by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Writing for Commentary‘s “Contentions” blog, Jonathan S. Tobin questions the likelihood that Democrats will find success in trying to demonize Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
[T]he question liberals need to be asking themselves today is not just if these sort of attacks will work but whether they might backfire with a crucial constituency the Democrats need desperately if President Obama is to be re-elected.
The primary obstacle to the Ryan demonization campaign is that it is difficult to whip up hatred for someone who is basically likeable. Ryan’s thought-provoking proposals are controversial because he isn’t afraid to take on hard issues and prescribe bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems. But politics is about personalities and the idea that a person like Ryan, whom has always been described even by his political foes as reasonable, cordial and respectful, can be transformed into a sinister figure is a stretch. It’s certainly not going to be accomplished by hysterical appeals from the left-wing groups or snarky columns by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd who today wrote of the GOP veep candidate as a Catholic version of arch villain Dick Cheney. The utility of this sort of cheap bile may be to rile up the liberal base. Yet the more Democrats go down this road, the danger is that they will not so much rally women to their cause as they will alienate working class Catholics, a demographic group that Democrats need to win elections.
Liberals always think waving the bloody shirt of the culture war works to their advantage. That’s because everyone in the circles in which they move view Americans who share Ryan’s views in the same way that candidate Barack Obama did in 2008 when he candidly dismissed them as proles “clinging to guns and their religion.” But just as President Obama is smart enough to understand that advocating restrictions on gun ownership is a political death wish in which in which the vast majority oppose such proposals, his media cheerleaders should not deceive themselves into thinking that the electorate will turn on a politician merely because he is a social conservative.