Bill Schneider, an academic and Third Way centrist, recently wrote in a Politico opinion piece that the problem with the Republican presidential campaign isn’t just the competence of the candidate, Mitt Romney, but rather the fact that the GOP has trapped itself in the past, unable to accomodate the change that is taking place in the country:
Republicans still haven’t figured out how to compete in the New America. An America that is more diverse, better educated, more tolerant and more open to change. They’re stuck in the Old America: Clint Eastwood.
Look at the evidence: For decades, Republicans have taken advantage of a conservative social issue backlash. But President Barack Obama now leads Romney by 20 points on “handling social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage,” according to an Associated Press poll. Conservatives like to call themselves “values voters.” But more Americans say Obama “shares my values” than Romney, 50 percent to 40 percent, in a Pew Research Center poll.
This point of view has lots to recommend it, although we may not have totally managed the transition to “New America” just yet. Specifically, many Southern states and a few Western and Midwestern outliers are digging in their heels. Sadly, Missouri, seems to be among them.
The evidence is clear when you consider that actual integrity, coherence or viable policy, all seem to count for nothing in Missouri political life:
–Romney is clearly incompetent, frantically spewing this and that rightwing slogan, alternately trying to soothe the moderates, all the while playing peek-a-boo with his policy proposals, his tax returns, what-have-you, yet his lead in Missouri polls persists even as President Obama is surging elsehwere.
–Rep. Todd Akin, a dim-bulb, religious fanatic, suffering from near-terminal foot-in-mouth disease, is running within the margin of error in his senate race against Claire McCaskill. He is doing this despite his lackluster record in the House of Representatives, and her record of steady, moderate achievement.
–The Republicans who currently run Jefferson City have managed to do almost nothing useful during their tenure, and are frequently even at loggerheads amongst themselves when the interests of their various lobbyist paymasters conflict. But five’ll get you ten that, except for those who are term-limited, they’ll all mostly be back after the next election.
That’s the way things work in “Old America” where the ritual evocation of the scary Muslim, socialist, communist, in-over-his-head naif, brilliant schemer, and, incidentally, African-American, man in the white house is enough to leave normally intelligent individuals in such a panic that they can’t figure out how they’re being sold down the river. However, just remember that even though Old America may be enjoying a last hurrah in Missouri, it’s still a fact that the old always, eventually, gives way to the new.