Republican Playbook: Fear, Scorn & Partisanship

Instill fear.  Sow uncertainty.   Create doubt.  Demonize. 

These tactics may be the unfortunate norm for campaigning, but they are bad – if not downright irresponsible — for governing.   Yet, since day one of the Obama Presidency, the Republican playbook has not just promoted the use of such tactics … it has glorified them as the central theme of its strategy.

The latest case in point is a recent Republican National Committee powerpoint presentation – a hate-filled document that was used at the February RNC Finance Leadership Meeting.

ü  One slide is entitled, “The Evil Empire” and includes caricatures of President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid.

ü  There is a picture entitled “socialism” that has a sinister caricature of President Obama that has been made to look like “The Joker”. 

ü  There is an unseemly caricature of Nancy Pelosi entitled, “Cruella DeVille” – the fictional villain from “The Hundred and One Dalmatians”.  

ü  And one slide sums up the approach to be used by the RNC by asking a cynical question …  What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate…?  … and providing an equally cynical answer:  “Save the country from trending toward socialism.”  

In a word, this is outrageous. 

No reference to issues.  No reference to values.  Just a blatant attempt to raise money through fear and scorn.  After all, why stand for something, if you can just debase, vilify, and belittle the highest offices in the land?

Unfortunately, this has become par for the course for today’s Republican Party.  First, there were Dick Cheney’s irresponsible claims about the President’s stewardship of U.S. national security.  Then there were the unprecedented displays of disrespect during the President’s addresses to Congress – first by a Republican Congressman who yelled out during a 2009 healthcare speech and then by a conservative Supreme Court Justice who broke with decorum by visibly objecting to the President’s speech.   And through it all there has been a blind partisanship practiced by Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Taken together, these Republican tactics serve no purpose other than to further divide and harm the American people.  They do nothing to make our country safer.  They do nothing to improve our quality of life.  They do nothing to make our country a better place.

This is particularly troubling in light of the many challenges that we – as a nation – are currently facing.   People are scared.  People are hurting.  People are struggling.  Yet, the national Republican response has been to breed fear, blame others, and effectively ignore the pain.    For some, the 2008 campaign never ended.   For some, the campaign is all that seems to matter.

Needless to say, this is no way to run a country.

Disagree with the President.  Debate the President.  But for all of our sakes, Republicans must start to work with the President. 

And as for the media, they must start to report objectively about the Republican’s cynical game.  No more blaming both parties for gridlock.  No more playing both sides against each other.  When the Republican leadership refers to healthcare reform as the President’s “waterloo” or uses demeaning caricatures of the President to raise money, the media must call it what it is – partisan politics at its absolute worse.

In the end, it is impossible to have “unilateral bipartisanship”.  President Obama and the Democratic Leadership have continually reached out across the aisle, only to be met by a monolithic Republican opposition that refuses to find common ground and refuses to act in the common good – an opposition that would rather play politics, than do the people’s business.

This is wrong.  This is disgraceful.  And it urgently speaks to the need for a new Republican playbook.

Michael W. Kempner is the President/CEO of MWW Group ( www.mww.com ), a Top Ten National Public Relations Firm and an Operating Advisor for Pegasus Capital. Republican Playbook:  Fear, Scorn & Partisanship