He proves it by pointing out something that should be obvious, but has been lost on many: Hating Barack Obama isn’t going to help in the effort to beat Barack Obama in 2012.
In fact, it may do just the opposite by causing moderate and independent voters to believe that the President’s opponents are unhinged. And that, in turn, will cause moderate and independent voters to either gravitate to the President, or to stay home and keep their votes away from a Republican nominee to whom they might have given their votes if only the Republican nominee had confined himself/herself to disagreeing with President Obama, rather than encouraging aimless disdain and disgust amongst voters.
Sunny optimism wins Presidential elections. Raw anger doesn’t. Jindal is right to say that he has no truck with the birthers, because his concern is not where President Obama is from, but rather where he is going. Jindal is right to say that the President is trying to do what he believes is best for the country, but that what the President believes is best for the country is, in fact, a disaster for the country. Jindal is right to say that Republicans should not want to become like the Democrats who allowed themselves to fall prey to Bush Derangement Syndrome. He’s doing his best to encourage Republicans to engage the President in a battle of ideas, rather than a battle of personalities. Republicans should help him in that endeavor.
A lot of what Jindal says was echoed by another Republican star–Mitch Daniels–in Daniels’ speech to CPAC this year:
. . . I suspect everyone here regrets and laments the sad, crude coarsening of our popular culture. It has a counterpart in the venomous, petty, often ad hominem political discourse of the day.
When one of us – I confess sometimes it was yours truly – got a little hotheaded, President Reagan would admonish us, “Remember, we have no enemies, only opponents.” Good advice, then and now.
And besides, our opponents are better at nastiness than we will ever be. It comes naturally. Power to them is everything, so there’s nothing they won’t say to get it. The public is increasingly disgusted with a steady diet of defamation, and prepared to reward those who refrain from it. Am I alone in observing that one of conservatism’s best moments this past year was a massive rally that came and went from Washington without leaving any trash, physical or rhetorical, behind?
A more affirmative, “better angels” approach to voters is really less an aesthetic than a practical one: with apologies for the banality, I submit that, as we ask Americans to join us on such a boldly different course, it would help if they liked us, just a bit.
The best way to publicly deal with President Obama is to lament that so smart and gifted an individual should have stuck so passionately to the wrong ideas, and should have failed as a consequence. It is to treat this Administration as a tragedy, and not an outrage. And it is to promise something better without an overemphasis on the Obama Administration as having been something worse. President Obama, whatever his other shortcomings, is very good at offering optimism and hope to the American people. His act is wearing thin because he doesn’t have results with which to back up his message, but he’ll get a second act if the GOP believes that it can win the White House via a campaign built on demonization and nothing more.
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan knew that he had to do more than to merely appeal to the popular disgust with Jimmy Carter in order to win the Presidency. He offered the hope of something better, and did more with that than he would have done merely with a campaign built on rage. Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels remember that history. For their sake, the GOP candidates vying for the Presidency had better remember it as well.