Friday, October 17, 2008

Republican Playbook?

I have had the extreme displeasure to decide to visit my parents on the nights of the last two presidential debates as well as the vice-presidential one. What happens is that I am driving home from somewhere or other and don't feel like going home just yet so I keep on going a little further and stop by my parents' house--where my brother and his fiance are also staying. But since my own political views sharply diverge from those of my family, if I don't keep my mouth shut it's likely the event can turn downright hostile.

If it were up to me, I wouldn't deliberately watch the debates. First of all I don't have a TV, and second of all the rhetoric is useless to me in forming an intelligent opinion about either candidate. The debates to me serve merely as an exercise to see if I can determine what the candidate is not saying, since what he actually says is little more than banal talking points about something at best tangential to the questions he is asked.

But I do appreciate listening to the kind of analysis I might hear on the Diane Rehm show, for example. And yesterday I heard something really interesting that I just thought I'd share. The guest explained three basic tactics of Republican campaigning that have succeeded in getting them elected over the last 25-30 years.

(1) Tax increases on anyone mean that you (dear voter) will be paying higher taxes. If you listen to a lot of campaign rhetoric from Republicans, you will hear this either directly or indirectly. Even if the Democrat is only describing a tax hike on the super-super rich, the Republican will try to make it sound as though every single American will also feel the brunt of increased taxes. I think this tactic is in fact rather dishonest.

(2) The Government's Budget deficit is due to wasteful discretionary spending on small public service programs. Basically what you hear in this case is the candidate saying that the Democrat's choice to support a museum or local park or something like that is breaking the bank. Republicans traditionally favored small government and balanced budgets (I think? maybe in a world before W.?) so saying that the Democrats are to blame for the out of control spending because of supporting museums and science grants is an attempt to win votes, clearly. But I don't think it's really true--President Bush has tremendously increased the national debt but I really think that it's the major campaigns which are responsible... like the war, for example. But if Republicans are truly worried about a budget deficit, then they will need to cut back spending (cutting small programs won't be enough, they will have to cut big ones, and that means defense as well!) and also increase their income.

(3) Democrats only get elected by voter fraud. I guess this is a claim Republicans make--that scandals in voter registration, busing fake voters around to different districts under false names, are the only way Democrats get in to office. I guess conservative Americans view "liberals" as being immoral and deceitful, while they would never even consider such dishonesty in politics. Whatever. Can't we see now how district attorneys have actually lost their jobs for admitting that there in fact isn't this grand voter fraud scheme? I feel like Republican candidates are almost urging their voters to resort to treachery in response to this threat of voter fraud.

So I thought about calling this post "Lies Republicans Tell to Get Elected," but I didn't think it was fair to suggest all Republicans are liars (as if Democrats were a bastion of honesty or something.) I just thought it was an interesting point I heard on the radio, and wanted to share.

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