Milt Romney’s campaign reveals three phrases. First: “failed,” which labeled every idea, action, and presidential step as wrong. Second: “blame,” which faulted micro-community trends and global, macro-trends as Obama’s mistakes. The third and current: “doubt,” which assesses Obama’s body of work (policy, personal character) as inadequate and intolerable. “Failed” delivered body blows during the primaries and after; “blame” launched before the NCAAP speech and continued to the convention. “Doubt” now deepens (“He’s a good man,” “he just doesn’t get it.”) and opens the door to failure and blame to conclude that Obama is (no doubt!) irretrievable.
Anger, fear, and disgust are the three top notes of the Romney campaign, but fail, blame, and doubt give the campaign a sophisticated emotional strategy, a multi-tiered series of complex steps to channel outrage and hostility into exuberance against President Obama and votes for Romney.
Analysts missed these subtle but powerful changes of tone and direction, especially the introduction of doubt, with its list of lies as evidence that enables hate to be embedded in the open. Why doubt now? Doubt is civil but deadly. “I doubt” sounds more humane than “I hate.” Doubt is the transformative stage, the call for action, an emotion of assessment and judgement. Doubt casts its shadow on the future, is put forth as the decision paradigm. It appeals to all with rigid or mixed feelings about Obama.
The President’s response, which is to ignore the attacks by discussing America’s future, rightly points out that unless we go forward, nothing will change. In fact, matters will get worse–especially if we accept an appeal to our worst instincts. Three things any elder can tell you about living: rough patches in life occur without being anybody’s fault and with little you can do except weather the storm until conditions change; look high and low before you abandon a search; and you can’t pour corn from an empty sack.
It’s evident as Democrats stretch the helping hand to every hamlet, building a community that Old and New Testament standard bearers and others of faith can embrace, the GOP rejects its path of history, tradition and progress, pointing out on social media that 150 years ago, Democrats were like modern Republicans, xenophobic, biased, restrictive, hungry for power and eager to subjugate others by gender, color, preference, and stereotypes. It is amazing that a 150 year-old bridge of bias is still alive and thriving. Having changed parties and mutated into a more virulent strain, it has new food: the budget. Debt, deficits. Disasters. The new shape of the old distrust.
And when the numbers don’t add up, Romney-Ryan add in the old social values, amplifying the threats lampooned in Reconstruction cartoons: party and privilege are more important than the people, encouraging decline and decay within the heart; putting forth that some don’t measure up and never will, danger lurks. They say: stupid can’t be fixed with hope.
Democracy’s nemesis is fear, not dictatorial force. Herd fear, ridicule its “failure,” pretend government is a shopping spree. But spend billions to amplify its dread as media, once the watchdog, loops its clips, saying only, “wow.” Wow.
Large and small, this election will measure a direction for tomorrow’s America. The Republicans seem interested in a last stand. When power and privilege, as they see it, is returned to the right hands and protected from those who would share it with others in a national shopping spree. Democrats see it as a step forward, a means of touching many hands and preserving the tried paths that bring progress and prosperity, education and health care.
Republicans seem to equate job growth with tax cuts. Democrats see job growth as a return on education and a shift in global policies leading to greater resource independence, new markets and partnerships, and protecting the opportunities of an open society.
Republicans see a balance sheet of debts and deficits. Democrats see weak investments in social capital. They point to the urgency of statistics that say the US lags the world in education, renewable energy, health care, state-of-the-art infrastructure, resources management; positions that have more a more powerful impact on a strong future than cost savings.
Two things, opportunity and policy, one defined as a value that takes its active form through sharing, the other a process that spells trust by exposing its steps, are a part of the national conversation of Democrats. Balance sheets often tell you what you can cut. But do they guide the way forward?
Hasn’t experience taught and verified for us that the path of efficacy is investing in social opportunities as the building blocks of prosperity and liberty?
Obstruction is party-politics. The claim by Republicans that “they do it, too,” completely ignores quality, kind, and degree. All students take tests; some score higher than others. GOP has the highest legislative score in Congressional history for obstruction, threatening remarkably simple things like air safety, disaster recovery, women’s health, nuclear treaties and other areas where a consensus has always been reached by both parties. Pointing imaginary fingers of blame will not undo the real damage they have inflicted and sought to inflict. Why attempt to change the definition of rape through federal legislation?
The three-phrase campaign conceals Romney-Ryan’s contempt for an open society and the special role of government, found in the Declaration of Independence (“to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,”) for creating merit and opportunity by rejecting tyranny.
They refuse to explain the details of policies affecting the common good; their party refused to pass laws of pressing importance. If you recognize the direct paraphrase of the words of the Declaration, you know this once led to revolution, not election. Hopefully, if the central character of these words is held high by American voters, it will lead in November to a Republican defeat.