Over the years, I’ve had more than one occasion to write about Frank Luntz and his consulting business. In December 2011, I called him the worst person in the world and described him as “an evil genius who conducts tests on ordinary citizens to see how they can be best deceived into supporting policies that truly screw them over.” I still believe he is a truly malevolent person but, apparently, he no longer works on political campaigns. In fact, he appears to be having some kind of midlife crisis brought on by the reelection of Barack Obama.

In an interview with The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball, Mr. Luntz confessed that he’s kind of losing his mind. After having made a fortune coming up with ways to sell conservative ideas as populist ideas, he’s come to the conclusion that the American people are no longer receptive to any of his messages.

He “sits in front of his 85-inch television, alone in his 14,000-square-foot palace” in Los Angeles, ruing his fate and concerned about the fate of the country.

He thinks the American people have been corrupted, which is ironic considering that he’s always claimed to be a man of the people.

Luntz’s populism has turned on itself and become its opposite: fear and loathing of the masses. “I am grateful that Occupy Wall Street turned out to be a bunch of crazy, disgusting, rude, horrible people, because they were onto something,” he says. “Limbaugh made fun of me when I said that Occupy Wall Street scares me. Because he didn’t hear what I hear. He doesn’t see what I see.” The people are angry. They want more, not because we have not given them enough but because we have given them too much.

I never really knew where Mr. Luntz stood politically, only that he favored Republicans. Now I know.

“You should not expect a handout,” he tells me. “You should not even expect a safety net. When my house burns down, I should not go to the government to rebuild it. I should have the savings, and if I don’t, my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them.” The entitlement he now hears from the focus groups he convenes amounts, in his view, to a permanent poisoning of the electorate—one that cannot be undone. “We have now created a sense of dependency and a sense of entitlement that is so great that you had, on the day that he was elected, women thinking that Obama was going to pay their mortgage payment, and that’s why they voted for him,” he says. “And that, to me, is the end of what made this country so great.”

Probably the most poisonous word in the conservative dictionary is “should,” because you can’t make policy based on what people “should” do. People shouldn’t get pregnant if they don’t want or cannot afford to raise a child. But, people do have unwanted pregnancies. People should save for their retirement, but many people don’t, and many more can’t. People should pay their mortgage payment, but sometimes people lose their job and the money runs out.

Luntz’s political philosophy is some combination of simple-minded idealism and elitism, totally lacking in empathy. Molly Ball takes him apart:

Luntz’s political ideas, as far as I can tell, amount to a sort of Perotian rich man’s centrism, the type of thing you might hear from a Morning Joe panel or a CEOs’ retreat. We’ve got to do something about the deficit, for our children’s sake. We ought to have universal healthcare, but without forcing people to buy insurance through the government. We need immigration reform, but that doesn’t have to include a path to citizenship. The bankers who contributed to the financial crisis ought to be in jail, but we ought to stop demonizing the financial-services industry. To the tycoons who embrace them, these kinds of ideas are not partisan or ideological at all. They’re the common-sense plans we’d all be able to agree on if Congress would stop bickering and devote itself to Getting Things Done.

You might wonder why Luntz is experiencing such a profound sense of despair. After all, the Republicans still control the House of Representatives and are in good shape to pick up Senate seats. But Luntz is losing his mind because he realizes that the Republicans have no path to winning the presidency. He knows that their message won’t sell on the national level, and no amount of massaging the message will fix that problem. The work he did with the 2012 electorate convinced him that all is lost.

It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”

Luntz knew that he, a maker of political messages and attacks and advertisements, had helped create this negativity, and it haunted him. But it was Obama he principally blamed. The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president’s message of class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution. It was a message Luntz believed to be profoundly wrong, but one so powerful he had no slogans, no arguments with which to beat it back. In reelecting Obama, the people had spoken. And the people, he believed, were wrong. Having spent his career telling politicians what the people wanted to hear, Luntz now believed the people had been corrupted and were beyond saving. Obama had ruined the electorate, set them at each other’s throats, and there was no way to turn back.

Why not? I ask. Isn’t finding the right words to persuade people what you do? “I’m not good enough,” Luntz says. “And I hate that. I have come to the extent of my capabilities. And this is not false modesty. I think I’m pretty good. But not good enough.” The old Frank Luntz was sure he could invent slogans to sell the righteous conservative path of personal responsibility and free markets to anyone. The new Frank Luntz fears that is no longer the case, and it’s driving him crazy.

I think you have to be pretty much insane to view Barack Obama as setting people “at each other’s throats.” Certainly, nothing the president has actually done should have had that effect. It’s not his fault if his skin-color creates some kind of existential angst in more than half of the Republican base. It wasn’t his decision to treat his health care plan like the second coming of the Bolshevik Revolution.

It’s Frank Luntz who deserves blame here. He’s the one who helped the Republican Party incubate a culture where facts don’t matter and message is everything. If Luntz is having a crisis of conscience, he has earned it. Like Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, he thought he could do the devil’s work and get away with it because he’s so intelligent. Except Raskolnikov was able to solve his problem by confessing his crime and taking his punishment in Siberia.

Luntz is holed up in one of his mansions, all alone, drinking Coke Zero as he watches The Newsroom. There is no salvation for Luntz. His torment will be without end because redemption is impossible. He didn’t make conservative values ascendant. He helped turn a political party into a psychiatric wreck and now he blames the president for the result.

Frank Luntz earned his hell. He can fry in it.

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