U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, touches on it, too, in an interview with The News-Sentinel’s Kevin Leininger about the “difficult year” Republicans are having on things like gun control and the “fiscal cliff.” The GOP should stick with its conservative brand, he says, but deliver it with a “kinder, more sensitive” message.
Too much can be made of personality, of course – “style over substance” is not very good public policy. If GOP thinks the medicine it’s prescribing would go better with a little sugarcoating, well, it’s still medicine and won’t fool people very long. And if voters get the idea that Republicans are trying to disguise what they stand for, the only possible outcome is to earn a reputation for dishonesty. That won’t help dispel, in Leininger’s words, their media-driven image of Republicans as “emotionally detached, Scrooge-like apologists of the rich and powerful.”
But style matters. There is a time for preaching to the choir and a time for trying to persuade people on the fence. Mourdock didn’t seem to grasp the difference, and his “suffer no fools” attitude made his unwavering principles come off as arrogant extremism. It can be a tricky line to walk – knowing when to compromise and when to avoid compromise because a core belief would be violated. It’s even trickier explaining to constituents how the politician’s principles and the voters’ wishes can be reconciled.
But this isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s been said that politics is a dirty business. That’s not entirely a criticism.