Now, more than ever, staffers have to keep their mouths’ shut unless what they say is entirely consistent with the beliefs of the politician they represent and gentle enough to avoid mass media catastrophes.
Long time staffer and political advisor for Mitt Romney, Eric Fehrnstrom, failed to do so the other day when asked about Romney’s campaign strategy moving forward to the general election, assuming he gets the Republican nomination.
Unintentionally, he fed the American people and Romney’s political opponents a frighteningly childish analogy to remember as the primary season progresses. He said, “Everything changes…It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch…You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
Even more frightening than the instantaneous media eruption, marked by Twitter frenzy, Democratic National Convention remarks, and Republican opponent mockery, was what Fehrnstrom implied by his “Etch a Sketch” comment.
He was referring to the shift politicians make from a primary election to the general election when they focus less on grabbing the more extreme portion of their party’s base and begin to “race to the middle.” The median voter theorem states that winning Presidential candidates can transition from the edges of the ideological spectrum to the middle of the scale better than their opponents, and no more than in this election, has the need to readjust a campaign become more apparent.
Fehrnstrom’s comment was interpreted as Romney reinventing himself in the general election, shaking up the picture he drew in the primary and starting fresh in the general election in order to capture a broader base of the American people than President Obama.
What’s the problem with this? I think there’s a big problem here related to political accountability and fair representation.
An accepted theory in political science states that:
1) in a campaign, candidate make promises about what they will do in office, 2) winning candidates keep their promises or face the electoral consequences, and 3) voters reward of punish who keep or break their promises.
So what are we to do when politicians seeking the President’s office are launching what Fehrnstrom makes out to be two entirely different set of promises? I’d love to see some comments on what you all think about this conundrum, because the only answer I foresee is greater polarization leading to more different campaigns in the primary and in the general leading to greater overall disenfranchisement.