This one’s a classic. In a column headlined “Guide to the Perplexed” and written in the second person, David Brooks offers voting advice to the paradigmatic “moderate voter.”
Except it’s bleedingly obvious that David Brooks is talking to himself:
You look at the Romney-Ryan ticket and see that they are much more conservative than you. They don’t believe in tax increases ever. You think tax increases have to be a part of a budget deal. They want to slash social spending to the bone. You think that would be harsh on the vulnerable and bad for social cohesion. …
If you go back and look at the federal budgets during the mid-20th century, you see that they spent money on the future — on programs like NASA, infrastructure projects, child welfare, research and technology. Today, we spend most of our money on the present — on tax loopholes and health care for people over 65. …
You’re still deeply uncomfortable with many other Romney-Ryan proposals. But first things first. The priority in this election is to get a leader who can get Medicare costs under control. Then we can argue about everything else. Right now, Romney’s more likely to do this.
All of which causes you to look over to the Democrats and wonder: Why don’t they have an alternative? Silently, a voice in your head is pleading with them: Put up or shut up.
There may be three- or four-hundred voters besides Brooks who suffer from the same perplexities. Maybe a dozen of these live somewhere besides Manhattan or Washington, D.C. The idea that any bloc of voters, let alone moderates, believes that the “priority in this election is to get a leader who can get Medicare costs under control” is ludicrously narcissistic.
The top priority for the vast majority of voters remains the economy and jobs, according to the most recent Pew polling. It’s true that the budget deficit has become more important to voters since 2008, but it’s a long hop from a general concern about debt to a specific one about Medicare. When Pew drills down to Rep. Paul Ryan’s premium-support plan, it finds a majority opposes it.
So we have no reason to believe there’s a large number of persuadable, “perplexed” moderates out there who are longing for Washington to “get serious” about entitlements.
If there were, I suspect Mitt Romney and Ryan would be talking a lot less about restoring cuts to Medicare.