David Cameron has a Mitt Romney Problem

Dan-WhitfieldDan Whitfield discusses the similarities between David Cameron and Mitt Romney – and how this spells bad news for Cameron:

After Mitt
Romney, the Republican nominee for President was defeated last November, British
political prognosticators predicted that the result was a good omen for David
Cameron and a warning for his opposite number on the Labour benches, Ed

They are wrong.

It’s easy to see
why the experts made such a mistake.  After
all, President Obama won reelection with unemployment hovering at 8% –
something no occupant of the White House has ever done before (the closest was
Ronald Reagan, who was reelected in 1984 with unemployment at 7.2%).  Obama won in spite of the gridlock paralyzing
Washington (for which he is largely responsible), contempt for politicians at
record levels, and smoldering resentment over his reform of the American
healthcare system.

President Obama
also won despite his opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney,
effectively stealing the mantle of change.

similarities to the political situation in the UK will not have gone unnoticed
by Tory High Command.  That's why, on the
surface, President Obama's reelection is delightful news for Cameron.  Even now, perhaps, advice is being poured
into the Prime Minister's ear, urging him to follow the path blazed by the
President.  To win a reelection campaign
of his own, all David Cameron need do is remind voters of the mess he
inherited, emphasize the indicators which point to an economic recovery, and expose
his opponents glaring shortcomings. 
Follow the Obama recipe, and another 5 years in Downing Street beckon.

But a close look
at exit polling should have Conservatives nervous.  It shows that Mitt Romney lost for exactly
the same reasons that have damaged British Tories generally, and David Cameron
in particular.

The Fox News
exit poll showed that by a margin of ten points, voters thought Obama was “more
in touch with people like me.”  By a
whopping 81-18 margin people believed President Obama to be the more empathetic
candidate. Governor Romney did win majorities of voters who wanted “a vision
for the future” (54-45) and “a candidate who shares my values” (55-42), but was
undone by the fact that so many voters believed his policies would favor the
rich, effectively neutralizing his greatest strength: that he was the candidate
best equipped to turn around America's faltering economy.

Thus was
Romney's campaign was undone.  Much has
been written about the changing demographics of America – a worthy topic – but
the bottom line remains that people will not vote for a candidate they do not
like, irrespective of the colour of their skin. 
President Obama had a favorability rating of +7, while Gov. Romney,
suffering from millions of dollars’ worth of unanswered attack ads, had a
negative favorability rating of -3.

In the UK, there
are chilling similarities to Gov. Romney's position and David Cameron's, though
the Prime Minister does outperform the Republican in some crucial polling

An Ipsos-Mori
poll published just before party conference season in September shows Cameron
trailing by ten points on the issue of who “represents people like me.” And he
clings to a tiny two-point led when voters are asked to choose who “has the
right values.”

There is good
news for Mr. Cameron in the poll: by healthy margins he beats out Mr. Miliband
when voters are asked who is more “Prime Ministerial,” “likeable,” and “a good
person,” although Mr. Miliband does win on the question of “who will protect
British jobs.”

The Prime
Minister therefore is not in as near a bad a position as Gov. Romney, but his
polling numbers show they both share the same problems as a candidate: people
doubt their values, and question both their privilege, and their commitment to
jobs for the middle class.

The similarities
between Romney and Cameron go beyond mere polling.  Both come from what most people would agree
is “the 1%.”  Their upbringings
encompassed the very best schools and colleges, and they enjoy enormous wealth
beyond the means of most families.  Hence
why Mr. Cameron is so sensitive to attacks upon his background: deep down, he
fears they may actually work.  The
polling shows he is correct to hold such fears.

Mitt Romney's
candidacy fell victim to attacks on his character and background which he
inexplicably failed to rebut until the last few weeks of the campaign.  David Cameron, a far better politician, knows
to insulate himself against charges that his policies favor the rich and that
he is out of touch.  Hence the statement,
trotted out by his front bench team, that “we are all in this together,” and
the Prime Minister's reluctance to lower the top rate of income tax during the
negotiations over last year’s budget.

But these
solutions are only temporary.  What is
the answer to the long-term problem that people incorrectly associate
right-of-center parties with policies that favor the elite?  After all, it is parties of the left that
have destroyed state-education in their craven worship of the teaching unions,
thus harming the life-chances of those from the middle class.  And it was left-wing politicians who allowed
giant corporations like GE, Apple, and Google to pay obscenely low levels of
tax, foisting the tax-burden instead on middle class families not as well
connected as the CEOs of leading multinationals.

