TDS Managing Editor Ed Kilgore makes an important distinction in his Washington Monthly post, “Change and Safe Change.” After acknowledging that “Obama needs to improve significantly in the ability to define a second-term agenda,” Kilgore makes the case for “depicting Romney’s entire agenda as a leaner and meaner version of W’s.” Kilgore adds:
Romney, much like Bush in 2000, is presenting himself as the candidate not just of change, but of safe change–the hyper-confident moderate technocrat, who will assess the country’s challenges each day without fear or favor, and do what is best without worrying about his party’s “base” or the radical ideologues who represent it. Like W., Romney is touting a reputation (in Mitt’s case, a bit questionable and long in the tooth) for working with Democrats, and is also asserting a degree of empathy and “compassion” notably lacking in the GOP these days. This ingredient of his latest self-presentation is just as important to his cause as the mantle of “change.”
So while it may seem complicated for Obama to label Romney as the candidate of the same-old, same-old, and also as a radical, it is both accurate and effective. The two candidates have different agendas for the future, and while one is well-tailored to tough current challenges, the other is essentially an effort to advance the worst qualities of Richard Nixon and the worst policies of George W. Bush and Barry Goldwater.
As Kilgore concludes, “It shouldn’t be that terribly hard to distinguish a reactionary from a change agent. “Change” isn’t always good when it’s not “safe,” and a better alternative is readily at hand.”