Republicans Cannot Successfully Navigate The Liberal Gauntlet
The Republican Party will ultimately be crippled by fear and self-doubt if it obsesses on the prospect of avoiding every possible circumstance in which a comment can be hysterically overblown by an unscrupulous opposition.
Barely a week after the disastrous November 2012 election, Bobby Jindal, the Republican Governor of Louisiana, came down hard on his party, chastising it for poor public relations, and exhorting it to “stop being the stupid party.” Few among the conservative base would dispute such a characterization of the GOP. Yet a more thorough examination of Jindal’s comments reveals that he is falling into precisely the same trap that over time has garnered such a demeaning moniker for the party.
It is particularly ironic that Bobby Jindal would lament that “we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments.” In offering such an assessment, he joins the chorus of the shell-shocked on the right who were manipulated into overreacting to the occasional gaffe or mischaracterization uttered by campaigning politicians. Such occurrences are a fact of life, and a party will ultimately be crippled by fear and self-doubt if it obsesses on the prospect of avoiding every possible circumstance in which a comment can be hysterically overblown by an unscrupulous opposition. The real travesty is that Jindal and his accomplices reacted not to some horrendously indefensible ideology, but to the phony outrage of those on the left who, in lieu of a reasoned discussion of the issues, direct their entire efforts on finding the slightest error, in order to make it the central focus of a campaign.
Worse yet, Jindal’s defensive posture lends credence to the liberal Democrat strategy of contriving faults and engaging in personal attacks against any aspiring candidate on the right who could eventually pose a threat to the liberal agenda. And no incident of liberal character assassination is as illustrative of this tactic as was the manufactured derailing of Bobby Jindal himself, in the wake of his 2009 official Republican rebuttal to Barack Obama’s State of the Union message.
Jindal’s presentation was perhaps a bit bland and scripted, though his message was powerful and substantive. However, as a rising star within the conservative movement, he constituted a real threat to the Obama juggernaut. From the moment it was announced that he would give the official Republican response to Obama, a coordinated effort was put together to take him out politically. It would not have mattered if he had delivered the soaring oratory of Winston Churchill and combined it with the vision of Ronald Reagan, the canned liberal obituary of Bobby Jindal’s political career was already penned and distributed amongst liberal media types who then incessantly barraged the airwaves with pronouncements of Bobby Jindal’s implosion in front of a national audience. And if such a campaign can be effectively waged against Bobby Jindal, it can be done to anyone.
The lesson is simple, yet apparently wholly illusive to the political insiders on the right. Regardless of how strenuously conservatives seek to put forth their message while avoiding the abundance of pitfalls on the public stage, liberals will find fault with something, anything, to criticize in the most extreme terms. Thereafter, they will relentlessly deride those conservatives as “damaged goods” and wholly “unelectable.” Perhaps Bobby Jindal has since forgotten this. But let him throw his hat in the presidential ring in 2016, and he will immediately be reminded of his former unforgivable sins and thereafter mercilessly ridiculed on account of them.
To be sure, as Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal has been outstanding, and were he ever to ascend to the White House, America would be far better for it. His handling of the Gulf oil spill, especially in consideration of the numerous federally crafted obstacles he faced, was stellar. Nevertheless, he now seeks to put a good face on the principles of conservatism while staying within the boundaries set forth by the liberal media machine (itself a mere extension of the Democrat party). At best this endeavor is an exercise in futility. At worst it may foretell of an eventual wholesale philosophical surrender.
It is understandably tempting for Republicans to go along with liberal assaults on conservatives who stumble. Prominent voices on the right gleefully piled on to Missouri Congressman Todd Akin over his misuse of the phrase “legitimate rape” to differentiate between actual rape and bogus accusations of such. Yet it quickly became clear that the first priority of Akin’s conservative critics was to ensure that they avoid becoming targets themselves. In the process, they gave credence to the liberal attack machine, which is fraught with the hypocrisy of selective outrage and convenient myopia. Worst of all, by feeding this monster, conservatives unwittingly emboldened it and made themselves more vulnerable to it.
Of course candidates must be ever vigilant to avoid inadvertent statements that can be taken out of context, blown out of all proportion, and used against them. But when the party of Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D.-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D.-MA), and Joe Biden can deride Republicans for gaffes, and the GOP responds in full agreement and immediately reverts to introspection mode, its real problems go much deeper than occasionally inadequate public speaking skills.
Meanwhile, after their own frequent missteps, liberals merely issue themselves a “get out of jail free” card. They shamelessly engage in the most venomous attacks, are caught in the most glaring lies, and occasionally reveal the most abhorrent of ideologies (Who can forget “You didn’t build that.”?) and yet are allowed to get back to their seditious business after offering the most transparent disclaimers. Sadly, Republicans and conservatives (the two groups sometimes overlap) feel constrained from directly confronting these lapses among liberals merely because the media and punditry deny them any permission to do so.
It has become inarguable that Barack Obama is the quintessential statist. And statism is tyranny in progress. Yet neither Mitt Romney during his campaign for the presidency, nor the Republicans in the Congress feel they have the latitude to accurately characterize him in this manner. Consequently, Romney was hamstrung from bluntly addressing this contrast between himself and Obama. And now, as Obama moves boldly ahead with his plans to completely bankrupt America, no Republican in the House of Representatives will make a stand against him.
The Alinsky tactics by which Barack Obama and the Democrats on Capitol Hill now completely dominate political discourse, rely solely on the collective cowardice of their targeted adversaries. Therefore, while they can be extremely effective they are nonetheless vulnerable to a principled rebuttal. Unfortunately, in its current state, the Republican Party is ever more assuming the role of the ideal victim. Its political fortunes will not turn around until it recognizes the true nature of the battle it faces, and resolves to ignore the caterwauling from liberal propagandists as it pursues the proper course for America.
Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, as has written for regional and national magazines. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.