Republican talking points used to create fear in opposing politicians and the public alike, just by being uttered. For example, the charge of “class warfare” used to be sufficient to shut down any critic due to the perceived political context of the environment: Class warfare equals Marxism. Democrats would flee in fear from any charge of class warfare, and thus leave their proposals (as weak as they were) for progressive/liberal policy advancements far behind.
The incessant use of fear has created weariness to it, and the resulting tolerance to its constant presence has given the public a new ability to see through its intended use. Lately, simply shouting “class warfare” has fallen flat, much to the dismay of Republican operatives. The reason for that is simple: A shift in the context of American politics.
The political context now found in the land is one in which reality is once again ascendant. The simple-minded talking points about “free markets”, “job creators”, “innovation”, “capitalism”, et al, have really just been feel-good code which lulled the public into a false sense of economic security. The truth of the matter is now clear for all to see: Income redistribution from the many to the few, with the stated belief that it would “trickle down” to everyone else, was a farce.
This is how it was supposed to work: The IRS takes your money from you, gives it to this guy who already owns half the town, in the hopes that he will give it back to you in the form of wages. But now the vast majority of Americans understand that it was a huge scam, and that we have simply been ripped off for the past few decades.
And now the simplemindedness of the talking points which got us here are not as successful in the political and policy arenas as they were just last year. This is because the intent of their talking points have been exposed, and this creates the political context (or “environment”) in which audience members immediately rebut (even if just in their own minds) the politicians’ assertions.
For example, if Mitt Romney were to claim that we need to lower taxes on big businesses because they are “job creators”, most Americans now immediately respond with, “but they don’t actually create jobs”. Or if Michelle Bachmann claims that it unjust that the lowest 47% of income earning households pay no federal income tax, the audience now has facts to refute that with “neither do 60% of American corporations”. And Herman Cain’s assertion that, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself”, is just so absurd that any number of instant rebuttals leap to mind.
In essence, the GOP field is floundering on the shores of their own past messaging successes. Their campaigns have had no long-term philosophy that could be stated publicly; all they could do was rely on whatever fear-based tactic was useful at the time. But their policies, once elected, have had one coherent purpose: To redistribute America’s wealth upward. This decoupling of philosophical messaging and momentary tactical advantage has led them to exactly where they are today: Americans no longer trust their message, regardless of how they package it. And the GOP doesn’t know what to do.
GOP politicians have no policy answers which don’t result in more money flowing into the hands of the already rich. And all they can think of in terms of messaging is to fall back on their tired history of dividing Americans. But it’s not working this time.
Here are some examples of why:
GOP Message: “Don’t punish the successful”
Audience: “The American system gave them the opportunity to succeed, they should pay their fair share”
GOP: “Regulations kill jobs”
Audience: “Lack of enforcement kills workers”
GOP: “Cut taxes on the job creators”
Audience: “Tax cuts don’t create jobs”, or “Where are the jobs from the Bush tax cuts?”, or “What job creators?”
GOP: “Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers”
GOP: “47% of Americans don’t pay taxes”
Audience: “60% of corporations don’t either”
GOP: “Corporations are people”
Audience: “Show me the birth certificate” or “Not until Texas executes one”