Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's Wrong with Congressional Republicans?

What’s wrong with Congressional Republicans? Why are they losing the political war with President Obama and Senate Democrats?

Thomas Sowell offers a sobering observation, coupled with some sound advice. Republicans are losing because they are failing to communicate. They do not know how to formulate a message and sell it to the public:

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, epitomized what has been wrong with the Republicans for decades when he emerged from a White House meeting last Wednesday, went over to the assembled microphones, briefly expressed his disgust with the Democrats’ intransigence, and walked on away.

We are in the midst of a national crisis, immediately affecting millions of Americans and potentially affecting the kind of country this will become if Obamacare goes into effect — and yet, with multiple television-network cameras focused on Speaker Boehner as he emerged from the White House, he couldn’t be bothered to prepare a statement that would help clarify a confused situation, full of fallacies and lies.

Boehner is not unique in having a blind spot when it comes to recognizing the importance of articulation and the need to put some serious time and effort into presenting your case in a way that people outside the Beltway would understand. On the contrary, he has been all too typical of Republican leaders in recent decades.

True enough, Boehner is not alone among Republicans. Bill Clinton was better at messaging than George W. Bush. By a lot. Neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney had a clue about how to formulate a message. The one Republican who seems to have a real talent for communication, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been known to turn his message against Republicans.

Sowell is right to be exasperated with the current crop of Republican leaders:

You might think that the stakes are high enough for Republicans to put in some serious time trying to clarify their message. As the great economist Alfred Marshall once said, facts do not speak for themselves. If we are waiting for the Republicans to do the speaking, the country is in big trouble.

When competing against a Democratic Party that is “all talk,” as he puts it,  Republicans must put in the time and the effort to upgrade your strategy.

Sowell remarks:

Democrats, by contrast, are all talk. They could sell refrigerators to Eskimos before Republicans could sell them blankets. Indeed, Democrats sold Barack Obama to the American public, which is an even more amazing feat, considering his complete lack of relevant experience and questionable (at best) loyalty to the values and institutions of this country. 


Anonymous said...

The Republicans do not understand the most important issue.

What kind of country are we going to become if Congress: (A) first authorizes federal spending; and then (B) deliberately defaults on federal spending obligations?

The People recognize the real issue which is why the Republicans are having no success lying about their motivations to ruin the credit of the United States over a political battle which they lost in the past.

The means and the ends are related. The People do not approve of the means the Republicans are using to accomplish their political ends. The reasonable people in government do not agree with holding the debt ceiling over the head of a President as anything other than rhetoric, the debt ceiling went up 18 times under President Reagan.

Sam L. said...

The MSM is a fully-owned subsidiary.

Anon, Congress did not authorize it. No Budget bill has been passed by Congress. Continuing resolutions only.

blogger said...

How can they communicate when they don't control most of the media?

Anonymous said...

Congress did not authorize "it."

What is "it"? If Treasury occurs an obligation to spend and then is told it cannot increase the debt to cover spending then who in the creation authorized IT?

Since World War 2 the dollar credit system has been the standard of trade in international commerce in large part because: (A) the federal government expanded credit from thin air to win WW2; (B) the government kept federal spending high after WW2 to help build the national infrastructure and international trade while economic growth brought down the debt to GDP ratio; and (C) the federal government does not default on its legitimate spending obligations.

In late 2008 the increase of federal credit was authorized by the Bush administration, which had raised the federal debt limit many times, to save the dollar-denominated mortgage-backed securities industry and credit markets from self-imploding.

Larry Sheldon said...

Is "listen" part of "communicate"?

Larry Sheldon said...

Gubbler: They don't need the media so much if they would listen--the troops will get the word out if it is one they want out.

Larry Sheldon said...

And if you think I am crazy, riddle me these:

How much coverage was there about the "2 million motorcycles" thing? And how many motorcycles?

How much coverage was there on the WW II monument escort need? And how many escorts were there, and who were they?

And how are we finding out about the Obama abuses of federal land lessees and visitors?

I could go on for a while, but I won't, but I'll point to one more just to prove I can: what do you know about the Mexican flags on the Mall, closed to American citizens?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

You are all right about the mainstream media... but that does not excuse a failure to communicate. I forget who said it last night, but Republicans need someone with enough charisma to break through the media bias. And they need a good enough message to persuade people. Right now they have neither.

Dennis said...

