The Republican Party is in disarray. When a group does not have a leader, everyone looks out for himself.
Republicans are so absorbed in the task of attack each other that they have nothing left to fight Democrats.
In many ways they are replaying the recent presidential primaries. Throughout those primaries the candidates were mostly firing at each other. As I noted at the time, ignoring Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment was a very big mistake indeed.
Eventually, the party settled on the last man standing, a candidate who was unbeatable on paper, but Mitt Romney was never going to provide political leadership. After all, he was not a professional politician.
Mitt Romney was a perfect gentleman. He was the kind of man who seemed never to have done anything wrong in his life. Which did not prevent the Obama campaign from making him into a human punching bag, hitting him with lies, slander and character assassination.
To use David Horowitz’s expression Mitt Romney was “too polite” to fight back.
I agree with Horowitz. When it comes to competing against Democrats Republicans have consistently shown themselves to be too polite to fight. When it comes to fighting their fellow Republicans, however, the gloves come off and they let fly.
It began with George W. Bush. When Congressional Democrats and the mainstream media slandered the Bush administration for lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, George Bush decided that he needed to situate himself above the fray. He wanted to be presidential. He did not think it fitting that a president lower himself engage in a bar fight.
The result: Bush’s favorability ratings plummeted. He is still blamed by the majority of Americans for just about everything that went wrong during the Obama administration.
Compare what is happening today. When Barack Obama promised that Obamacare would allow everyone to keep his health insurance and to keep his doctors, he was clearly not telling the truth. Many have pointed out that his prediction has proven to be false, but has any Republican politician attacked him as a bald-faced liar.
Mitt Romney was all aggression when it came to striking out at his fellow Republicans. But when it came to defending himself against the Obama campaign he was too proud to fight. Anyone who has the most minimal understanding of politics knows that a candidate has to hit back hard against negative charges, lest they stick.
Romney didn’t. The charges stuck.
The charges weren’t just coming from the Obama campaign. Major segments of the mainstream media had joined the effort. Remember that Candy Crowley’s took Obama’s side during the second presidential debate.
Did Romney defend himself against Candy Crowley? No. Did he roll over and play dead? Yes.
No Republican presidential candidate will be able to win an election if he is too polite to attack Democrats and if he is too polite to attack the media.
Many Republicans used to think that Chris Christie would be the most effective candidate. No one is more of a brawler than Chris Christie. He showed effective leadership in taking on the public employee unions in New Jersey.
Yet, as Horowitz notes, when Christie got his chance to attack the Democrats and their connection to labor unions at the Republican National Convention, he shrunk from the fray. For that and many other reasons Christie is looking less and less like Republican presidential material.
In 2012 the only candidate who was not too polite to attack Democrats and the media was Newt Gingrich. Yet, Republicans rejected him because he had offered opinions that did not hew to the party line, because he had occasionally said bizarre things and, most of all, because he cheated on his wife.
Newt may have cheated on his wife, but he would not have allowed himself to be cowed by Candy Crowley or the Obama election campaign.
The Republican Party needs to have a serious discussion about the politics of sex. Whatever you think of the abortion question, it has become a political albatross for Republicans. As I mentioned, count up the number of women who have had abortions and ask yourself how many of them will vote for a political party that sees them as unindicted co-conspirators in the murder of a child?
Now, ask yourself how many men, and women have committed adultery or have wanted to. How many of them will vote for candidates who belong to a party that disqualifies candidates on the grounds of adultery?
Gingrich was a brawler. He had vast experience in the federal government. Romney was a gentleman. He had no experience in Washington. How did that work out for Republicans?
Horowitz explains that Republicans are polite and courteous because they see themselves as administrators. Democrats see politics as a knock-down drag-out fight. They will do what they have to do to win, because they consider that winning is the only thing that matters.
Republicans are trying to be nice; Democrats are exercising their will-to-power.
Today’s Democrats are not yesterday’s courtly, polite Democrats. They will lie, cheat, steal, slander and defame if it brings them electoral victory.
For reasons that are unclear, Republicans have not yet figured out how to respond to such tactics. It’s not as though they have not been warned. It’s not as though Romney did not know what was going to be thrown at him.
Horowitz explains that Republicans have developed a tendency to respond to Democratic attacks by complaining. They also throw around terms like “class warfare” and imagine that people can relate to the concept.
As he describes it, the Republican Party is bloodless:
Behind the failures of Republican campaigns lies an attitude that is administrative rather than combative. It focuses on policies rather than politics. It is more comfortable with budgets and pie charts than with the flesh and blood victims of their opponents’ policies. When Republicans do mention victims they are frequently small business owners and other “job creators” – people who in the eyes of most Americans are rich.
To counter the Democrat attacks on them as defenders of the comfortable and afflicters of the weak, Republicans really have only one answer: This is a misunderstanding. Look at the facts. We’re not that bad. On the infrequent occasions when they actually take the battle to their accusers, Republicans will say: That’s divisive. It’s class warfare.
Horowitz is correct, but he should have mentioned that Republicans are all fire and brimstone when it comes to attacking their own.
Horowitz recommends that Republicans fight fire with fire, that they fight emotional arguments with emotional arguments,
The only way to confront the emotional campaign that Democrats wage in every election is through an equally emotional campaign that puts the aggressors on the defensive; that attacks them in the same moral language, identifying them as the bad guys, the oppressors of women, children, minorities and the middle class, that takes away from them the moral high ground which they now occupy. You can’t confront an emotionally based moral argument with an intellectual analysis. Yet this is basically and almost exclusively what Republicans do. …
The Republican narrative is an abstraction. It’s about policies and prescriptions, over which reasonable people can disagree: How much opportunity will a three or four percent higher tax rate — the rate that prevailed in the prosperous Clinton years — stifle opportunity?
Because Democrats regard politics as war conducted by other means, they seek to demonize and destroy their opponents as the enemies of progress, of social justice and minority rights. Republicans can only counter these attacks by turning the Democrats’ guns around — by exposing them as the enforcers of injustice, particularly to minorities and the poor, the exploiters of society’s vulnerable and the reactionary proponents of policies that have proven bankrupt and destructive all over the world.
It is necessary to note that Democrats are winning the messaging war because they control the most respected media outlets. Republicans will not be able to do what Horowitz recommends unless they begin to take on the mainstream media.
For now, politicians have left that unenviable task to pundits and columnists and talk radio hosts. It is not enough. Political leaders need to do it too.