Thursday, January 09, 2014

Republican Leaders Have a Problem: Not the Message, But the Attitude

I was going to title this article "Republicans Are -ssholes," but realized that's 1) pretty rude, 2) pretty flippant, 3) covering the fact that there's a good number of honest and/or decent Republican voters out there whose only crime is that they've got a party leadership that IS full of -ssholes. (warning: the expletive-deleting will end with this paragraph.  Cursing is ahead)

Dominating the news right now is New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie trying to deflate an ongoing scandal where members of his inner circle used their control of the state's transportation offices to shut down a major bridge between Jersey and New York... all to punish a Democratic town mayor who failed to perform fealty to Christie during his gubernatorial re-election campaign last year (even as Christie was cruising to a landslide win).

That level of petty revenge - hurting thousands and risking lives just to embarrass a mayor from the opposing party - bordering on criminal abuse of political authority is deservedly a scandal and a cause for concern.  Christie was positioning himself as a viable GOP candidate for the Presidency in 2016, partly because of being a Republican in a Blue State, mostly because his brash angry public persona was a hit with the cheerleader battalions of the Beltway media elite.  But that persona is not an act: Christie - and his inner circle of compatriots - really does act this way behind the office doors as well as in front of the cameras.  It's an attitude towards power - "my way or the highway," "sucks to be you," "it's my party and you'll cry when I want you to" - that echoes back to the worst traits of various Active-Negatives in the White House: Christie is practically Richard Nixon - he who brought us the legal term "ratfucking" - without the subtlety.

That Christie - this blustering bully - was ever seriously considered a Presidential candidate speaks volumes to a major problem the Republican Party has this 2014: their leadership is made up of self-serving clueless assholes.

Granted, there are individual Democrats at the federal, state and local levels who fit the asshole category... but the entire party is not beholden to those types the way the GOP is.

How else to explain the ongoing image problem the Republicans have of wanting to cut back on food stamps and unemployment benefits?  This public disdain for the poor and their children, this insistence the GOP leadership has that the long-term unemployed are lazy rather than realizing this is (still) a terrible job market?

We're getting reports now of Republican congresscritters are getting "coached" into how they should show empathy to the unemployed.  Like compassion and sympathy and empathy are things to fake before a camera crew, rather than a genuine expression from the heart.  Do the Republicans even have genuine expressions from the heart for those struggling to find good jobs at good wages?

Just had a sob story in The Atlantic about GOP pollster/campaigner Frank Luntz, weeping about how he doesn't get the electorate anymore, trying to come up with pretty, pretty ways to sell the Far Right platform to voters who refuse to buy it.  He's thinking about quitting his current profession and getting a job in Las Vegas or Hollywood, while he's moping about depressed in a Los Angeles mansion he owns.  Not to kick a guy when he's down or anything, but Luntz might want to realize that the electorate he's trying to bullshit sell to isn't going to relate to someone who thinks he can easily quit his current six-figure job to find a new six-figure job (most Americans are terrified of losing the jobs they've barely held onto), all the while moping about in a fucking L.A. mansion.  Empathy, like respects, works both ways: you gotta show it to earn it.

We're coming off a 2012 election where the winning Republican candidate out of the primaries was a rich guy who had no sympathy for what he viewed was 47 percent of the American population, and dismissed them as "takers" and moochers.  And in the primaries, dear God, the other candidates were worse.

The Republican voters - some of whom are genuinely nice in the real world, and hug puppies and feed unicorns whenever possible - have a problem: the Republican Party they're stuck with has the habit of talking and acting like assholes.  There's no other way to describe this behavior.  And this behavior has been and continues to be a major drag on party membership.  Gallup is just polling how Americans self-identify to party: a record high 42 percent of Americans identify as Independent compared to just 25 percent (a record low) identifying as Republican.  Democrats dropped a bit to 31 percent, but in a 3-way choice (33-33-33) that's within norms.

How can the American electorate respect or even like a Republican Party that shows no respect to others?  How can there be any empathy or compassion for a political party that isn't even doing a good enough job faking compassion, or any emotions other than spite and hate?

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