The problem with many Republicans is that they have been there far too long. They have developed one sided relationships with democrats who stay on message no matter the "supposed" friendships.
The Republicans also have a harder road to travel because complex ideas and programs cannot be pared down to "sound bites." Look around and notice how hard it is to get people to educate themselves on their own history, understand the issues and the ramifications involved in taking one path as opposed to another and getting past years of dumbing down education, et al. The "Closing of the American Mind" is growing exponentially.
How many people do you know who actually ask the questions, how, when, where, why, et al, not in any particular order, when dealing with the issues that affect their lives?
Significant numbers of people do what they want and hope that the "GODS" will sneak in at night and magically make it work for them. One only has to look at the Obamacare rollout to see this in action. For three years now people in the know have been telling the Obama administration that it was not ready for prime time and lately was at least a year from being able to be fielded. I suspect that Obama and his minions believe that the leftist GODS" would magically make it happened because they were such good people. Seems all those expectations did not have any basis in fact.
In order to communicate one has to have a forum to get their message out. It does not help that that forum has been almost totally controlled by the opposition. Older Republicans have gotten used to this situation just as a hostage starts to identify with it hostage taker.
It has only been in the last few years that some have recognized that they have to build their own forums. That is begging to change as one can readily note by the closeness of the polls and the steady drop of Obama and the democrats approval rate.
What they need to develop is a spine and stick to a principled position as many of the young guns are doing. They are beginning to win. I believe that the latest poll has 67 percent blaming Obama for the shut down. The cracks in the messaging is starting to break. The Obama administration is taking actions that only serve to alienate and demonstrate why the federal government should not be in charge. Obama does not want to be the first president to default and quite frankly there is more than enough to cover the current interest rate payments which are somewhat smaller during this part of the year.

Anonymous said...

Question: What's wrong with Congressional Republicans?
Answer: Everything.

The Republican party in these times of Obama nonsense has become the party of "NO!" And that makes sense.

People had their confidence and security shaken by 9/11. Then the 2008 financial crisis showed how reckless and undisciplined the financial sector had become (MBSs, CDOs, etc.) in the era of easy money. Americans had lots of debt while their home values declined. Higher education is ridiculously expensive. Healthcare inflation keep going up and up. Food and oil prices have had a sustained "spike" for four years. And the government keeps spending like drunken sailors. If you've watched the political class interviewed on a news programs the 20 years, you will know these politicians always challenge citizens with "Where would you suggest we cut?" claiming that there was little discretionary spending under their control, and the ballooning deficits were caused by entitlement spending. Then they passed the biggest new entitlement program ever on a party-line vote, having nothing to do with rebuilding the economy and nothing to do with the will of the people.

So what happened after that? You got the "Tea Party," a grassroots movement so active, intelligent and powerful that the Left had to call them names (always a Lefty sign that there's danger afoot). The White House attacked them with the IRS. This is disproportionate, blunt force. Why? Because the Tea Party scares the daylights out of them. It threatens their leverage.

The Tea Party understands that normal American government requires compromise by design. Yet what became clear is no one was minding the nation's finances, and we were compromising ourselves into ever-ballooning federal spending to buy votes and secure bloc constituencies... using other peoples' money (both parties did/do this). The Tea Party did the math and figured out how Washington really works. The only way to fight it was to say "Hell NO!" As the WOPR said in the movie Wargames: "The best move is not to play."

The problem the Republican leadership has is they bought into the implicit threat behind everything the Democrats say: that Republicans are MEAN. Republicans are constantly on the defensive because they feel compelled to disprove a negative before they get to the substance of any position. This isn't just a waste of time and energy, it's cowardly. And it makes them look stupid.

The Republicans must step up, create their own narrative and speak directly to the American people. Democrats have been framing the conversation for years, and their willing enablers in the mainstream media are complicit in narrowing these issues. It would also be helpful if the Republicans actually had some people who could articulate a position rather than Boehner's trite soundbites.

I suspect the American people are ready for an adult conversation about these issues. American society is begging for someone to say "no," despite all the reasons and rationalizations for saying yes.

I don't want us to default, because Americans honor their obligations. I don't think default is a risk. That said, we have to up the stakes to get something done, because business-as-usual is kicking the can down the road until we are really in a bind.


Anonymous said...

If your ideas of how a social system actually operates are wrong, and you convince people you are right, then getting the wrong message out to the people would simply result in a greater tragedy.

Here is a paper regarding how the federal government became involved in the dollar credit system since World War I.

Either the banks and nonbank financial intermediaries generate credit to keep cash flow in the economy, essentially, repaying old debts with cash flow on new debt to a younger working class cohort, or when that process stops, the federal government becomes a financial intermediary, or you get a massive debt default in the private sector, a loss of confidence in the credit system, and a Great Depression ensues.

The idea that free markets are self correcting and if only there were no government the markets would reset is true on the down side (the financial assets and liabilities will crash) but not on the upside -- after the crash the people will remember not to trust the banks or nonbank financial intermediaries with their savings and will be reluctant to lend. A prolonged recession or depression means installed capacity is not used to provide goods and services, so private property with finance (capitalism) contains a tragic flaw that can only be remedied by a fiat currency central government which the people ultimately trust more than each other in the private markets.

This view is based on a study of the legal system, the debit and credit mechanics of how finance actually works, and on psychology of investors (my inference about how various investors think if I were a growth, value, or risk averse investor). I am not just talking ideology or religion such as those who defend the "free market" without acknowledging the reality of how law and finance must operate in the court system.