The GOP Problem Is Not Messaging

David CornDavid Corn wrote an article that sounded like it was going to be great fun, In Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Showdown, GOPers Ignore Their Party’s Own Advice. But it wasn’t really fun, because I think he has misjudged what the Republican Party has been doing. It is about the Republicans’ Growth and Opportunity Project report—the so called “autopsy.” It was the result of losing the 2012 election so badly. The idea was that the Republicans could fix all their problems if they just improved their “messaging.”

Corn lists five things in the report and then notes how things in the party are even worse now. Well, that’s to be expected, right? As I said when the report came out, the fundamental problem with the Republican Party is not messaging. It is certainly true that their messaging is terrible. But even with the best messaging in the world, their message is repellent.

I think that Corn is looking at the situation all wrong. The truth is that Republican messaging probably is better than it was last year. With the government shutdown, I really expected to hear some vile stuff. You know, stuff like, “I’m glad the government is shutdown; now maybe those lazy bums will get out and look for a job!” And such comments could be peppered with colorful racial epithets. But instead, we’ve seen a surprisingly disciplined caucus repeating the same talking points again and again.

The truth is that the Republican messaging might well have won the day. They were pretty much all saying the same thing and what they were saying sounded pretty reasonable. I agree with Ron Paul and Mitch McConnell that the “no negotiation” line from the administration sounds bad. The Republicans are losing this fight because the people of this country have memories.

I keep going back to that great moment at last year’s vice-presidential debate. After Ryan claimed that it was Obama who had cut Medicare, Joe Biden said, “Folks: use your common sense! Who do you trust on this?!” I have lots of problems with Biden, but I don’t think there is anyone who is better at retail politics. And he really does still connect to regular people. One of the ways that he does this is by not talking down to them. They aren’t stupid. The situation now is clear. Given: the government is shutdown; given: the Republicans hate the government; conclusion: the Republicans shut the government down. It ain’t hard. The people just used their common sense!

What we are seeing, 7 months after the great Republican autopsy, is that messaging is not going to save the Republicans. They need to find some policies that people actually like. But I can’t imagine the Republicans publishing a report about that any time soon. When it comes to policy, the Republican Party is all together—in extremism.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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