This Atlantic article by Molly Ball, entitled “The Agony of Frank Luntz,” has an odd tone. Is it snarky? Is it objective? I can’t really tell, although I’d vote for “snarky.”
I’m not really all that interested in the article (or in Luntz, for that matter), either. But the following paragraph from it seems to summarize what most conservatives (and probably some independents) feel has happened in America during the years of the Obama administration:
The entitlement [Luntz] now hears from the focus groups he convenes amounts, in his view, to a permanent poisoning of the electorate—one that cannot be undone. “We have now created a sense of dependency and a sense of entitlement that is so great that you had, on the day that he was elected, women thinking that Obama was going to pay their mortgage payment, and that’s why they voted for him,” he says. “And that, to me, is the end of what made this country so great.”
That’s the sort of thing we’ve been discussing on this blog and on so many other forums on the right for years. In the interview with Ball, Luntz puts the blame squarely on Obama:
It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”
…it was Obama he principally blamed. The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president’s message of class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution. It was a message Luntz believed to be profoundly wrong, but one so powerful he had no slogans, no arguments with which to beat it back.
This is why the Democrats have picked themselves up from the debacle that Obamacare has been and are counting on their campaign against “economic inequality” to appeal in this way. But the message is hardly new, and of course it hardly began with Obama, although he has delivered it repeatedly. The soil was carefully fertilized first before he could plant those seeds and have them take root so well. This is a strain in politics and in culture—both in America and abroad—that has been building for literally hundreds of years. And it rests on a foundation that is inherent in human nature, although that aspect is not always dominant and is ever at war with another desire, one towards liberty and independence.
Obama could not have been elected (remember what he said to Joe the Plumber?) without the ground having been prepared by nearly a century of ever-increasing entitlements, and most especially a “progressive” takeover of the major institutions that shape both the growing mind and the adult one (education, the MSM, and entertainment), as well as the slow and steady undermining of the traditional family.
There is no mystery here, and there should have been no surprise. If Luntz and many others were surprised, they weren’t paying attention.
And yet Luntz is a person who has been paying attention. In fact, he’s been paying more attention than most people, since in recent years he’s mostly been focusing on those “focus groups” he’s so fond of interviewing. But, as this critique of Luntz from last April says, he may have been barking up the wrong tree:
Reagan would never escape a focus group. Neither would the Contract with America, and certainly not the Tea Party. Truth and conservatism are intellectual pursuits, and as such, cannot be explained or even properly contemplated within the confines of a single focus group or poll result. And yet Rove, the so-called “architect,” cannot grasp this rather pedestrian understanding.
And apparently, neither can Luntz, and neither can the establishment consultant class. They would rather craft careful and non-confrontational campaigns that make the undecided voters get the warm and fuzzies in the focus group, than communicating the truth. Thus, we get campaigns that are more geared towards not offending soccer moms in Southern Ohio than they are towards saving the American experiment in liberty and self governance.
But Reagan in the 80s and Gingrich in the 90s were speaking to a different electorate in different times. Even though it was not all that long ago, the attitude of the public was more easily receptive to the message back then.
That does not mean it can’t resonate now, however. Despair about this is not an option, although it is sometimes a temptation. Obamacare is a little window of opportunity that needs to be opened. But the stupid party (you know who you are) had better get a lot smarter very soon. It’s late, and getting later.