Blow Smoke Better?
"I'm a Republican, so you know you can trust me to tell you the truth.
So, whatever you do, don't vote for The President, who's a Muslim, wasn't born
in the USA and doesn't like good, old-fashioned American entertainment like minstrel shows."
Or is the American voter really getting dumber?
By CHUCK McFADDEN
It was the unfortunate Civil War general Joe Hooker who once told us that the secret to winning was to get thar firstus with the mostest.
Ol Joe didnt do to well at winning battles -- he lost the Battle of Chancellorsville big time -- but todays Democrats should take his little war homily to heart. And they havent.
Time after time, the Republicans win the rhetorical wars by coming up with a whopper, plastering it across the media, and then sitting back and watching it become accepted. The Democrats have played catchup, getting there lastus with the leastus.
Millions of Americans believe the Health Care Reform Act involves "Death Panels. Climate change is a plot driven by elites to fool real Americans who ought to be drilling for more oil and digging for more coal. Barack Obama was born in Kenya; hes a Muslim; hes not a real American. The sum of human knowledge must be attacked because it collides with theological or ideological beliefs that are more
comfortable than reality.
Democrats are left sputtering, caught off-guard by the sheer preposterousness of the Republicans mantra. No one can really believe all that, they tell themselves. Oh, yes, they can, and do.
They do because Republicans have mastered the technique of capturing the low ground and using it to their advantage. For instance, it is now revealed truth to millions of Americans that Obamacare will drive up the deficit. It wont, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But that truth gets lost in the Republican Noise Machine.
Until about 40 years ago, Democrats used to be better at this sort of thing than Republicans were. Thats because Democrats were more interested in government and politics than the Republicans.
Then the Republicans discovered something that had been under their noses for decades: You can use the same techniques in political campaigns that you use in business. Candidates can be sold like soap.
Acme soap! Cleaner, brighter, nicer! Joe Blow for the Senate! Cleaner, brighter, nicer! Our string beans have NO CHOLESTEROL! Our candidate has NO POLITICAL EXPERIENCE! Our flapjack mix is ALL NATURAL! (So is malaria.)
After that, it was easy. Republicans are more patriotic than Democrats. Republicans are more American. People in small towns are better than people in big cities. We have to take back our country from unspecified, but surely unpatriotic liberal elites.
Republicans came to realize that the electorate had neither the time nor the inclination to study issues and candidates closely. No, light it up with neon and make it simple, sweet and most of all pervasive. Electoral success is yours.
Democrats for years persisted in believing that a campaign was a graduate seminar in political science. They consistently overestimated the IQ of the American voter, and lost because of it. If you seek evidence of that, look at the 2010 election, when dozens and dozens of Tea Party Republicans were swept into office on platforms that were
laughable. Sarah Palin, the loopy Florida congressman Allen West and Michele Bachmann are taken seriously. Republican voters in Missouri will be guided to some extent by the utterances of a woman who thought her foreign policy qualification was that Putins plane flew over Alaska on its way to a summit meeting in Washington. It doesnt, by the way.
Reporters are doing a better job these days of pointing out nonsense from politicians. Oh, they still convey the utterances of the politicians to their readers, listeners and viewers. But more and more, you will see a paragraph or two explaining, politely and evenhandedly, that what the politician just said isnt true because of this and this and this.
The Republicans have an answer for that, of course. Its that the Lamestream Media are liberal, unfair and elitist. If the media report something that distresses Republicans, why, attack the media. It works.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has, in all innocence, made gaffe after gaffe on the campaign trail. The latest witticism about his recent trip to foreign lands is The Mitt hit the fan. But, according to Republicans, it wasnt Mitt that enraged the British. No, it was the Mainstream Media who were unfair about a perfectly reasonable remark about how Londons preparations, or lack of them, for the
Olympics was disconcerting. Go to London, insult your hosts. Mitt went to London to display his diplomatic skills. He did.
There are signs that the Democrats are beginning to understand whats happening to them. They may even be coming up with cheap shots and nonsense of their own. After all, it was the Democrats who decades ago came up with the New Deal and the Square Deal. It was a Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who made such effective use of his Fireside Chats on the radio. None of those were cheap shots and nonsense, but they did resonate with the voters. Maybe the Dems can do something.
So theres hope. Not for the level of political discourse in our country, but for the electoral fortunes of the Democrats. Given what the Republican Party has become, thats a good thing.
©2012 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The cartoon is courtesy of US Daily Review.com. This column first posted Aug. 7, 2012.
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