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.