Pollsters and image-consultants like Frank Luntz are the best and most interesting Monday-morning quarterbacks. Luntz's latest advice to Republicans, published in Friday's Washington Post, encourages them to return to the "kinder, gentler" language of St. Ronald of California, while still hitting Dems hard on their philosophy.
Is this a winning formula for the GOP? Let's break it down after the squiggly.
I don't usually post full-frontal political diaries here at the Great Orange Satan, but this guy is just too much fun to let go past.
When examining an "expert" like Luntz, the first thing you have to do is establish that his version of the facts is bullshit. Take this paragraph on Social Security and Medicaid:
Never mind that the fiscal cliff legislation Obama just signed has more than $40 in tax increases for every $1 in cuts or that Social Security and Medicare are hurtling toward insolvency. And it doesn’t matter that the president says he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling; thanks to his effective messaging, it is Republicans who are being blamed for intransigence.
We could spend the week discussing just how fast "Social Security and Medicare are hurtling toward insolvency" and not reach an agreement. Luntz tosses this tidbit in as if everyone agrees this is a factual statement. It's not. It's Republican bullshit. It's important to never accept their version of the "facts," particularly when those "facts" are framed in such a way as to scare voters into voting Republican. But it's not good enough to argue the facts, because Luntz is spot on when he reminds us:
The presidents who communicated in emotional terms — JFK, Reagan, Clinton and Obama — have been able to move public opinion to get what they wanted, while those who took a more intellectual approach — Carter and George H.W. Bush — were defeated by public opinion.
So, we have to play both games. Hold Republicans accountable on the facts, but also frame the debate emotionally, so we continue gains at the polls. Luntz wants Republicans to move away from "unforced errors" like these:
The unforced GOP language errors are many. Here’s a start:
●Instead of smaller government, they should talk about more efficient and effective government. The former is ideological language of the 1980s; the latter is practical language of today.
●Instead of tax reform, talk about making the IRS code simpler, flatter and fairer. Speak to what people really hate about the code: its complexity.
●In addition to cutting spending, they must talk about controlling — not capping — it. What angers Americans more than how much politicians spend today is how much more they know Washington will waste tomorrow. A “cap” can be lifted, but “controls” are constant.
●Instead of entitlement reform or controlling the growth of Medicare and Social Security, talk about how to save and strengthen these programs so they are there when voters need them. After all, they paid for them.
●Better than discussing economic opportunity and growth, Republicans should talk about creating a healthier and more secure economy. Everyone benefits when economic health is restored. And while economic opportunity would be nice, security is a necessity.
Listen to what he feels are errors-"smaller government," "tax reform," "cutting spending," and "entitlement reform." This language is straight out of the neo-Confederate/Tea Party playbook. He's right, this language doesn't play well with anybody but the Teabaggers. The problem is, those are the people who show up at the caucuses and forums during primary season. They're the solid base of the Republican Party. Romney tried to soften the language, and the "etch-a-sketch" strategy blew up on him.
To change the language, Republicans will have to change the audience. They need to kick the Tea Party to the curb. They need enough non-teabagger Republicans to come out in the primaries and caucuses to give the nutjobs a beatdown. I can't wait to see that strategy implemented.
And you gotta love Luntz' advice on framing the gun debate:
Beyond fiscal policy, Republicans need to revamp their messaging on other issues. For example, the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., offered Republicans a chance to discuss public safety — a more personal issue than “crime” — on a human level. That hasn’t happened, but it still can. Most people agree that there is a middle ground between gun-control hard-liners, who see every crime as an excuse to enact new laws, and the National Rifle Association, which sees every crime as an excuse to sell more guns. The Second Amendment deserves defending, but do Republicans truly believe that anyone should be able to buy any gun, anywhere, at any time? If yes, they’re on the side of less than 10 percent of America. If not, they need to say so.
Republican CongressCritters may be in that 10% of America, but so are the NRA and the gun manufacturers who pump millions into their lobbying arm. Does anybody really think changing that language will happen any time soon? Thing is, every crime is an excuse to sell more guns. The re-election of a black man as President is an excuse to sell more guns. And as every crime pumps billions into the pockets of the manufacturers, more of it finds its way into the war chests of the pro-gun Critters. This is trickle-down economics that works.
Then there's immigration:
Immigration is a similar example. There’s a good reason Romney did worse among Hispanics than any GOP presidential candidate since 1996. You can’t tell people to “self-deport.” While he was talking about illegal immigrants, who can’t cast ballots, many Hispanic Americans — who are voting in growing numbers — were certainly turned off by that comment. The immigration debate is about rule of law, but those laws should be enforced with compassion. The consensus among Americans is for “tall fences and wide gates” — a greater effort to prevent illegal immigration while welcoming those who come here for the right reasons and in the right way.
Most Hispanics agree. They’re not asking for open borders or blanket amnesty. They just don’t want to be regarded as criminals. And because of oft-repeated phrases such as “illegal aliens,” Hispanic voters don’t think Republicans like, welcome or respect them. So how can they vote Republican? Immigration reform that brings people out of the shadows is the last, best opportunity for the party to reset its broken relationship with Hispanics.
For openers, when Luntz says "most Hispanics agree," I'm immediately skeptical, but that's the facts again. The sticky parts of immigration reform don't involve border controls, but what to do with all the undocumented Hispanics already in this country. That's why Mittens' line about "self-deporting" came off so horrid. Look at the young adults whose situations would be improved by the DREAM act. Several states are already denying higher education benefits to undocumented residents. Luntz is suggesting Republican Critters soften their language to appeal to Hispanics, when doing so will well and truly anger their base of neo-Confederates who hate brown and black people. Good luck with that.
Dr. Frank wraps it up with the notion that GOP Critters need to "reintroduce themselves," but to whom? The things they say shore up their base. If they follow his path, they lose the teabaggers, gun nuts, and worse still, the gun money. How is this a winning strategy?
Maybe Luntz really is a Kennedy Family plant in GOP circles.