looked so good. They knew that her beauty and ease in front of the camera would be tough. Thus, the hate.

Republicans need to keep messages simple, sound-byte-ish and understandable. For all the supposed sophistication of the Moderates and Left, they just can’t handle nuance. “Hope and change” delivered with an eye-sparkle counted as substance to these people. Meet them where they are. Make sure the message is dazzling and simple.

The message needs to address concerns. Republicans can’t ignore health care, the unions, the plight of the working poor, the environment, etc. and stay relevant. McCain never could come up with a cohesive idea around the economy. That’s a problem. A few slogan ideas:

Taking the “wacko” out of environmentalism. Conservation counts.
Free choice for workers. No card check.
Health care choices not government control. Your health. Your choice.

You get the idea. Being silent on an issue isn’t enough. Playing non-stop defense is not enough. Republicans, and the conservative base need to be positive, hopeful and clear.

Ronald Reagan won because he was optimistic, cheerful, the “happy warrior” and clear. The moderate middle, the Reagan Democrats, felt good about themselves which is why they voted for him.

The moderate middle voted for Barack Obama because he made them feel good about themselves. Do not underestimate the attachment people have to how a candidate makes them feel. People are heavily invested in this man. They want him to succeed because if he fails, it’s a reflection on them.

I told a friend last night that it’s not unlike an abused girlfriend. She doesn’t stay with the guy because he’s so great. She stays with him because leaving him would mean everyone else was right and more importantly, she was wrong. She can’t admit that. So she stays and sings his praises and tells people “you just don’t understand him.” That will be the press. That will be the moderate middle. They are too far down the path with him. They can’t come back and save any sort of face if they wanted to.

But I digress. Conservatives and the Right in general need to accept that we live in a softer, more feminine, emotional, feeling, superficial society. Speaking the language of Patten won’t work now. And anyway, Reagan didn’t win his landslides by having the form of Patten, even if it was his substance and that was decades ago.

Winning means substance and form. The form needs to be easy on the eyes and ears, gentle to the touch. The substance needs to be conservative. Squishy centers get Republicans maligned. They end up looking like Democrats. Why not just elect one, the populace thinks, and so they do.

Republicans need charisma, a clear message and core conservative values.

Cross-posted at RightWingNews

  • Sarah Palin or Jindal will win in 2012. By then the country will have been driven so far into the dumpster that even the squishy middle will have sat up and paid attention to reality.

  • Mat

    “But I digress. Conservatives and the Right in general need to accept that we live in a softer, more feminine, emotional, feeling, superficial society. Speaking the language of Patten won’t work now. And anyway, Reagan didn’t win his landslides by having the form of Patten, even if it was his substance and that was decades ago.”

    Melissa, here’s where you’re wrong. If we lived in a world where we had no outside influencing factors, your analysis might hold up. However, we are being torn apart internally, have illegal immigrants pouring across the border (and these will most likely get amnesty before all’s said and done) and we have an Islamic world that pretty much wants to destroy us. We can’t afford to be softer. Not won’t…can’t. We cannot because our enemies will destroy us. That’s a reality that many Americans, conservative or otherwise are going to have to accept. They will most likely be dragged kicking and screaming to this conclusion, but it’ll happen.

    This recession will knock us out of the top economic spot and China will replace us. that is a reality that will soon come to pass. The stock market boom yesterday was influenced by China, not anything we did. That’s just an example, but the market is looking more and more to China and less to this country for solutions. If we lose economic influence, then we will lose world influence.

    People love us because of our lifestyle, which is modeled on our economics. Our powerful military is funded by that same economic system. What happens when the supports for the economy go? We lose our influence and become like, well, Europe. Oh we’ll talk a lot of crap, but it’ll be China running the show. And they have a different worldview than we do.

    Stay the course. If we have any chance to get out of this mess, it’ll be through conservatism.

  • J David

    The woman tells all those men out there to accept the feminization of America.

    While disavowing exactly what drives the “intellectual” Frums, Parkers, Brookses, and etc. she advocates EXACTLY what they are advocating, the oxymoron of progressive conservatism.

    Reagan won ON PRINCIPLES!! Carefully, repeatedly, patiently explained conservative PRINCIPLES! You will NEVER, EVER get true conservatives, the base of which is 40% religious(of various kinds), to repudiate eternal spiritual principles for fleeting temporal political power…EVER!

    If every single person in the world besides me believes, as Mitt did, that killing babies is OK, that marrying queers is OK, that subsidizing non-working, non-producing parasites’ health care is OK(for me or them), and any number of other traditionally conservative positions, political or otherwise, I am still not going to change from what is right, and what has worked. I am not alone, and there are millions of people who intend to stand before Almighty God at the end of their lives free of blame for legitimizing sin, or rewarding its commission.

    I don’t care about what any punky, ignorant, public school non-educated parasite thinks, or ideological commies, or liberated women, or anyone other than God Himself to whom I am responsible, if it comes to that. Politics, America, the earth itself will end at their appointed times, but I am responsible forever.

  • J David

    Hitler was enthusiastically elected in free elections, yes, they were free, in a democratic country, one of the most “intellectual and enlightened” in Europe. The very same things that happened there most certainly can happen here, as human beings have NOT evolved to a higher plane of consciousness.

