Republicans are our own Worst Enemy
Instead of being applauded for recognizing that words matter, Mitt Romney is being lambasted by Republicans who just don’t get it.
Speaking to a full house of RNC members in San Diego, Romney committed the conservative crime of using the language of the left to appeal to potential voters. While emphasizing that conservative principles will be critical in the post-Obama era, Romney articulated three maxim’s that Republicans must communicate to the American people: “[T]o make the world safer… and provide opportunity for all Americans regardless of the neighborhood they live in” and the apparently gag-inducing, oxygen-sucking notion that “We have to lift people out of poverty.”
Can anyone deny that those are indeed goals of our party? The dispute we have with the left is how we get there. Republicans can’t seem to break free of this noxious habit they have of talking past voters. They find safety and comfort clinging to the orthodox verbiage of the "how" while skipping over the empathetic verbiage of the "why."
Conservatives have been flailing in this ossified, think-tanky, policy-wonky language loop for decades. Then, when the light bulb finally goes on, some malcontents get their panties all in a bunch.
Regardless of what we think of Mitt Romney as a candidate, he is spot on about using the words of the left. Unlike the party’s power players, who took from his 2012 defeat that we need to sacrifice our principles in order to cull new voters, Romney learned the greater lesson: that by using the left’s buzzwords, we can lure in potential voters with empathy. Remember, Romney is the guy who had a so-called “empathy gap” in 2012, where 81% of those polled believed Obama “cares about people like me” and only 19% could say the same about Romney.
Instead of embracing this approach after Romney’s San Diego speech and running with it all the way to the White House, Republicans were bellyaching that he has forsaken his conservative principles -- like competition and self-reliance -- for the liberal mantra that government is always the answer.
That's the “maybe we really are that stupid” part.
“Restoring the American family structure and encouraging self-reliance, not government reliance, is how people emerge from poverty,” responded Dave Battaglia, chairman of the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners and a Tea Partier. Well, bully for you, Dave. No conservative, including Mitt Romney, disputes that. But such words offer little comfort to the single mom looking for answers. People like Battaglia are so deeply mired in their linguistic primordial goo, they cannot see the value in hijacking effective software of the left and retooling it for our purposes.
That single mom living on welfare cannot undo her frayed family structure. Telling her to find her own way out of poverty by restoring the family she clearly does not have, comes across as more accusation and judgment than an outstretched hand offering a solution. If this is our approach, this voter will be lost to us for decades. First Contact with such a voter can only be "Republicans want to lift you out of poverty". Then and only then will she be receptive to what we have to say.
It’s not just that Democrats think with their hearts and Republicans with their brains. We have to reach towards goals with our hearts and respond with effective solutions from our brains.
I imagine some in the San Diego audience were apoplectic when Romney mentioned “income inequality” -- that old Occupy Wall Street refrain that was deftly mainstreamed into the DNC’s 2012 campaign hype.
As Romney explained:
We have the resources and the capacity intellectually, financially, to lift people out of poverty. It was how many years ago, 50 years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson declared the war on poverty. His heart was in the right place. Income inequality has gotten worse. His policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done. The only policies that will reach into the hearts of American people and pull people out of poverty and break the cycle of poverty are Republican principles, conservative principles.
Hysterical Republicans need to snap out of it. Romney’s shrewd use of "income inequality" should be studied and perfected, not pilloried. Obama rode “income inequality” all the way to a second term in the White House. From the perspective of the American voter, it is a fact -- there is a disparity in income in the U.S. Why and what can we do about it? are both easily addressed with conservative principles.
Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere hopes Romney will choose “a more careful lexicon” should he be the nominee. Funny, one of the main criticisms of Romney is that he was not aggressive enough in the 2012 campaign -- he was too nice and too careful. And now he’s not being careful enough with the words he chooses. This is not a random slip of the tongue or a faux pas, but Romney’s careful and calculated use of co-opted language to reach new voters without forfeiting core Republican values.
Republicans have a communication problem they can no longer afford to ignore. Every year in our rebuttal to the State of the Union speech, we have an opportunity to reach thousands -- maybe millions -- of voters we normally cannot access. But rising star Joni Ernst fell short the other night. While it was a fine speech to the Republican choir, it failed to connect with receptive minds sitting in the pews.
This is what she should have said (and it would have had the added bonus of putting us back on offense:
Tonight, the president spoke about dividing us -- into the haves and have nots. But that’s not what America is about.
We all want security, peace, a job, a warm place to sleep, food, and medical care. We all value education and know the importance of steady work. We want the best for our families.
Yet the President continues to divide us into hard working families who make a very good living and hard working families who struggle. He misses the point: America is a nation of hard working families -- some of whom make more money than others.
The president only talks to part of America and would have you believe that Republicans only talk to part of America, as well. But Republican policies speak to us all. And voters understood that when they repudiated six years of the President’s failed economic and national security policies in 2014.
Americans understand that no matter how much we earn, we all benefit when all of America is working and can pay the bills. We all benefit when we all feel safe in our homes and safe as a nation.
Whether a business owner or a union member; whether an employer or employee, we all work, we all have struggles, we all have obstacles, we all have successes.
To divide us simply limits our opportunities. To unite us opens the flood gates to prosperity.
Republican policies make America stronger and safer and that’s good for all of us.
With Republican policies, the healthy help the sick; the successful help the downtrodden; the employed help the unemployed. Our borders are secure and our way of life safe from terrorists. We have a benevolent role to play in the world, not a shrinking cowardly role. A vibrant economy -- spurred by Republican policies -- helps every American.
After six years of Democrat ideas, more Americans are permanently out of the workforce than ever before; health insurance has cost us jobs and skyrocketed -- becoming unaffordable for too many; wages are stagnant; the cost of a college education is beyond the reach of most. We are no longer a beacon of hope to the millions who suffer at the hands of barbarians -- under Obama’s leadership, we didn’t outstretch our hands and now they are smeared with the blood of innocents.
The higher taxes proposed by the president tonight are just band-aids that won’t cure the disease -- they are make-believe solutions where the government takes money from some people and gives it to others. It makes people feel good to do this, on the first day. But then the glimmer wears off as people realize it doesn’t work. Yes, we have programs in place that help people who stumble on bad times and we all agree those programs are important. But American voters realized this past election that a paycheck is better than an unemployment check, our own home is better than a government subsidized one, and a steady income that allows us to buy our food is better than food stamps.
After six years of make-believe, feelgood, economic policies, Americans from all walks of life realize the glimmer was gone and it was all a façade. They voted out the make-believers and voted in responsible politicians who will make America work again.
This past November, we all slapped down the president’s silly policies -- policies that have failed year after year, election after election. Now you have entrusted Republicans with the care and welfare of this country, a responsibility we take very seriously.
We are here to listen to your concerns. We are here for all of America.
In November, you -- the voters of America -- said goodbye to the failed policies of the Democrats and President Obama. you closed the door on policies that divided us. By electing Republicans, you opened the door to policies that allow us to achieve the possible and dream the impossible -- the kind of opportunity, growth, prosperity and security that will, once again, make our country a shining city on a hill.
Republicans in the Congress heard you and received your message. The president has not.
That is what’s needed to persuade the voters. The coffee is perking – time for the GOP to wake up.