Earlier this week, a few of us Fraters were exchanging e-mails on Saint Paul's Both Ends Against the Middle post from last week and the two pieces by John Derbyshire and Michael Barone that he linked to in it.
We concluded that there seems to be a glorious opportunity for conservative politicians to reverse President Obama's attempts to play both ends against the middle, by aligning their message with the mood of those in the middle. Especially those running for Congress. While Democrats seem more and more willing to spend money (your money) on those at the bottom while also bailing out those on the top, what have they done to make things better for you or your children? Whether it's health care, the economy, or education it's pretty hard to point to much that your average middle class American believes has gotten better since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006.
While there's always a danger of playing too much to populist passions, an effort to identify and align with middle class concerns would seem to be smart politics for conservatives candidates. Especially those in districts that traditionally have not been receptive to the standard conservative approach.
One of my frustrations with the Republican Party over the years has been that too often we have fielded candidates who are unwilling or unable to articulate the right message for their particular district. If you're running for Congress as a Republican in Minnesota's Fourth, Fifth, and to a certain extent Eighth Districts, you already are facing long odds. While rousing red meat conservative speeches may win you applause and accolades at the party conventions, they are not going to win over many voters in your dark blue districts. Michele Bachmann can talk about limited government, personal responsibility, and strict adherence to the Constitution all the time and still win election after election. Republican long shots in traditionally Democratic districts can't.
So if you're running in one of those districts and you want to have any hope of winning this year, you need a message suited to your voters. It can still be a conservative message, but it's got to be a conservative message that resonates with the people in your district. And this "playing the middle against both ends" strategy appears to be one that would. Especially this year.
Teresa Collett, Joel Demos, and Chip Cravaack take heed. Your best hopes of pulling off the improbable are to play to middle. Not from an ideologically perspective, but an economic one.