If you relied only on polling data, you’d be knowledgeable of the priorities and wishes of voters. But you wouldn’t have a clue about the priorities and wishes, the buzzwords, action items, clichés, and worldview, of the bipartisan American elite. For that, you’d have to turn to the media, whose concerns are entirely orthogonal, and even harmful, to the interests of the American people.
Nowhere is the divergence clearer than in perceptions of inflation. It’s true that the rampant inflation some conservatives predicted when the Fed announced its “extraordinary measures” has not appeared. But it is also true that inflation is difficult to measure, that growth in wages has been slow, that the cost of health care and tuition continue to rise. Voters complain about rising prices even as experts say the voters don’t know what they are talking about. Who is a politician better off siding with?
Last year, American Principles in Action, a group associated with Jeff Bell, released its own autopsy of the 2012 election. The report noted that, after unemployment, voters in the 2012 exit poll said “rising prices” were their top concern. “What voters dubbed ‘rising prices’ is really a declining standard of living,” the report said, “which many perceive to be the consequence of the ‘shrinking value of the dollar,’ as one Ohio focus group participant told us.” Experts may dismiss Jeff Bell’s calls for monetary reform, but that focus group participant in Ohio is likely to listen — and vote.
The report issued six recommendations to GOP candidates: Don’t avoid social issues but use partial-birth abortion and Common Core as wedges against your opponent; use the social issues to appeal to religious Hispanic voters; call for an end to the Fed’s inflationary policies; attack Obamacare for lessening the American standard of living; go after “the student loan racket”; and celebrate middle-class workers instead of “job creators.” As far as I can tell, Jeff Bell is the only Republican Senate nominee to adopt such an agenda wholeheartedly.
While I disagree with him on immigration reform, and believe an amnesty would hurt precisely those Americans he is trying to help, I am excited to see, for once, a candidate try something bold and original. Jeff Bell may be a lone voice in 2014, but he was also a lone voice calling for supply-side tax cuts in 1978.
Thirty-five years ago, Bell prophesied the future of conservative politics. He’s doing the same today. My friend has become, quite unexpectedly, the most interesting candidate in the world.
— Matthew Continetti is the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, where this column first appeared. © 2014 All rights reserved