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Friday, April 24, 2009

It's All Framing GOP: Socialist is Far too Provocative

There is now a debate raging with the Republican National Comittee. The state Republican chairs want the national chairman, Michael Steele, to begin to refer to President Obama as a Socialist.

Republican state party leaders are rebelling against new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele for failing to dub President Obama and the Democrats as “socialists.” And the rebels insist that the label matters.

Even though Mr. Steele has called his Democratic adversaries “collectivists,” at least 16 state leaders say the term lacks the pejorative punch needed to sway public opinion and want all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to debate and vote on it.

It is the first time in memory that a sitting national leader of the Republican Party has faced a public challenge over his ideological leadership by conservative members of his own national committee.

At the tea parties, I cringed a bit everytime I saw a sign that referred to Obama as a Socialist. That's because such provocative language will get you noticed, but it also presents an image of an extremist.

Don't get me wrong. If you are a blogger, or columnist, being provocative is simply good marketing. That's a way to get noticed. Yet, the RNC is not a bunch of bloggers. The RNC needs to not only appease their base but be able to reach out to those folks sufficiently moderate that they are willing to listen to Republican's message.

Socialist is a very loaded term. Again, if you are a blogger, loaded is excellent, because you don't need to appeal to a cross section of folks. You can target extremes and wings and be very successful. The RNC has no such luxury. They can't only target extremes. So, when a moderate hears the RNC refer to President Obama as a Socialist, what they are likely to draw is that the RNC is full ideologues perfectly willing to demonize their opponents.

The best analogy of this is the Minutemen. The image they presented of themselves was one of extremists, and it lead to they being effectively painted as racist. If the RNC starts to routinely call Obama a Socialist they look bitter and extreme. They are coarsening the debate.

There are plenty of effective ways of painting Obama's policies properly while not using loaded terms that turn off moderates. He's a tax, borrow, and spend liberal and that isn't nearly as loaded. In fact, Republicans spent decades effectively painting their opponents as tax and spend. Obama's policies are akin to the Social Democracies currently going on in Europe. Characterizing him as such also doesn't unnecessarily conjure up visions of Mussolini. Instead, it conjures up visions of stagnant growth and double digit unemployment the way they have in Europe.

Frankly, the very fact that such a debate is even occurring inside the RNC is a sign that the blind are leading the blind. First, why would this ever be leaked? Those that leaked it don't have the best interest of the party at heart. It's likely they have their own agenda. That this is even public in and of itself hurts the party. It says that so called leaders are serious in trying to compare Obama to the likes of Mussolini. (yes, I once compared him to Marx but again, effective for a blog but not for a national party)

I belong to a local Republican group. Its leaders often tell me that when they meet non Republicans a common observation is that they are surprised that we Republicans don't have horns. That's the image that those outside the party have of the party itself. That's not a good image to have, and one of the reasons that we have it is the over the top rhetoric. Calling the President a Socialist is a great way to advance that image.


john hines said...

Lose the language, lose the war. If Obama is not a socialist, who is?

Anonymous said...

Every time I hear people use flaming rhetoric like that, it reminds me of how silly the people in our history books sounded with phrases like "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" or "Cross of Gold".

The fact of the matter is that calling Obama a Socialist does nothing but demonstrate a lack of knowledge of what constitutes Socialism.

mike volpe said...

He's someone that loves the government. He believes that the government is the answer to most problems. It's all about framing. If you think that description is fitting of a Socialist, you maybe right, however you would also never win any election where moderates matter.

Anonymous said...

The first comment is revealing. Perhaps some Republicans want to call him a socialist because so many of the Republican electorate resonate with it. Perhaps the problem is the splintered nature of the current right-wing support? Just a thought

I am an "independent".
When the right started calling Obama a socialist I was turned off. It smacks of Rove politics.

Its obvious name calling. Too obvious, whether or not he is a "socialist"

Obama framed his opponents without name calling. It should be done more subtly while the the person making the accusation appears more reasonable. This is what Obama managed in the election. Name calling wont work with moderates.

The Republicans need a leader who is respected by the whole party.

Picking an African-American guy to make the party appear more in touch is ok, just make sure the person is highly respected. I have my doubts Steele is.

A leader is essential, because come the next election, and provided the economy has recovered, the narrative for Obama is so simple.
The Republicans brought the economy into recession and he brought it out. He will call for stability and a continuation of his "successful" policies. It is a very simple message for the electorate to understand.

What will be the Republican message?
At this point it is unclear to me that they have a coherent message that doesn't across as "more tax breaks for the rich". The alternative budget gave a 14% tax decrease for the highest earners and very little to anyone else. One thing is clear, they need for some things to be very wrong with the economy. No growth, high inflation and high unemployment, no recovery in house prices will all help the Republicans.

The economic crisis has [at least temporarily] damaged the country's perception that the market will take care of everything.

Nick said...

The great Obama has is the collapse of the Republican Party.

They have neither a credible message nor messenger. They're railing against big government, when the core issue is the failings of capitalism.

They call for smaller government and berate Obama for moving toward socialism when people are not hungering for tax cuts. They're looking for jobs so they can pay taxes.

Instead of developing alternative policies, they're back to attacking FDR. He won four elections.

House Republicans have fastened on a new book, "The Forgotten Man," celebrating Wendell Willkie and criticizing the New Deal. Willkie—a Wall Street industrialist who had never held elective office, was a decent-enough fellow but lost to Roosevelt by a landslide in 1940—is an unlikely hero on which to build a new GOP.

At a time of crisis, when Americans look to Washington for help, the GOP has reverted to an outmoded form of libertarianism, calling for government to get out of the way when, if government had been more watchful, we might not be in this mess.

There are opportunities for Republicans in the public's apprehension over the rising deficit, and in the discomfort many feel over the various bailouts.

But a party is not serious when its headliners are a radio talk-show host and a discredited former vice president. Newt Gingrich is back as a rising star and Republicans are battling FDR, giving the GOP a rather retro feel. That gives Obama lots of latitude looking forward.

Jason Gillman said...

In consideration of his administrations goals to "nationalize" the banks through the fraudulent "stress tests.." The rationing of health care which MUST eventually happen as a result of the impending socialist "health care for all" boondoggle

More of Fascism elements IMO however.

And "marketing" is correct. The Republicans have a little life left in our party. The words MUST be said to make it clear to all that it is not only the marginalized element that actually understand what is going on.

The trick is explaining it so it cannot be denied. Laying it out in an understandable manner.

My own communications have marked an incredible conversion rate to the truth (coming to understand my perspective and agree :o) ) recently, and the Republicans need to take advantage of the conditions which are making it possible. If they miss the opportunity, they will lose what little credibility they have.

It is called "courage."

mike volpe said...

The great Obama has done no such thing. First, it depends on which crisis. In 1981, Reagan specifically tried to limit the role of government and an economic boom occurred, so your point is decidedly one sided. If you really think that libertarianism is dead or won't have a voice, you will be sadly mistaken.

The Reps have certainly destroyed themselves, however, there's nothing like a few years of failed policies of the opposition to reinvigorate the opposition.

In nov. 2010, if we still have north of 8% unemployment, we will all see just how "dead" the Reps are.