Saturday, January 7, 2012

Beat the Idea, Not the Man

Speaking of political advertising, I think this anti-Mitt Romney ad below, which the liberal blogs seem to love, misses the mark:

I don't think you are going to be able to convince voters (independent or otherwise) that Mitt Romney is some kind of evil corporate overlord, single-mindedly driven to extract American resources in order to improve his own personal bottom line. I just don't think that pitch will sell - people see pictures of Mitt Romney and he's a well-mannered, good looking dude, and that impacts their personal assessments. [There is a ton of political psychology research on how personal attractiveness impacts political perceptions]. But I think you can use similar language to paint Mitt Romney's behavior as a corporate raider as evil. This in turn underscores the larger, and more important point, that his economic worldview is fundamentally flawed and likely to lead to increased unemployment and American poverty. Mitt Romney thinks that Bain Capital and its devious squad of financial titans can improve the effectiveness of already functional and successful American companies. In reality, Bain and its ilk are corporate raiders. They find competently managed and well-financed companies, slay their employees, raid their coffers, and leave the ship to the rats as it slowly sinks into the bottom of the ocean. Romney and his frat brothers make millions and get out before the company goes under. Unfortunately, the boat would have been just fine if it wasn't looted and incinerated by pirates!

I know Mitt Romney is supposed to be robotic and aloof and unlikable but these perceptions (which I believe to be overstated) won't make a lick of difference if people think he can turn the economy around. We need to run ads (and feel free to use the fine gentlemen above), that demonstrate that Mitt Romney's economic theories are going to create a lot more unemployed people. Counting on rich people to come in and save our economy is not going to work. And that's what Mitt Romney proposes. He proposes tax cuts and subsidies for the richest Americans. Rather than hiring additional Americans, the "captains of industry" are much more likely to layoff Americans, particularly if it means gains in short-term personal wealth. It's 2012 but unfortunately we, meaning Democrats, still need to beat the economically defunct but politically robust theory of trickle-down economics. "Job creators" will not save us. The only way to stimulate the economy is to put money into the hands of people who will spend it (i.e. the poor and middle classes).  It doesn't work if we continue to funnel the money into the hands of people who will just save it, shelter it in tax havens, or use it to drive up the price of high-end luxury goods (paying $4 million for a yacht that cost $2.5 million two years ago does nothing to stimulate economic growth). But Mitt Romney doesn't see it that way. If we are to beat him in 2012, we need to beat his economic messaging, not the personal candidate. We need to demonstrate, in our writings, in our editorials, in our debates, and in our commercials, that tax cuts for the wealthy will not work as economic stimulus. Nor will debt reduction or a dismantling of the social safety net. We need to prove that Republicans are bad for the economy. And we need to start doing now.

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