As in so much in
politics, there is no easy solution.  But
there is cause for optimism: the Republican Party is hungry for power, and its
hunger will compel it to confront the problems which beset the Romney
candidacy.  Already the conservative
media is abuzz with suggestions on how to improve the standing of the GOP.  Tories, with the election of 2015 inching
closer, should pay close heed.   After all, true leaders do not shed their ideology
and flee to the middle ground for safety; they bring the middle ground to them.

Dan Whitfield is a writer living in Washington, DC, specializing in the conservative routes of America’s founding.  Previously Dan worked for the Leadership Institute, America’s largest training organization for conservative activists.

A Plea for Sartorial Sanity

Dan-WhitfieldDan Whitfield presents this lighthearted piece advising young persons starting work in the conservative movement to learn how to dress!

In the corridors of power, summer brings out that most exotic of political fauna: the intern.  Propelled by a sense of purpose seldom seen in people who have lived in politics for longer than six months, interns head to think tanks, congressional offices, and advocacy groups to dream big dreams while buying the bagels.  Democracy simply could not function without interns to fill the printer with paper while smiling at whichever local big-shot comes into the office.

But our intrepid interns should heed the sage advice that first impression count.  It takes but a moment for the power-players and cocktail party circuit to determine if you are a young professional who just happens to be an intern, or a kid from the country who’ll be heading back as soon the summer comes to a close.  If you dress like someone who is going places, you’ll be treated like someone who is going places.  Dress like an intern, and there are no prizes for guessing how you’ll be treated.

Young female interns endure the added misery of being preyed upon by lecherous old insiders, who often mistake a revealing dress to be an invitation for dinner and drinks.

So if a plucky intern is to make the leap from holding a boss’s bag to holding a ministerial portfolio, they need to take a good look at their wardrobe.  Good clothes are the perfect foundation on which to build a career in politics.  Make the wrong sartorial choices, and you could suffer the indignity of being mentioned on blogs like this.

But why, I hear you ask, are cloths and bearing still so important?  After all, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson all dress down, and if these Masters of the Universe are happy to forgo a tie and pressed shirt, then surely an intern from Wichita can do the same?

Wrong.  Aside from the obvious point that any intern who compares himself to the founder of Facebook has a seriously over-inflated ego, the fact is only those who reach the rarified heights of success can get away with dressing-down.  Until you create a multi-billion dollar enterprise, it’ll be a neck tie for you, sir.

And besides, who on earth wants to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful sans suit jacket?  A movie premier, awards dinner, or manifesto launch often bring out the best outfits, and with good reason.  We each get a confidence boost if we know we are looking our best. 

If you’re still not convinced that respectable clothes are vital even in today’s relaxed workplace, consider these two scenarios and ask yourself which would make you feel most uncomfortable.  Scenario 1: you head to the sleaziest bar in town wearing your finest ball gown or tuxedo.  Scenario 2: you attend an elegant, five-course banquet at a Parisian ballroom wearing jeans and t-shirt.  If the second scenario fills you with dread, you are in the clear majority, and with it’s easy to see why.  If you are over-dressed can discreetly dress down.  If you are under-dressed, it is impossible to dress up.

So what can an intern do to boost their appearance, when, as we know, most of them are paid such low wages that they can only afford to eat one peanut butter and jelly sandwich every other day?

First, learn to love your local charity shops.  Lawyers and lobbyists think nothing of getting rid of decent outfits on a whim, and you can pick these up for little money.

Wherever you shop, bear in mind some rules.  Guys, nothing screams “intern” more than the navy blazer and khaki pants combo.  Yes, John McCain can pull this off, but you are not John McCain right now.  So stick to a matching suit and save your navy blazer for the occasional Friday.

And make sure that suit is a color other than black.  Anything but black.  Do you know why?  Because every intern either wears the navy blazer and khakis combo or a black suit, because that is what Mom and Dad and Aunty Pat said would look nice.  Wear a suit that is a solid neutral color, like mid-grey or navy.  Your goal should be to find a suit with which you can match many different shirts and ties.

