The 2012 Election and Our Future: An Interview with Matt Lewis
by NextGen Journal | Everywhere
What really matters in the 2012 election- in terms of the biggest problems we face, the future of our country and of our ‘next generation?’ At NextGen Journal, we’re interviewing leading reporters, columnists, and thinkers throughout the summer, focusing on those themes.
Last Friday, NGJ’s Connor Toohill kicked off the series with a sit-down in the Washington, D.C. office of The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis- named the 2012 “Conservative Blogger of the Year” by The American Conservative Union. The transcript of that conversation follows, including: why he wishes Governor Romney would be more specific; why compromise isn’t always a good idea; and why we need more courageous political figures- like Sen. Marco Rubio. This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
Connor Toohill: Let’s start pretty broad here: what do you think are the most critical problems that the President will face over the next four years, and what would you like to see on top of the national agenda after the election?
Matt Lewis: I think, first of all, it’s impossible to predict. In 2000, when Bush ran against Gore, they never thought that terrorism would be the defining issue. It got very little mention, but it ended up defining Bush’s presidency.
I would like to see more emphasis on entitlement reform and less demagoguery about it. I think we probably need to raise the Social Security retirement age for most people. And that’s a dangerous thing to say- if you’re a politician and you say that, older people tend to vote in large numbers. If you dare to be brave enough to say, “I think we need to do that,” it can be politically dangerous and so as Eric Holder says, we’ve become a nation of cowards in that regard. You can’t talk about race honestly in some cases, you can’t talk about entitlement reform- there are certain issues that have become taboo, and it’s kind of unhealthy for democracy.
I think another issue would be means testing: I personally believe that if you are rich, you shouldn’t necessarily be getting Social Security. Right now, you do.
So there are all these things that I think we could do. But they require courage- and I wish that both sides would quit trying to score points every time there’s vulnerability. So for instance, if there’s a Republican politician who comes out and says, “I think that in order to preserve Social Security going forward, we need to raise the retirement age for most people. If you’re below the poverty line, that doesn’t apply to you.” It’d be nice if the other side would say, “Maybe we disagree, but that’s a legitimate point, that’s a legitimate debate we should have.”- as opposed to demagoguing it and running ads. Both sides do that. But that’s the part of politics that’s become discouraging to me.
Connor: So it sounds like you’d like to see some relatively specific solutions put forward. Do you think that The Republican candidate, Governor Romney, has been specific enough with his policy proposals so far?
Matt: I would say no- I would like to see him be more specific. But I also understand politically why he hasn’t been, and that’s because there’s a disincentive for politicians to be real specific. If you propose a specific real solution, there’s a percentage of the population that won’t be happy with it. And so from a political standpoint, it’s dangerous to be too specific.
And I think that’s something that right now, following it on Twitter- Romney’s strategy has basically been kind of a ‘rope a dope’ strategy. The economy’s not doing well, Obama’s made some gaffes. There’s this thing Napoleon said, ‘Don’t interfere with your opponent when he’s in the process of destroying himself.’ So Romney, I think, is trying to fly below the radar, and just run out the clock and win the election- not because people agree with his ideas, but because he’s the alternative here.
The problem with that is- couple things. One, I believe that in order to have a mandate, you need to run on something and have the public approve it. One of my favorite lines, which I believe is attributable to Margaret Thatcher, is “first you win the argument, then you win the vote.” And I believe it’s so important, that whatever we want to do as a society, that we have a national conversation, you win the argument first, then you implement the policy and pass the law. The public will have bought in on it, and it will actually work. And it will have legitimacy.
I think that too often, our politicians ram through- I think Obama tried to ram through ObamaCare, I think Bush in the run up to Iraq, didn’t win the argument as well as he could have. And I think later on, the public looks around and says, “Hey, I didn’t sign off on this!” I think if you look to Reagan and Thatcher, these were politicians who understood the importance of rhetoric and persuading the public, then pushing their legislation that way.
Connor: So your concern seems to be that big, bold policy changes are needed, but unless there’s a lot more detail in the campaign, there’s not going to be public support for those policies?
Matt: Absolutely. I think that’s true.
On Page Two: Matt Lewis on where we just might see compromise after the 2012 election.
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