In Criticizing Republicans, Careful Not to Boost Democrats

In a Ricochet blog entitled Obama Labels Others With His Own Traits, I said:

Throughout his first term, Obama decried GOP “budget games,” “obstructionism” and unwillingness to “compromise,” at the same time insisting that it was Republicans, not he, who engaged in “blaming and finger-pointing.” He stigmatized “Republicans in Congress” as obstinate do-nothings at the very time he was: campaigning around the country instead of governing; giving hyper-partisan fundraising speeches; and refusing to submit a real budget or to meet with Republicans in the attempt to forge a budget.

Moreover, he continuously caricatured Republicans as ideologically extreme. At a 2011 Town hall Meeting at Facebook headquarters, he said, “I think it’s fair to say their vision is radical.”  A year later, Obama was hammering the same theme, saying that the Republican budget plan represented “an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.” Almost everyone in the media bought Obama’s line. …. It is thus that the national discussion of the budget (and of countless other issues) is preposterous to the point of being surreal.

Today, Republicans in Congress are again bearing the brunt of the blame, even though it is the Obama team that upped the ante, rejecting their own former taxing and spending goals for even bigger ones, and using the post-election budget process to further demonize and humiliate Republicans. Democrats and their media friends claim that an agreement could have been reached sooner were it not for GOP extremism. Conservatives, for their part, express disgust with the way Republicans caved in to Democratic demands. 

Here’s the problem: How do we criticize Republicans for not holding out for a better budget without playing into the hands of liberals who themselves blame Republicans for everything that went wrong? How do we avoid abetting Democrats’ opportunistic play for consolidated power and bigger government, as they cleverly claim that if it weren’t for “divided government,” (by which they really mean checks and balances, the separation of powers,  and two-party rule) – the budget process wouldn’t have been so painful? How do we get the truth out about Democratic obstructionism and extremism? Here are a couple of my suggestions (I look forward to yours):

—For every petition you sign urging Republicans to hold the line on reckless spending, lending and borrowing, send a letter, fax or e-mail to Democrats letting them know you know the truth about their objectives and tactics. (See, for example, When Big Deficits Became Good by Victor Davis Hanson.)

—Object (write, call, whatever) when “news” sources mimic absurd Democratic Party lines  about the budget — for example, that a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction is one that hikes taxes and revenues as a prerequisite for reducing spending.  (See , for example, Charles Krauthammer’s piece,  It’s Nothing But a Power Play.)

–Refuse to play into liberal mantras by condemning all congressional Republicans. I personally believe, for example, that Mitch McConnell received more of the blame than he deserved. (See Arnie Parnes’s Obama Says Pressure is on Congress/ Blames GOP as Fiscal Deadline Nears for a reminder of the kind of pressure exerted on McConnell, and how our own criticism might assist Obama’s campaign to mold public opinion. See John C. Goodman’s What’s Wrong With the GOP?  for a look at some of the complexities bedeviling our national discussion of the budget process. )

One of our conservative challenges is the threatening expansion of governmental power.  Another is the expanding public acceptance of ideas that simply are not true. We should spend at least as much time pressing reason into our national debates as we do expressing frustration with “Republicans in Congress.”

  1. Douglas Wingate

    I just don’t know if I can thread that needle.

  2. Nick Stuart

     

    Anne R. PierceWhen Big Deficits Became Good by Richard Davis Hanson.)

    Victor Davis Hanson [sorry for the pedantry]

    Well said. It would also have been well said in the space between it becoming clear Romney was going to be the nominee and the election.

    That period was open season on Romney by an identifiable number of Ricochet podcast hosts and Main Feed contributors who, for whatever reason, apparently were incapable of forbearing to criticize Romney for a couple months and focussing on making Obama a one-term president.

    I’m all aboard anything that will ramp the media back, hopefully even pushing the worst offenders (NYT, NBC, MSNBC) into bankruptcy if possible. I let my local talk station WLS know I quit listening because of their shameful water-carrying of the administration “video” narrative in the Benghazi situation. So what?

    I write my Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin, to let him know I’m unhappy with his policies. Again, so what?

    What’s left is pressing on my Republican representatives that if they roll over the Republican Party is essentially finished. For the third time, so what? They’re impervious. I do try to avoid criticizing them publicly though.

  3. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    Nick Stuart:  

    Anne R. Pierce:  When Big Deficits Became Good by Richard Davis Hanson.)

    VictorDavis Hanson [sorry for the pedantry]

    Thanks for the correction! Looks like someone cleared it up for me.

  4. MJBubba

    The key here is that the entire field of journalism is serving as an extension of Team Obama in the never-ending campaign.  Journalists are 85% part of the campaign, and the other 15 % is ineffective.  I think the Republicans have to quit hoping for anything approaching fair coverage and go on the attack.  Learn to recognize Team Obama talking points, and, when they come from big media, say  Bull! and call them out for repeating Democratic Party spin that mischaracterizes Republicans and Republican policies.  The Republicans need to go on the offensive, calling out the media types by name, and specifically naming their offenses.

