Tag Archive: George H.W. Bush

The Democrats’ ticking time bomb

Hillary Clinton, 67, at Tom Harkin Steak Fry, September 2014

Hillary Clinton, 67, at Tom Harkin Steak Fry, September 2014

The post-election analysis of the Democratic Party’s massive losses has covered numerous factors, including Republican dark money, a lack of a unified Democratic message, and historic trends for the sixth year of a two-term incumbent president. Some pundits say “just wait until 2016″ when the Democrats will make a stunning comeback, winning the White House and retaking the U.S. Senate. However, few of these analysts mention a potential time bomb that could spoil the Democrats’ 2016 election chances. That time bomb is age.

Messaging Maxim #4: Feed the Narrative

Messaging Matters2

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz solved a 2012 election mystery on Wednesday, by featuring the man who shot the infamous Willard Mitt Romney “47% video” in a one-on-one interview. What made the video by bartender Scott Prouty so devastating to Romney’s presidential campaign was that Romney’s controversial “47%” remarks, as well as other statements, such as those regarding a brutal Chinese sweatshop that Romney visited with the purpose of purchasing for Bain Capital, fed into a narrative that already existed about Romney as:

Read their hips, not their lips

Messaging Matters2

The best political communication in the world ultimately won’t help politicians if their actions don’t match their rhetoric. President George H.W. Bush learned this lesson when he campaigned in 1988 on “read my lips, no new taxes” and then lost both credibility with and votes from Republicans when, as President, he signed a tax increase. The Republican Party and President Obama each face similar challenges today.

Republican Politics of Projection

As a younger voter in 1988, I remember when then-Vice President and presidential candidate George H.W. Bush stood in front of Boston Harbor and slammed his opponent, Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, for the pollution in Boston Harbor. I was shocked because the U.S. had just gone through eight years of a Reagan-Bush administration that had attacked and dismantled every environmental protection that it possibly could, including fighting the very cleanup of Boston Harbor.  This was perhaps the beginning of the modern Republican Politics of Projection — accusing your opponent of doing the very thing that you have been doing — as practiced by Bush’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater.

Atwater had a young protégé, Karl Rove, who perfected the Republican Politics of Projection during George W. Bush’s presidency. Thus, for example, we had Bush administration officials approving and abetting the kidnapping and torture of suspects and the illegal warrantless wiretapping of Americans at home, then turning around and accusing those who criticized such actions of “hypocrisy” and being “out of bounds”.

Today, the Republican Politics of Projection continues in full force. Republicans in Congress vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget that would end Medicare as we know it, then raise phony objections about Democrats “cutting Medicare” when the Affordable Care Act cut funds from a private program called Medicare Advantage that is not part of the actual Medicare benefit. Likewise, Republicans raise the spurious charge of “voter fraud” in order to commit the true voter fraud of vote suppression via unreasonable and unfair voter i.d. laws. Or how about when Republicans carp about Democratic-appointed or “activist” judges who “legislate from the bench”, when it is the Republican-appointed, so-called “conservative” judges who do this, such as in the infamous Bush v. Gore and Citizens United cases, with Republican approval. If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were running for president today, Republicans would probably call President Obama “fat”.

The Republican Politics of Projection can be stated with the Republicans’ own simple term: hypocrisy. It is a very popular and effective tactic in the Republican playbook, and Democrats and progressives need to identify it and speak out whenever they see it, in order to lessen its power.