Ladies, when putting together your outfits remember the 13-point rule.  When matching jackets to jewelry, you should have no more than 13 points of interest on your outfit.  For example, a jacket with four buttons in the center and two buttons on each sleeve has ten points in total, meaning you only have three points to use on jewelry (and a single necklace counts for two).  Exceed 13-points and your outfit will take away from your face, which of course, is your most wonderful feature.

You may choose to have far less than 13 points of interest, and that is fine, but beware going to the other extreme and wearing an outfit that’s more in keeping with the local Hooters than the nation’s capital.  You don’t have to dress like your grandmother, but you do have to dress in something you would be prepared to meet your grandmother in.  Dignity is the one coin without which a woman’s purse is entirely empty.

And guys, before you snigger at all the silly rules that girls have to follow when putting together their work clothes, remember you have to follow the unwritten two-out-of-three rule.  When matching your suits to shirts and ties, up to two out of your three selections can have a pattern or stripe, but not three.  So a striped suit can be matched with either a patterned shirt or patterned tie, but never both at the same time.  Break the two-out-of-three rule and you’ll find yourself consigned to the empty corner of a cocktail party with no one to talk to except the girl who has broken the 13-point rule.

Finally, a word of cologne.  I wish I had learned this when I was in my adolescence, but cologne is intimate apparel, not something you bathe in.  If anyone other than your girlfriend compliments you or your scent, you have put too much on.  Women’s noses are delicate things, don’t over power them.

Now you’ve got a stellar outfit, it’s time to go show it off at the social events interns always head to.  I will refrain from warning interns about drinking too much lest I be accused of hypocrisy.  But I will say this: be careful what finger food you eat while hobnobbing with politicians.  It is impossible to eat chicken wings with dignity, and even the nicest suit will look terrible if it has a blob of barbeque sauce down the front.

When meeting new people, never be afraid to shake hands and say hello.  If you are nervous about making small-talk with strangers the follow this tip: ask about things that have happened in the immediate past.  ‘Did you drive here?’ and ‘wasn’t the weather last weekend great?’ are innocent, unobtrusive questions that will often elicit answers on which you can form a wider conversation. 

There are certain phrases and comments which on no account should be uttered when meeting new people, and they are far too numerous to list completely, but remember that there is almost no occasion where the following ought to be said: ‘my blog,’ ‘Hillary Clinton,’ ‘conspiracy,’ “Dungeons & Dragons,’ and ‘the Jews.’

There is nothing more uncommon than common sense, so the old saying goes, such that even the longest essay will not prevent some young intern making foolish sartorial choices.  Nevertheless, this year’s crop of copier room-fodder can be saved from the dangers of a badly knotted tie and too much lipstick if we instill in them the following simply homily:

Dress like the person you want to be.  Even if you don’t get there, you’ll still look nice in the photos.

Dan Whitfield is a writer living in Washington, DC, specializing in the conservative routes of America’s founding.  Previously Dan worked for the Leadership Institute, America’s largest training organization for conservative activists.

Sometimes, the Messenger Is More Important Than the Message

Dan-WhitfieldSmearing political figures online can be just as damaging as in print, writes Dan Whitfield.

Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague released a press release in which he provided intimate details of his marriage.  This was in response to internet rumors about an improper relationship between Mr. Hague and a male aide, based on the most flimsy of evidence.

The whole episode is a great shame, particularly because the male aide in question has been forced to resign having done nothing wrong.  It has led some people to question whether blogging, and other forms of journalism based exclusively on the web, are having a negative impact on political discourse in Britain and the world.

This charge is patently absurd.  Whether news is published online, on paper, or on parchment is irrelevant to the quality of the journalism that provided that news.  It is the character of those working in the news media that is important, not the medium through which they work.

At the time Hague was giving the press his statement for example, Vanity Fair published a 10,000-word article on Sarah Palin.  This is the third such piece the magazine has published since the last presidential election.  It is packed with allegations that she has a fierce temper, habitually lies, and fails to adequately raise her children.

In 10,000 words the author fails to cite a single verifiable source, and all his quotes – with the exception of one – come from anonymous sources. 

However you feel about Sarah Palin – for she is certainly a polarizing figure – it is indecent to levy so many charges against her without a scrap of evidence.

William Hague and Sarah Palin have been slimed this week, and it matters not whether the slimers worked in print or online.

Dan Whitfield is a writer living in Washington, DC, specializing in the conservative routes of America’s founding.  Previously Dan worked for the Leadership Institute, America’s largest training organization for conservative activists.

