The Republican Party has not conducted itself well over the past few months, to put it mildly. Andthe conservative movement has been far too easily diverted into unserious nonsense and pointless controversies. That may have helped the fund-raising pitches of some activist groups, but it has set back the overall cause of articulating the core conservative ideas in a manner that will win over people not already sitting in the pews.
Conservatives have succumbed to the temptation to turn inward. It’s been unhealthy, and counterproductive — but there might be a silver lining in the fact that the Right is getting its ya-yas out now, many months before the election.
One virtue of the contraception lunacy, for example, is that since it happened now, it’s going to be old news later. And while liberals and the media are likely to do whatever they can to keep the “conservatives hate sex” flame burning, they’ll reach a point at which their manufactured outrage will start seeming like discomfiting glee — and backfire.
It will backfire not only because the hand will be overplayed, but because there will be another candidate and another party in the race — a candidate and a party weirdly invisible in the midst of all the GOP hijinks. That candidate is weak, and that party is damaged.
Unquestionably, the story President Obama has to tell now, in March 2012, is a bit better than it was six months ago. But then, it could hardly have been worse, after two months of ineffectual “pass this bill now” speeches about a misbegotten second stimulus proposal, which followed the debt-ceiling meltdown he foolishly thought would help him politically.
Not to mention what looked like a very real prospect of a dip into a new recession. That didn’t happen, thankfully, and there has been modest job and GDP growth.
But the recent successes of Obama’s fourth year only count as successes when you measure them against . . . his first three years.
If I had told you in January 2009 that the Obama story seven months before the 2012 election would be: unemployment over 8 percent, $5 trillion added to the national debt, a nearly $1 trillion stimulus package that both left and right agree was at best poorly designed and at worst an outright failure, gas prices rising above $4 a gallon and a health-care mandate of which Americans disapprove by a margin of 3 to 2, you would have wondered at the gift presented by the gods to the Republicans in the form of an easily defeated incumbent.
True, Obama gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden. But as a foreign-policy calling card, even that’s problematic. If there were another world-famous international terrorist monster who had designed the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans to be eliminated, Barack Obama might be your man. But there was only one. And can anyone doubt that Mitt Romney, in Obama’s shoes and with the same information gathered from the same courier’s cellphone, wouldn’t have given exactly the same order?
A re-election will be a validation of Barack Obama’s first term. That is, ultimately, what voters will have to decide they want to do. And he hasn’t made the sale — not remotely.