Wednesday, October 10, 2012

GOP: Selling the American Dream and Winning Elections

This morning on OPB, the local NPR radio station, they had a brief clip from the president of the Portland State University Republicans...

Her main argument for the GOP and Romney, her main attraction to the GOP, was her perception that the Republicans’ primary ethic was success through hard work.  She said that this fit well with her family's worldview, since her parents were immigrants who achieved "the American Dream." She also felt the Republicans were more pro-American, more patriotic.

Occupy Portland: F29 - Occupy The Corporations.  Portland, Oregon.  February 29, 2012.  12:21 PM Of course, “arbeit macht frei” sounds familiar...  Where have I heard that before?

So, through all of the noise and clatter, what she is taking from the campaigns so far is that the idea of working really hard to achieve success is a Republican ethic.  I suppose, for the Democrats’ ethics, she probably shares Romney’s stated view on 47% of America, though, to be fair, she did not mention the Democrats at all.

This is how the GOP gets so many to vote for them, to vote against their best interests.  The message is to work hard, keep doing what you are doing, and we’ll get the government to quit supporting those who aren’t working as hard and to remove those who are standing in your way on the path to success.

2011-10-06 Occupy Portland Of course, in reality, most GOP policies do nothing to help these folks at all.  If anything, especially with the current platform, it harms them and takes away many of their protections.  And, likely, a Romney victory would result in these folks paying higher taxes, one way or the other, and students, perhaps even the one interviewed on the radio this morning, no longer being able to attend college due to higher costs and reduced financial aid availability.

I would spend the morning collecting stats and historical trends from Republican Congresses and Presidencies, but lets face it…  For voters like this young woman, those stats mean nothing.  They had her at "work brings freedom."

To be fair, this sounded like the ideas of someone very young who has not really had any real world experience.  I don’t know, but it’s what she sounded like to me. 

Now, I have no problem with people who are Republicans because they feel that the specific policies and platforms, economic plans, etc. are right for America.  I usually disagree with them, but they have their vote and I have mine.

What bothered me here was that she did not talk about economic plans or specific ideas on solving real issues our country was facing, she spoke only of vague generalities and meaningless, emotional slogans.  And, to her, the GOP is the party supporting the American Dream.

Of course, this young woman’s vote was probably never up for grabs this year.  Her reasons for being a Republican may be silly, but she is one and it is unlikely that she ever considered voting for Obama this year.  Party faithful tend to look for reasons to continue to support their candidate, even through disaterous campaigns, rather than looking for reasons to switch their vote to the other guy.

But this clip still tells me a lot about how this election is going, and how recent elections have gone down.

To me, this is a really clear example of how the two parties different ideas distill down to many people, dripping down through incompetent or biased media sources, through tea party / extremist sloganeering, to arrive, stripped of any meaning or sense, to wash and water the preconceived biases of the ordinary voter who does not spend hours, not even every day, but every election, picking their party and candidate…

Occupy Portland: F29 - Occupy The Corporations.  Portland, Oregon.  February 29, 2012.  12:34 PMWhat dripped down to this student was that the GOP is the party protecting the American dream.  Details on how they are doing this?  Not necessary.  She trusts the signs.

This election will be decided by 5% of the voters in five or so states.  If they have not made up their mind yet, they are probably relying on semi-hysterical and mostly meaningless sound bites on the evening and morning news shows, vague notions bantered about by late night comics, Facebook graphics, and water cooler talking points for their information. 

What is distilling down to these people is important.  It will decide this election.  It is easy to laugh and dismiss people who sound like this student sounded this morning, and that is a huge mistake because whichever candidate does the best job at targeting voters like her, albeit ones who have not made up their minds, will win every time.

Historically, the Republicans have the process down.  The Democrats are slowly catching up, but still tend to fall into the trap that they can win on the intelligence and strength of their ideas and that sound bites are petty and worthless.  No, they can’t win this way. 

It is why so many Democrats were baffled by Romney’s “defeat” of Obama in the first debate.  Obama brought the facts, Romney brought the persona, and Romney “won.”

As much as I hate to say it, to win, the Democrats must become masters of the very broken, very evil, sound bite and slogan driven PR machine that removes all thought and depth from their arguments and promises everyone success and happiness and ponies as a reward for voting Democrat. 

Unfortunately, for the last twelve years or more, the Democrats seem incapable of actually winning elections.  The only times they actually win, including the mid-term congressional elections as well as the presidency, is when the GOP screws up so bad that the voters come crawling back to give the Dems one more chance. 

Before the first debate, the widening lead in the polls was not due to the strength of the Democrats’ arguments, but due to the ineptness of the Romney campaign.  He seems silly, I am not voting for him!  Tax codes?  Health care?  Foreign policy?  Nope.  Mitt looked silly.  Now that Mitt doesn’t seem so silly, these voters are torn again.

This election will be decided by Leno and Letterman and the like, not even by Fox News or The Daily Show, whose viewers were never really in play to start with.  The candidate who wins will be the one who provides the least fuel for the jokes, not by the campaign that offers the best, or, at least, the most coherent, ideas for the future of our country.  It is sad and it is why, I can’t see for a long time, calling this blog anything but Democracy In Distress.

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