My business is change and communication. I write about these themes, speak about them, coach people to deal with them. And I observe the part they play in our culture and society. I call em’ as I see em,’ and if one side of our two sided system gets it right or wrong, I occasionally find that I have something to say about it. And that’s what this post is about.
They say that nothing succeeds like success. Turns out that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, enjoying their reclaimed seat of power, recently launched a new online effort to pin the economic travails our country is experiencing squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party. And from a persuasion standpoint, how well did they do?
In an ad titled “They Broke It And Won’t Fix It,” the Dems seek to remind Americans that the damage to our economy and reputation was done before they came to power, and that the people responsible for the damage are now doing all they can to block change and perpetuate the damage. Persuasive? I think they got this ad exactly right.
Right now the Republican Party does not represent either change or communication even remotely well. And what’s not persuasive is their attempt to run away from their record and paint the new President into a corner of their design.
What’s called for? What any decent citizen does if they run their car into a pole or throw a ball accidentally through someone’s window. Wait for the authorities to call you to account, own up to the problems you’ve caused, and work like hell to set things right.
Hit and run is an excellent metaphor for what they’ve done and continue to do. The ad tells us that, ”For eight years Republicans backed President Bush’s policies that let businesses go unregulated, rewarded runaway speculation and favored the wealthy. They broke our economy and now they don’t want to fix it.”
It’s become apparent that the Republican Party has decided that the best option to keep from fading into obscurity is to run from its record and oppose the President as if there is no record behind them to put their obstinacy in context. The problem is, it isn’t working. It can’t. While Americans are occasionally ignorant by virtue of being overworked and under focused, they aren’t as stupid as the dittoheads like to believe.
And because running from your record isn’t likely to work when the record is easy to find, the sound of their opposition grows more obvious in its blind determination, and their opposition to the President ever more entrenched. Now I’m all for a loyal opposition. I like the idea of debate, struggle and drive to come to the best decisions. But the opposition we’re witnessing from the Republican party, no matter how they’d like it to be seen, is not driven by principle, unless the principle is to be opposed for opposition’s sake. Somehow, they’ve decided their best bet is to be against whatever the President is for ( I covered the three flavors of opposition in my book and audio program, Insider’s Guide to the Art of Persuasion.’ )
What is this record they are running from? There are two Republican records, actually. The first is the record left behind by the Bush Presidency, which everyone will agree has left a lasting impression on history. It’s a record which the Republican Party as a whole fully embraced, claimed as its own, boasted about at their conventions, and marched lockstep behind right up until the approach of the last election. And even then, listening to the speaker lineup at the podium, they seemed to say “We’re right, they’re wrong.” Well, if loving that is right, I’d rather be wrong. It’s a horrendous record. Many of them seem now to have come to the same conclusion, so who can blame them for wanting to dissociate from it.
But what of the Congressional Republican record itself? As one guy I know puts it, these same Republicans are responsible for running the ship of state aground, squandering our national treasure by the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in a far away land, selling out our interests to China, all of this in spite of the opposition of a majority of Americans, because ‘We don’t pay attention to polls’ - and all the while, they’ve left 40 million Americans in poverty and 48 million Americans without health insurance, our economy is broken, our environment degraded, our pocketbooks empty and our future prospects dimmed. They spent our treasure like there was no tomorrow, and now tomorrow has come, and they have the gumption to scream that wanting to spend American’s tax money on Americans is, well, somehow UNAMERICAN! Give me a break!
Consider what they successfully managed to screw up. Let’s start with the obvious. Our economy. America is broke. Emergency management. They failed to prevent 9/11 even though they had a memo telling them who, what, where and when. And despite all their talk about homeland security, the lie was revealed when an actual emergency happened. Katrina relief. Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran. North Korea. The military. Health care and benefits for military families. The environment. Trade. Energy. Human rights. And what did they get right? Our go-go economy kept go-going a little longer, but at what price?
The Republican Party has rightly earned the nickname of Repuglicans, because so much of what they have become associated with is repugnant to decent human beings everywhere. Endemic racism, religious intolerance, and the widening chasm between haves and have nots in our society. With leaders like Rush Limbaugh and cry-baby Glen Beck, they act more like a lynch mob than a loyal opposition, and threaten social revolution when any power is wrested away from out of control business interests and the remarkably self-righteous religious right.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Democratic party is without fault in all the problems facing our country. I’m not saying that watching the Dems isn’t disheartening, that their figureheads are inspiring, and that their general direction is in any way helpful to the moment. No, I’m not saying any of that. And truth be told, many of the Dems, particularly those incumbents whose primary mission seems to be staying in power (pretty much all incumbents seem to consider this their main job, looking out for the country not even a close second), marched right along with the rest of them as George W. Bush called the tune. No honest differences. No credible debate. They rolled over and let it happen.
The difference is that the Republicans were the champions and chief cheerleaders of this path of destruction, while the Democrats simply allowed it to happen. There’s not much the Dems do or have done that I find encouraging or inspiring. But honestly, it seems to me their destructive pace is slower, which buys we-the-people a little more time to stand up for our rights and demand accountability, and buys Obama the time to test whether his plans are worthy and effective. But no matter how pathetic the Dems are, how lacking in leadership and wisdom they may be, still by any measure, The R’s have it when it comes to the disdain of the majority of our citizens.
Now I’ve heard many times that political memory is the shortest, which is why so many in Congress are able to stay cool when their hands are caught in various cookie jars. If they can keep the outrage to a dull roar by distracting attention to socially divisive and irreconcilable differences, they still believe that the next election season offers them reason to hope that all people will remember are their fine words in support of the fine values of the American people.
What they don’t seem to realize is that once the damage reached a certain extent, it could no longer be ignored, even by those who valued consistency over sanity. All those holier-than-thou attitudes have been revealed for what they are - a hypocritical coverup. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ”The louder he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” And no administration in U.S. history has spoken louder, or as often, of its honor.”Whenever he spoke of his honor, I started counting my spoons.” No matter how hard they try, they can’t hide the gross incompetence as they piloted our ship of state.
The facts and figures don’t lie. And pointing fingers at the Dems just highlights their lack of ideas and reminds us all of how they behaved when they had political power. If they think that bringing back Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, or the very unexciting Bobby Jindahl is going to put the cat back in the bag, they are sorely mistaken. And there is no amount of persuasive communication that can cover up what they did, when they did it and how they did it. America knows who done it. The question is, will the Democrats quit messing around and deliver the leadership we need to deal with the mess the Republicans and their bush-league president have left us.
There, I’ve said it. I feel better. Your comments are welcome. Disagree with me? Take a shot, but please. Be persuasive! (Guidelines for posting in the left hand column for anyone doubts my meaning!)