Movement-Conservative Marketplace At Work

The campaign story blowing up at the moment is a videotape of Mitt Romney speaking at a closed-door fundraiser, reported over at Mother Jones. Here is the part that is getting the most attention, with Romney responding to a question about how he will win the election:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax."

Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

This is all pretty standard accepted belief within the movement-conservative marketplace I write about all the time -- not just that half of Americans are lazy, dependent moochers sucking at the teat of those who earn, but that this has come about as a deliberate strategy of the Democratic Party, to create a majority-dependent electorate who will thus guarantee victory for the party of big government.

You can read this in the seminal 2009 Mark Levin best-seller, Liberty and Tyranny, hear it on almost any right-wing-talk show, and see it on almost every conservative web site. As I wrote in my explanation of movement-conservative marketplace theory, as expressed in best-sellers like Levin's:

The authors repeatedly claim that liberal policies — including the economic-stimulus package, immigration reform, and changing of unionization rules — are driven not by a desire to improve people's lives, but to turn them into government-dependent Democratic voters.

Trouble is, sometimes things that are widely believed and accepted within a certain bubble sound really, really bad to average people, when it comes from a candidate for public office. Not unlike the "cling to their guns and religion" comment of Barack Obama's, captured in similar fashion during the 2008 campaign.

But here's where the marketplace can create a special problem for Republicans.

Obama's "guns and religion" comment haunted him, and hurt him, but it ultimately survived more as a rallying cry for the conservative base than anything else -- and that was, in large part, because the left backed away from it.

There were lots of people on the left who essentially agreed with what Obama had been saying. But, most of them -- and certainly almost all the ones with amplified public voices -- understood that it was politically harmful. So the left pretty universally just backed away from it.

That's not likely to happen with this on the right. That's because the ones with the amplified voices on the right, unlike those on the left, ultimately do not care about electoral success. Limbaugh and Levin and Hannity don't want Republicans to gain power -- that's actually bad for the market. The market thrives when Democrats are in power. Now, most of them aren't deliberately trying to cause Republicans to lose, but certainly they do not feel at all invested in helping Republicans win. For sure they're not going to back away from things they've said before; things that they know fire up their audience; just to help the partisan cause.

So, already in the first hours of this story, we are seeing a rush on the right to embrace the controversial statements -- Erick Erickson and Herman Cain were among the first prominent ones I saw -- and in fact make their defense a conservative cause celebre.

I strongly suspect that this will continue, and strengthen, as Rush et al take to their microphones. And, of course, the liberal media will be cast as the ones trying to make a controversy out of these obvious truths. And, if Romney backs away from them, that will be (more) evidence that he is a phony RINO unwilling to fight for principles -- which, as I have said elsewhere, is a necessary trope that must develop to explain a potential Romney defeat.

The trouble, for the GOP, is that the movement-conservative marketplace so dominates the party, that it will be very difficult for elected Republicans to turn their back on Romney's statements if they become a conservative cause celebre. So, we're likely to see the defense of those statements move up from Erickson and Cain to real candidates and elected officials.

And if that happens, it means that the controversy continues. Which means more pressure for Republicans to be on the "right" side; which means more trouble.

I don't know if it will play out this way; the whole controversy may be replaced by weightier things by morning. But keep an eye on it.


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