A Path to Victory for GOP Challengers

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One of the many biggest mistakes the Dem. Party made over the last 4 years was Terry McAuliffe. Terry was an attack dog, and he partially set the standard and tone of the Democratic opposition to the GOP. One does not attack a campaign of a rival who claims compassion, inclusion, and respect by attacking their character. In 2000, I was working with a local Dem. group on a local water issue. I told the Pres. of that group that Terry McAuliffe and those like him would lose the elections in the future. He of course, disagreed. The proof was in the pudding.

McAuliffe's fundamental flaw, was in using attacks on the issues and character of the GOP and Bush as a means to an end, Winning! That is a contest which both sides play, but, frankly, the GOP is much better at it. Also, the GOP had much more to play with by virtue of the Dem's having become such a huge Big Tent party accommodating such a wide range of minority issues. The Dem's allowed their minority issues to become the focal point for criticism by the GOP, almost completely obscuring the Dem's major, centrist, and moderate platform issues.

And McAuliffe and Kerry displayed a willingness to take any position necessary to win. It showed as a weakness of character, a flip flopping serving the ends of winning instead of core issues serving the needs and interests of the people.

The Democrats have to forget about winning, if they are going to find their centrist, moderate, and majority roots in the wishes and needs of the majority of Americans. Newt Gingrich set about to remake the GOP by forcing it to find the values common to the majority of Americans. Once that was done, it was a simple matter for Rove and Wolfowitz and Rice and Cheney to shape and craft their rhetoric to both accommodate their agendas as well as what the majority of Americans wanted to hear. But, the GOP always insured that what the Americans wanted to hear took precedence in the campaign. The agenda comes with legislation, and the voters don't pay attention to legislation.

The voters want to trust and believe in their representatives. That is why the GOP got it exactly right. Rhetoric, and salesmanship must always be the first priority and issues secondary, and then, only those issues are spoken of which can be dressed up in mainstream value terms. Those issues that can't be accommodated in full public view can be addressed by executive order, hidden in omnibus bills, or otherwise crafted to succeed without appearing to be championed.

Regardless of what legislation and policy shape the GOP steers America's future toward, they have won the hearts and minds of a sufficient number of American voters to command loyalty and suspension of disbelief. And this is key for any party that wants to challenge the GOP. Because once a voter has realigned their loyalty and beliefs in one party, a great deal of what that party does can and will be rationalized as good. This is the basic principle of Cognitive Dissonance. Having made a decision, humans will go to extraordinary lengths to defend that decision up to and including rationalizing away evidence contradicting the fact that the decision was a poor one.

This is the very high hurdle the Dem's and any other party must clear before having any hope of unseating the GOP from power.

Let me use the Democratic Party for example. There is only one path for the Dem's to follow in order to unseat the GOP. They must, like Gingrich did, realistically remap the core values, desires and needs of the majority of Americans today without prejudice. Then they must exclude from their publicly visible ranks, those members who will promote issues contradicting that American voter value system.

Then the Dem's must engage the GOP in a two pronged way. First, they must promote only those policies and platform issues which closely correlate with the majority of voters core values and needs. And secondly, they must demonstrate in 8th grade terminology, graphs, pictures and sound bites, how GOP legislation and policies fail to live up to the DEMOCRATS' (meaning majority of American voters) core values and needs. Notice that I did not say, 'show how the GOP fails to live up to its own core values and needs.' This is crucial. Because trying to demonstrate hypocrisy in the GOP will backfire. Cognitive Dissonance by the voters will view any attack on the GOP as an attack on them who voted for the GOP. Huge, HUGE mistake!

It took a decade and a half for the GOP to follow their plan, and achieve success in winning over all the branches of government save the Supreme Court, and even that may fall to them in the next couple years. That is why it is so very important for the challenging parties to let go of the notion of winning elections as a motive. It will lead to short cuts that will avoid the heavy lifting and hard work that is required for them the retake the reins of government.

First and foremost, the challengers must dissociate their party from those whose values are only reflected in a minority of voters, and they must embrace and promulgate those issues and values which only a clear majority of American voters want to identify with. This will be the painful price to pay for having lost, or never achieving power.

It does not mean minority issues cannot one day be embraced again by the Dem. party or a challenging party, but, that will have to be when power is regained or attained, and then, never to the exclusion and rejection of the core values and needs of the majority. Not if power is to be retained.

And that brings me to the GOP Achilles' Heel. Now that they have power, they will, as they already have begun to do with Social Security and Medicare, move their minority issues. The GOP does not believe in social programs sponsored by and supported by the majority of Americans through their government. That is why the GOP set about to bankrupt Medicare as quickly as possible through making it far more expensive than it had to be. That is why they are engaging SS reform in a manner that will kill Soc. Sec. as a government sponsored program.

The majority of Americans want SS fixed, not ended. Hence, the GOP is pushing their minority policies, i.e. those which the majority of Americans cannot embrace if there is a viable alternative.

Challenging Parties must avoid GOP motives in their resistance, and must focus on viable alternatives to the GOP minority supported policies. Only by following that path can they reflect majority American core interests and avoid the cognitive dissonance reaction toward criticizing GOP values. Remember, to critique GOP values, is to critique a majority of voters values which are aligned with and defended as American values. The Dem's and others must approach competition with the GOP in the media purely on pragmatic solution grounds. Show a better SS reform policy, show a cheaper Medicare alternative, provide a fairer tort reform policy, etc. To attack GOP motives, is to attack voters decisions and they won't identify with anyone who claims the voters made a bad decision.

It is a hard and difficult and very, very narrow path that any contending party must follow if they wish to unseat the GOP. But the path is open, for any party with the discipline, commitment, and perseverance to stay that path to power.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on January 29, 2005 6:05 PM.

Bush's GOP: Save The World, Screw Americans was the previous entry in this blog.

Walking the Talk is the next entry in this blog.

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