Politicked Off: GOP - Heed the words of Mark Twain!
The Republican Party is taking a bit of a beating lately and, after the Presidential election, is doing a little soul searching to figure out what went wrong. I think there are 8 quotes from Mark Twain that could help them right the ship.
1. "Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish."
This one should be pretty obvious.
2. "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."
One of the main reasons that Mitt's flip-flopping and fish stories were so problematic was that he really had nothing else going for him. His campaign was basically, "Don't you hate your life right now? Then you should hate Obama and vote for me." Anger can stir up a crowd for a short period of time but to get the masses to stay organized for months and head to the polls requires something for them to hold on to. And Romney never gave them anything besides vague promises and shaky positions.
3."The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
All politicians (and pretty much anyone in the public eye) should take this lesson to heart. It's astonishing to me that, this far into the internet age, people still don't seem to realize that their words can go viral in a second and that even the slightest slip-up could mean disaster. Be it Rick Perry's "Oops" to Mourdock's words on rape or Obama's "You didn't build that", politicians' tongues were their own worst enemies in this political cycles.
I'm also really surprised that more people don't use referencing their website to avoid persistent questions, especially on touchy subject like the rape exception. Write it down there, make sure it's what you want to say, put it out in the world, and move on. The only guy who used the website trick this time around was Mitt Romney regarding his economic plan, but that was just to avoid the fact that he didn't really have a plan (the "plan" on his website was more of a list of desired outcomes, not a plan itself.)
4. "I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places."
You can't dismiss 47% of the country and expect to win elections. Bill O'Reilly's comment after the election was shocking in that he basically was acting like the Republicans couldn't win without the white majority. Also, to insinuate that because the white establishment is gone that we don't have traditional American values anymore is as wrong as it is repugnant.
It's quotes like that that push minorities away from the conservative movement, even though there are huge blocs of religious folk and family value oriented people in all minorities. (Also, to have your candidate joke that he wishes that he was Mexican because then the election would be easier and then have him go on Univision in borderline brown face is inexcusable.) To have an immigration policy that is essentially, "We're going to make it hell for them so that they leave on their own." is mind-boggling. "Self-deport" was possibly the comment that best represented the Romney campaign as it perfectly positioned Romney in a place where most people didn't know what the heck he was talking about yet he lost votes on the Left and with minorities and lost faith on the Right. It was a wording that neither side was happy with. Yet Bill O'Reilly and others ignore that and just blame minorities for "wanting stuff" to explain the defeat.
It's also telling that O'Reilly left out Asian-Americans in his rant. The problem there, of course, is that the stereotype for that minority doesn't fit the message he wants to send. Asian-Americans are stereotypically conservative and hard working... and they voted for Obama in overwhelming fashion.
The Republican party can win with women, black, Latinos, etc. They just have to stop treating them like they aren't part of the American Establishment or that their beliefs and values aren't traditional. When Paul Ryan says that they didn't lose on issues, they lost because of the "urban vote", it simply creates more space between the Right and a large portion of the electorate. A portion that isn't necessarily against them. Find a common ground and work from there rather than focusing on perceived differences.
5. "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."
One reason that Republicans can't follow this piece of advice is because it's hard to show the tangible effects of their plans. It's hard to bring out someone who has had their marriage ruined by the fact that gays are now allowed to marry. It's hard to show the worker who saw the tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down to him. While Obama could point to the American automobile industry as something he saved, Romney could barely point out companies that Bain salvaged since most of his salvage jobs included downsizing and shipping jobs overseas. The one thing he could have used this method with was Romneycare (show some kids who might not have survived without it) but he was running against that. It'll be tougher now that they will have been out of the White House for eight years but the Republicans need to run someone who has actual results that he can brag about and show off (which immediately eliminates anyone from Congress being the next GOP candidate for President.)
6. "The Christian's Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes."
In short, it's time for Republicans to change with the times. They have to get on the right side of history when it comes to gay rights. I'd even go so far to stop fighting abortion rights and instead promote ways to help mothers who keep their child or foster children. Pro-Life and Pro-Choice aren't mutually exclusive. Either way, conservatives have become out of touch in terms of social issues and it is what is costing them votes.
7. "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please."
The biggest failure for the Republican party was getting their people out to vote. For months, Republicans talked about the GOP wave that was going to come out and wash Barrack Obama out of the White House. But, come election day, conservatives stayed home and the predicted bounce for Romney ended with him getting fewer votes than John McCain.
The problem was that the Republicans took a fact that they already knew wasn't true: Romney was never big with the conservative base, and suddenly stopped worrying about. For some reason, they went from worrying about whether Romney could get the base out to vote to being convinced that the anti-Obama sentiment would lead a conservative charge to the polls. A belief that we all now know was false.
But that wasn't the only issue in which the Republicans overlooked the weaknesses of their strengths. Pundits seemed convinced that Romney's history as a businessman would give him a boost as he would be the better man to deal with our current economic crisis and national debt. What they ignored was that his business history included more outsourcing than actually building a tangible business with his own hands, his demeanor was cold and he seemed incapable of connecting with the working class. And then there was the 47% comment. In the end, Romney seemed to have the brain for economic change but the soul of corporate greed.
Faced with these issues, Republicans pointed to crowds at campaign stops as evidence that the perceived lack of connection with the base and the working class wasn't real. Anecdotal evidence trumped the polls that said the Mittmentum had waned. And if that didn't make them feel good enough, they fell back to another truth that turned out to be false.
When Mitt Romney won the nomination, I thought he had a solid chance of winning because, unlike most of his primary opponents, he wasn't someone that Democrats would rush out to vote against. He signed the universal health care bill in Massachusetts. He protected the right to have an abortion in the case of rape. He had neither the rhetoric of the likes Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann nor the Bush connection of Rick Perry that would have raised red flags for the blue team. But throughout the campaign, Romney became a kind of heel. It was just one comment after another, perhaps peaking with the 47% comment, that made him someone that Democrats actively wanted to beat. Yet with the clamor about Romney growing on the Left, conservative pundits found it ridiculous to believe that Obama would have the same sort of support that he did in 2008. The polls that made up Nate Silver's predictions were supposedly wrong because they assumed a similar turnout from four years ago that would never happen. Until it did.
The final step towards failure was that, because all of these false truths that the Republicans held to be self-evident, after the first debate, the Romney camp seemed so assured of a victory that they went into cruise control. He went from attacking Obama in the first debate to acting like attacking positions was inappropriate in the final debate. He stopped talking to the press for the last month of the campaign.
In the end, the Republicans spun the facts to convince themselves and ended up believing their own spin and that's the most certain recipe for disaster. As Will Rogers once said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
8. "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
I know that liberals are loving stomping all over the Republicans right now but let's not forget that eight years ago, it was the Democrats who couldn't figure out why their candidate from Massachusetts couldn't take down an unpopular President. The Republicans basically trotted out their JV team in this election and ran a candidate who nobody really liked and who many conservatives never got behind. On top of that, the Republicans get out the vote machine was as bad as it could have been and more and more it's seeming like many of the Romney consultants were more focused on making money than running a winning campaign.
The Republican party could rise again and it could rise with a very similar look to the one that lost today. All they need is a better candidate and a better ground game and they could make some noise.