    Your plan for dealing with Team Obama will only work in combination with a major offensive against the journalists.

  5. SunnyOptimism
    MJBubba: 

    Your plan for dealing with Team Obama will only work in combination with a major offensive against the journalists. · 1 hour ago

    There’s an old saying in politics & journalism – never pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel!

    The problem for the GOP is that they need to find ways to get their message across without using standard media channels.  Fox News aside, we’ve lost the media battle in so far as relying on the media to be the medium of truth.  In fact, it is actually anomalous when one looks at the history of journalism to think that it has always been about the truth. 

    So, how do we compete?  Boots on the ground and social media.  The big rock stars on our side of the aisle are thus because of Facbook, Twitter and YouTube.  Chris Christie’s bombastic persona is nothing more than a well-worked image by his media spox.  The records of his events are produced on the spot and published immediately by his campaign well before the producers in the big three industrial-media-complex (NBC-ABC-CBS) have a chance to look at the days footage. 

  6. FirstAmendment

    The Republicans need to be much more disciplined about sticking to a clear and consistent message track (i.e. talking points). The Democrats are masters of this and the Republicans are borderline inept. The Democrats keep repeating the same simple (and wrong) points over and over again, to the point where the message becomes drilled into everyone’s head (aided by the media). Given the media bias, it is even more important for the Repubicans to operate with exceptionally strong discipline on their messaging. I don’t know why they seem unable to do this.

  7. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    FirstAmendment: The Republicans need to be much more disciplined about sticking to a clear and consistent message track (i.e. talking points). The Democrats are masters of this and the Republicans are borderline inept.  …….I don’t know why they seem unable to do this. · 2 minutes ago

    As long as the talking points don’t become ends in themselves. I believe one of the problems with the earlier Romney campaign is that it was based on the idea that talking points on the economy — “jobs, jobs, jobs” –would resonate.  After the convention, Romney seemed to be liberated from the talking points, and made strides in talking genuinely about foreign policy, the need for spending restraint and more limited government, even family issues. My belief is that by then people had made false judgements about Romney, and were unwilling to be “introduced” to the Romney who really is a good man, who cares about the nation and the people – not only about “the economy, stupid.”

  8. Matthew K. Tabor

    … or we could be intellectually honest — all the time — and leave it that.

    Apologies, but if you folks were any good at political gamesmanship, we wouldn’t be punting out of our own end zone right now.

  9. liberal jim
    Anne R. Pierce: 

    One of our conservative challenges is the threatening expansion of governmental power.  

    The expansion of government power passed the threatening stage six or more years ago.  The problem is not with one party, both are happy to spend taxpayer money if they think it helps them stay in power.  At the present time Democrats are guilty of standing for more spending and more taxes.  The GOP is guilty of standing for not much of anything.  The idea that GOP control of DC would solve anything is laughable.

  10. SunnyOptimism
    Matthew K. Tabor: … or we could be intellectually honest — all the time — and leave it that.

    Apologies, but if you folks were any good at political gamesmanship, we wouldn’t be punting out of our own end zone right now. · 2 hours ago

    Three words – Low Information Voters

    Unfortunately,  a large swath of the voting public is too busy to care about politics and makes up their minds in the voting booth based on information they learned on their drive to the polling station….

  11. Leigh

    A couple of thoughts.

    1) The problem isn’t the Republican Party, the problem is human nature.  That is to say, I don’t know that any other group of politicians anywhere in the world today, and few in history, would be doing that much better than the ones we have now in the situation they’re in.  It is a product of human nature and American society.

    2) Address the fear.  The reason the Democratic line is so effective is that it’s appealing to a very real fear, and conservatives seem almost completely heedless of this.  Talk to people — to Americans — not just at Obama or the Republicans.

  12. SunnyOptimism
    Anne R. Pierce

    After the convention, Romney seemed to be liberated from the talking points, and made strides in talking genuinely about foreign policy, the need for spending restraint and more limited government, even family issues. My belief is that by then people had made false judgements about Romney, and were unwilling to be “introduced” to the Romney who really is a good man, who cares about the nation and the people – not only about “the economy, stupid.” · 2 hours ago

    Sadly a major consequence of our broken and dysfunctional primary system.  The GOP needs to do some serious thinking about how to modernize this ridiculous process.  What was it, over 20 primary debates?  Ridiculous.  Then, after basically winning all the delegates he needed by late April, Romney had to sit on his hands for 4 months because our Byzantine campaign finance system treats his primary donations differently than his general election funds.  Basically Romney had to surrender the field to Team O, and had his reputation dragged through the gutter, for the entire summer while he waited for the late August convention.  Ridiculous!  Of course he did pull a Todd Akin with his ill-thought out 47% comments…

  13. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    SunnyOptimism and James of England,

    I really agree with your points that SOMETHING has to be done about the way the media CONTROLS the debates – controls the questions asked and more importantly not asked … and therefore the information and messages and impression we receive.

    Republicans politely accept -year after year – the moderation of debates by people and organizations that overwhelmingly and strongly favor democratic candidates.

