Buttering the Stage
Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, 04 October 2012
I TIVOed the debate last night, and then hopped my way through it,
like it was an ankle deep muddy stream. I got enough to get a decent
feel for it, without subjecting my sanctification to the blah blah parts.
So here are just a few random observations, which I would ask all to take cum grano salis.
First, it seems clear that this is one of those debates which will
take on a life and meaning of its own, independent of the actual
performance on stage. During the debate, I thought Romney was more
confident, affable, informed, etc. but Obama seemed generally okay.
talking heads afterwards -- for about ten minutes -- seemed to spin it
in roughly the same way. (When talking heads spin, that would make them
spinning heads, but that image might take us in another direction.)
when the Twitterverse was factored in, along with the morning after
analyses, from both left and right, the consensus appears to have
coalesced around the conviction that Romney buttered the stage with
Obama. And so, these events being what they are, that seems to have been
what happened. But whether it happened or not, that is certainly what
it now means.
Second, it struck me that Romney is not as vulnerable on Romneycare
(and such things) in this general election as I thought he was going to
be. Consistent attacks on his state-level statism are certainly possible
from the right, but it is looking as though Obama can't mount an attack
there. To do that, he would have to understand the love of liberty that
motivates such critiques, which he clearly does not. Romney can deflect
such questions with appeals to "process," "bi-partisanship" and
"state-level" action, and Obama doesn't have anything to say -- because
had he been in the Massachusetts legislature, he would have
been a participant. There are plenty of rocks to throw, but they are all
on the other side of Romney where Obama can't get at them to pick them
This is related to the third thing. One of the things that may have
thrown Obama is that Romney tacked to the center in the debate. Jonah
Goldberg concluded his observations with this caution, the last sentence
of which I would like to highlight:
"And yet, we should keep in mind that most of his effective moments
came when he distanced himself from the base of his party and struck a
decidedly moderate, centrist, position. Personally, given the stakes and
the state of his campaign, that doesn’t bother me very much. But, once again, we can’t say we weren’t warned."
Those Christians who are supporting Romney need to do so in such a
way that takes this caution, chisels it in granite, and sets it up as an
impromptu memento for themselves in the Washington Mall. Support for
Romney can only be justified (to the extent it can be) if Romney feels
betrayed by his base, his support, his mandate-creators, on the second
day of his administration. But if his supporters feel betrayed by him nine
months into it, then we have ourselves one more instance of Lucy and
the football. In other words, don't say you weren't warned.