Populism and the Law – tearing Conservatives in opposite directions


The US Constitution should not be sacrificed for the sake of populism, writes Dan Whitfield.

While Australians feverishly engage in a general election campaign, the US recently found itself fighting another battle in the Culture Wars – those perennial fights between Left and Right over the moral fortitude of the Land of the Free.

Judge Vaughn Walker, Chief Judge of the District Court for the North District of California, recently upheld that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.  The ban had taken effect the previous November, when Californians – who voted overwhelmingly for liberal presidential candidate Barack Obama – also voted to ban marriages between homosexuals.

Judge Walker's decision prompted a surprisingly muted response from conservatives, which suggests that social issues will not play in this election season while the economy teeters on the brink of another recession.

Nonetheless, many social conservative groups – backed by talk radio personalities – blasted the decision. Labeling it judicial activism of the worst kind, these protestors claimed that Judge Walker had ignored the legally expressed will of the six million voters who wanted to see an end to gay marriage.

This argument exposes the danger conservatives face when they try to harness populism and simultaneously defend the US constitution.  Judge Walker, despite what social conservatives may say, was under no legal or moral obligation to heed the wishes of voters.  His job was to determine the constitutionality of the ban on gay marriage.  The wisdom of his decision can be debated at length, but it beyond doubt is that an issue's popularity is irrelevant to whether it is legal or not.

The conflict between populism and the law exposes conservative activists to the charge of hypocrisy.  In 2008, the famous DC vs. Heller case came before the US Supreme Court.  The decision overturned Washington's ban on handguns, and was greeted with elation by conservatives.

But, if we follow the logic of those campaigning against Judge Walker's decision, was this not an example of the kind of judicial activism conservative's find so objectionable?  For years, voters had elected representatives in Washington who stood on a platform to ban handguns.  It was an overwhelmingly popular measure.  But its popularity did not alter the fact that it was unconstitutional.  

The US Supreme Court, like Judge Walker (who was, incidentally, nominated to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan) made the right decision.  They adhered to the constitution, and ignored populism.

Dan Whitfield is a writer living in Washington, DC, specializing in the conservative routes of America’s founding.  Previously Dan worked for the Leadership Institute, America’s largest training organization for conservative activists.

The Life, Soul, and Future of the Party: Why Libertarians are Unwise to Shun the GOP

Dan-Whitfield Libertarians may be the future of the Republican Party, writes Dan Whitfield.

In November 2008, it wasn’t only the Democrats who cheered as the Republican Party suffered electoral catastrophe.  Across the country, pockets of people huddled around TVs and computer screens, celebrating the defeat of John McCain, and scores of other Republicans lower down the ticket.  They were the libertarians.

Strangely, 2008 was a good year for the defenders of liberty.  This may sound ludicrous, given that the hard-left won control of both Congress and the White House, but the global economic downturn spurred a rapid mobilization of libertarian activists dedicated to paring back the power of government.  The two major political parties had easily dismissed the libertarians as a radical fringe, but with profligate congressional spending reaching record levels, large numbers of people were drawn to the banner of liberty.

Two years later, and the revolution shows no sign of abating.  Libertarian Rand Paul – son of Congressman Ron Paul – will likely win a Senate seat in November, and elsewhere incumbent legislators are being threatened by challengers committed to smaller, less intrusive government. 

That this is the case can be attributed in large part to the decay of the Republican Party, which by 2008 was devoid of policy innovation.  Libertarian critics charged that the GOP was corrupted by power, and had been high-jacked by a small cabal of neoconservatives bent on American imperialism and bloated government spending.  Small wonder some voters were driven into the arms of Ron Paul and Bob Barr when the Republican leadership gave America the Iraq War, Medicare expansion, and banking bailouts.

The question libertarians must now ponder is how to capitalize on their successes.   If the gains glimpsed over the last two years are not sustained, the critics of the libertarian movement, who charge that it is merely a political sideshow, will be proven correct.  Given that unfunded entitlement programs are growing exponentially under the Obama administration, the next few years could prove an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for libertarians to articulate their ideas. 

Alternatively, libertarians may be swept away by an unfettered march toward federal government expansion.  

For ideological purists, future success lies far away from the GOP.  The Tea Party movement or a collection of local parties with a regional base are the best vehicles to drive a message of small government.  