  14. SunnyOptimism
    Anne R. Pierce: SunnyOptimism and James of England,

    I really agree with your points that SOMETHING has to be done about the way the media CONTROLS the debates – controls the questions asked and more importantly not asked … and therefore the information and messages and impression we receive.

    Republicans politely accept -year after year – the moderation of debates by people and organizations that overwhelmingly and strongly favor democratic candidates. · 19 minutes ago

    Anne, don’t mean to sound combative but trying to “control” the media is an impossible task.  It is better to find a way to bypass them altogether.  I don’t agree with James of England’s views that we get a benefit from having our side use the MSM apparatus.  At best, it’s neutral.  Case in point – when conservative minority speakers (Mia Love) gave their convention addresses, the liberal MSM totally glossed over them or simply denied them air-time and, instead, spent then ensuing 10mins explaining to their audience how the “playing golf” joke is racist code words and dog whistles meant to fire up the base.

    Conservatives need to find, develop and exploit new channels of information even if that mean sacrificing prime-time exposure.

  15. Matthew K. Tabor

    Sunny, it’s not unlike business — if you build a strong brand, the ‘marketing’ aspect supports your brand rather than defines it. Sure, your sales ebb and flow as you release some products that are better/appeal more than others, but if you’ve developed a well-defined sense of quality, you tend to stay strong always. Adaptations and evolution happen on a foundation.

    The Democrats have simply done a better job of this. They’ve built a conceptual foundation for the electorate that links them to workers’ rights, social liberalism, etc. in a positive way. The Republicans failed to keep a strong brand, and they’ve further lost ground by letting the opposition build a negative brand for them.

    So, run a great, highly-effective campaign that wins all the low-info voters — and without a great foundation, you’re in the same boat 4 years later.

    SunnyOptimism

    Three words – Low Information Voters

    Unfortunately,  a large swath of the voting public is too busy to care about politics and makes up their minds in the voting booth based on information they learned on their drive to the polling station…. · 58 minutes ago

  16. SunnyOptimism

    Matthew K. Tabor

    I think we’re on the same page….

    GOP =

    dynatak.jpg

    Democrats =

    iphone5-front-back.jpg

  17. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    SunnyOptimism

    Anne R. Pierce: SunnyOptimism and James of England,

    I really agree with your points that SOMETHING has to be done about the way the media CONTROLS the debates – controls the questions asked and more importantly not asked … and therefore the information and messages and impression we receive.

    Republicans politely accept -year after year – the moderation of debates by people and organizations that overwhelmingly and strongly favor democratic candidates. · 19 minutes ago

    Anne, don’t mean to sound combative but trying to “control” the media is an impossible task.  It is better to find a way to bypass them altogether.  I don’t agree with James of England’s views that we get a benefit from having our side use the MSM apparatus.  At best, it’s neutral.  Case in point – …….Conservatives need to find, develop and exploit new channels of information even if that mean sacrificing prime-time exposure. · 41 minutes ago

    I’m just glad you and James of England are having the discussion! It’s a discussion that needs to be taken seriously on the national level.

  18. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    Any thoughts out there on how to improve upon what SunnyOptimism calls our broken and dysfunctional primary system?

  19. James Of England
    Anne R. Pierce: Any thoughts out there on how to improve upon what SunnyOptimism calls our broken and dysfunctional primary system? · 28 minutes ago

    There were two major issues with the primary. The first was King of Bain. In January and February, Romney’s support on “cares about people like me” and on the economy dropped and never recovered. The long summer made very little difference to those numbers in the sense that they did not move, but was worthwhile for Obama because he was able to maintain the gap. I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about this sort of thing. Hopefully Republican primary voters won’t support jerks in the future, and hopefully Sheldon Adleson has learned his lesson. Still, no one was quite so poorly behaved in the previous primaries, and there is no reason to believe that Newt became a trend.

    The second was less important, but can be fixed; we need to end the faithless elector problem. Electing delegates is fine, but they need to be bound to specific candidates, at least for the first ballot.

  20. SunnyOptimism
    Anne R. Pierce: Any thoughts out there on how to improve upon what SunnyOptimism calls our broken and dysfunctional primary system? · 42 minutes ago

    1. Work with state Republican party organizations to group and move all primaries into the first two to three months of the year (and for God’s sake drop this nonsense with Iowa & NH going first);

    2. Get rid of caucuses – they are useless anachronisms!
    3. Have REAL debates, get rid of the “Town Hall format” and limit numbers thereof;
    4. Bypass the media altogether on debates (since when did NBC/ABC/CBS/CNN get to be the arbiters of what a real debate is??) – use social media and YouTube to promote the debates.
    5. Have the national GOP truly vet and do extensive background checks on all candidates so we don’t end up with another farce of Herman Cain and His 12 Mistresses;
    6. Make candidates pledge to NOT run damaging or knowingly false attack ads against one another, ie, the No-Cricular-Firing Squad rule;
    7. Make candidates pledge their state organization to the national GOP even if their candidate loses the primary;
    8. Move the nominating convention forward by about 5 months and limit it to two days.