  • B. Ducati

    Yes, I agree. But WHO! It won’t be Palin and absolutely not Jindal. WHO? Where do we find this young, energetic, well-spoken, clear thinking conservative?

  • J David

    It took 50 years for the previously Democrat actors’ union leader, RONALD REAGAN, to become one of the two or three best presidents ever. WE AREN’T GOING TO FIND SUCH A PERSON whose hot, intelligent,sexiness is going to charm an amoral nation to the moral behavior represented by basic traditional conservatism. LOL! If that is what we are seeking we are lost INDEED!

  • Listen guys, I’m not thrilled with the direction the culture has taken either. I say fight it tooth and nail on an individual level. I say keep the conservative substance.

    But we are lying to ourselves if we think that what has worked in the past will work now. When Sarah Palin is too manly for the populace, there’s a problem both culturally and electorally.

    The people want to be told easy things (it’s someone else’s fault) and to feel good. What I am saying is that Republicans better acknowledge this and put forth candidates who manage to keep the right image while having the heart of a conservative.

    Yes, the press will still HATE him or her, but people will find the candidate more appealing.

    More important, rather than looking like a conservative and acting liberal, the Republican will look palatable but act conservative. Barack Obama looked palatable but acts uber liberal.

    In order for anyone to be elected, the mushy middle has to FEEL good. We need candidates that can make them feel good.

  • J David

    You have surrendered, as there is no such thing as what you suggest, it is exactly what Frum, Brooks, Parker, Noonan, etc, suggest. There is a double standard that cannot be gotten around, over, under, or smuggled in thru a backdoor, and there is NO compromise with evil that is EVER a win, not even lying about being “moderate”(exactly how does one fake being a “moderate”, but secretly let people like me know that they are really LYING, about being a moderate, but they are actually the re-incarnation of Reagan?) as evil wins EVERY “compromise”? “Hey, Comrade! I am lying to those guys over there for pragmatic(soulless, amoral, unprincipled) political reasons, but I really, truly, honestly, swear-to-god-on-a-10-story-stack-of-KJV-Bibles am telling YOU the TRUTH! I’m a 200proof, 100% conservative!!!”

    I can’t sort-a abort babies, sort-a accept the destruction of marriage and family, sort-a be alright with shades of socialism(any more than one can be sort-a pregnant), be sort-a on board with various aspects of the Constitution (but only the parts that I like!). I can’t sort-a save money, sort-a encourage free market enterprise,sort-a cut taxes but not really…exactly what part of conservatism do I give up? Socialism and capitalism are ultimately mutually exclusive, they cannot co-exist peacefully, as socialism will eventual cut capitalism’s throat.

    Conservatism, social and fiscal, comes from the teaching and practice of basic moral virtues (opposite of sins), universal absolutes, and is destroyed by the rejection of any of those virtues or the practice as lifestyle of any given sin…pick one, any one will do.

    That the culture has, with the negligence of the Judeo-Christian world, gone down the crapper is a fact that thinking people cannot ignore anymore, and can not mitigate by compromising with it. The question now, for some, is surviving it, and for others going down with honor(that may be taken to use by a future culture as an example), but compromise with the devil gains no salvation. Every civilization has ultimately collapsed, ours will also, and the faster one rises to world power the faster it self-destructs.

  • J David

    You can only make a sold-out sinner “feel good” by either participating or acting like it is your intent, at some point, to do so. Nothing else will ultimately suffice in engendering peace but participation, and the militant queer movement is the first example that pops to mind. No civilization in history has long survived the mainstreaming/normalization of such practices. But we are already there.


    Bernard Goldberg has just written a book, “A Slobbering
    Love Affair”. In the book he refers to our country as
    the United States of Entertainment. He’s right. Everything that
    goes on in this country, from 3yr-0ld Beauty Pageants, to Springer, Maury, Bridezilla, the Race to the White House, is
    viewed by too many idiots as quality showbiz.

    These Brain-Flattened-TV-IPhone-Text Messaging, Worshippers
    don’t realize there will be consequences to electing a 47yr-old, know nothin’, sweet talkin’, Bimbo from Chicago. Bad consequences.

    Melissa is right, in todays United States of Entertainment, the
    first qualification for Prez is: a little song and dance. And each
    debate end with a laser sword duel. Text us with who you thought,
    won. This country is getting…stoopit.

  • I actually get what you are writing, Doc. It is really depressing, but true. We live in an Oprahized nation. Look at these latest polls. The people seem to be ok with President Obama at this point, but are conflicted with his policies or do not think that they will work. I think there is something bipolar in that thinking. But, I think that Gov. Palin got a raw deal from the get-go. She said yes to being Sen. McCain’s running mate. Thus, she gave up her independence. If the American people saw THAT Sarah Palin, they would have seen a different candidate. One other thing that has to be pointed out here is that at some point, if things do not improve by the end of this year, even President Oprah Obama and all the teleprompter talk will fail and the American people will look for a change. I am linking this post to my blog. Some fellow conservative Republicans need to get a feel for the Brave New World we are in.

  • Oh, I forgot but it is PATTON-not Patten! Sorry, but the general’s family were founders of the church I attend and there is a stained-glass window dedicated to General Patton.

  • dan

    “the superficial and emotional, the form and the packaging”//how much of this has to do with the growing importance of women, who are usually very concerned with appearances, in American politics?