According to this argument, the Republican Party is morally bankrupt, devoid of ideas, and on an irreversible electoral decline.  The GOP, the party which expanded the federal deficit to eye-wateringly high levels and engaged in aggressive adventurism abroad, can no longer be counted on as the party to defend individual freedom.   

Yet this course is fraught with difficulty.  The Libertarian Party, a long-standing American third party, has a pitifully small base of only 200,000 hardy souls, a figure totally unreflective of the degree of libertarian sentiment in the land.  Its membership is largely comprised of policy wonks, students, and ideological purists, who hardly make ideal foots soldiers in the ground game that is politics.  Their lack of numbers translates into consistently poor showings at election time, and the Libertarian Party suffers from a chronic shortage of cash.  

Even if such problems were surmounted, an independent Tea Party or other similar party would still have to contend with older, better established rivals who have cultivated a brand loyalty among millions of voters.  Barring some once-in-a-lifetime event, these bonds between voter and party will be all but impossible to break.  In 2008 for example, the nadir of Republican electoral fortunes, 46% of people still cast their ballots for Senator John McCain.  Even the most zealous of libertarians would concede that that is an impressive showing for a candidate laboring under the disasters of the previous administration.   

The lack of a viable alternative leaves the libertarians in the unenviable position of having to work within the Republican Party apparatus.  This will not be an easy task.  A tainted brand, a culture of corruption, and a tendency to ramp-up government programs in the desire to sustain power are but a handful of the problems that beset those seeking to change the GOP.  But by far the greatest problem is the fact that the Republicans may be on a course of permanent decline.  

President Obama won two-thirds of the youth vote, an achievement mirrored only by Ronald Reagan in 1980.  That election ushered in a period of Republican hegemony.  Likewise 2008 may have been the opening act in what may be a generation of Democratic supremacy.  With the wind behind the Democrats back, libertarians hoping to reshape the GOP into a viable political party face a daunting task.  

Libertarians will also find it difficult to engage some of the Republican’s core constituencies.   The acolytes of neo-conservatism still retain a strong presence in the GOP, despite delivering the United States two expensive, protracted, foreign wars.  Likewise certain social conservatives, still lobbying for intrusive constitutional amendments in order to protect marriage and the unborn, will sit uneasily with a libertarian movement dedicated to states rights and personal freedoms.  Tempers often fray when libertarians point out the ideological inconsistency of those who advocate for federal regulation of a woman’s body while opposing federal regulation of such things as CO2 emissions.  

Yet despite these difficulties, the situation is not beyond rescue.  In fact, a libertarian movement properly disciplined, focused, and motivated would be ideally placed to lead the GOP back from the wilderness.  

Already tea party activists have chosen strong defenders of liberty as their candidates in a string of Republican primaries.  Whatever the outcome of the elections in November – one thing is clear: there will be many more libertarians in next Congress.

The principle reason why the libertarians can and ought to assume the leadership of the GOP is clear – demographics.  Older voters are dying off, replaced by a zealous and youthful electorate enamored by Barack Obama and his leftist friends.  The establishment GOP has utterly failed to connect with these types of voters.  To compound this, socially conservative leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson are either dying or retiring.  In their stead a new generation of religious voters are emerging, who place less emphasis on foreign aggression and homosexual persecution, such as California’s Rick Warren.  

Given such irreversible long term trends, it is likely that a strong libertarian grassroots network could challenge established hierarchies in the GOP and lobby for overdue policy changes.  The swarms of libertarians who descended on the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last February under the banner of the Campaign for Liberty is evidence of the people-power the libertarian movement now commands.

For the libertarians to succeed in reintroducing the nation to the Jeffersonian principles of limited government and personal responsibility, they need a party.  The GOP is that party.  Neo-cons and DC hacks should not be allowed to vandalize the Republican brand any longer.  If the libertarian movement is to thrive over the coming years, it must move beyond its distaste of the GOP and work within its proven party apparatus.  Libertarians should take their lead from Ron Paul, who remains a registered Republican.  If the good doctor from Texas can remain part of the GOP, his supporters ought to follow his lead.  With momentum behind them, the libertarians just might turn out to be the life, soul, and future of the Republican Party.

Dan Whitfield is a writer living in Washington, DC, specializing in the conservative routes of America’s founding.  Previously Dan worked for the Leadership Institute, America’s largest training organization for conservative activists.