Book Review

11.10.12

Do Politicians Care About 'People Like Me'?

The important British site ConservativeHome reviews Why Romney Lost.

Key paragraphs:

'Why Romney Lost' is an interesting read. Although I recommend it, it also has some weaknesses. Frum's support for action on climate change will, for example, lead to higher energy prices for the lower income Americans that Republicans need to reach. Until green technologies are more mature it's a dangerous path for the GOP to tread. I see the Left's headlong rush towards immediate action on climate change as one of the ways in which conservatives can win over working and middle class voters. Stephen Harper in Frum's native country has certainly used his opponents' plans for a carbon tax as a wedge issue (eg here and here). More generally I worry about Frum's slightly casual approach to the broad range of socially conservative views. What voters rejected last Tuesday was more the unpleasant and extreme positions of candidates like Akin and Murdoch rather than sensible, mainstream social conservatives. It's also important to distinguish between issues like gay marriage where young voters are deserting the GOP and issues like abortion where young people tend to be as pro-life as their parents.

Overall, however, the message that Frum began with - and Olsen focuses on - the idea of needing to care about people "like me" - the middle classes rather than the wealthy - is not just central to the prospects of American conservatism but also to British conservatism. Uber-modernisers like Frum are a bit rosy-eyed about the Cameron model. If Romney deserves to be criticised for not winning in a recession then the same charge needs to be levied against Britain's Conservative Party. The Tories won just 36% in 2010; 4% more than in 2005 - which, in turn, was one of our worst ever defeats. It may be painful to say it but Tony Parsons wasn't too far wrong in today's Mirror - "Romney always looked far too much like one of the men who got the world economy into this mess to be fully trusted. Just like Cameron. And Romney always looked like an essentially mediocre rich man’s son whose birthright had fast-tracked him to glory. Just like Cameron." Parsons may be overegging his point but both UK Tories and US Republicans share this rich man image problem. Much more than the Left's idea that we are too white, too male and too right-wing - this lack of a commitment to social solidarity is the dominant challenge.