The Republican’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” isn’t comprehensive enough. It’s a document filled with marketing and campaign tactics: improving messaging, appealing to minorities, building a data infrastructure, adjusting fundraising, and compressing the primary process. Don’t get me wrong, these are all good ideas, but what’s the long-term vision?
The tactical recommendations rest on a single-case: the mistakes that Mitt Romney made that lost him the presidency. What about how the GOP governs in Congress? How will representatives change their legislative behavior to reflect the new messages? Most importantly, how is the Republican National Committee going to get state and local party organizations to buy in?
Political parties are decentralized organizations. There’s no “top-down” command structure to enforce compliance, and even if there was, it takes a while for change to take root. The GOP only needs to look as far as how reorganizations play out in major corporations. They’re messy affairs that often lead to a lot of employee turnover. In decentralized organizations, there are no mechanisms to make change happen; the RNC can offer state and local parties incentives to tow the line, but incentives alone don’t work.
The party wants to start recruiting more women and minority candidates, but it’s going to be difficult for these candidates to get a seat at the table. Most races are not competitive: there are just a few open races with no incumbent running. Incumbents are hard to beat. They get reelected 90 percent of the time. Challengers could make some headway mounting primary fights, like the Tea Party did in 2010, but Republican leaders have been pretty clear: protect incumbents.
So if most incumbents stay in office, how is the GOP’s new messaging going to work? Conservative incumbents don’t have records that are friendly to minorities. It’s not just about changing the talk – you also have to change the walk. Provide a consistent narrative, otherwise you come across as a flip-flopper. And flip-flopping sinks campaigns. It certainly drowned John Kerry’s 2004 and Romney’s 2012 bids for the White House.
The GOP must go back to the drawing board and come back with something solid. Otherwise, the work they’ve done so far will be a wasted exercise — just a PDF file with a cool cover page filled with pretty circles and a white elephant.
By: Jamie Chandler, U. S. News and World Report, March 21, 2013
So I kept thinking as I watched Ed Schultz’s interview last night with Scott Prouty—as we now know, the man who made and leaked the 47 percent video—I kept trying to check my impulses by asking myself: Now, suppose this were Fox, and suppose Scott Prouty had secretly taped Barack Obama saying that corporate leaders were heartless mercenaries who cared nothing about their employees or America, and suppose that that had helped cost Obama the election. What would I be thinking about him?
I admit easily and breezily that I would have disliked him and would have spent the hour probing for weaknesses and points of possible attack. That’s how it goes in this business.
However, I also say this: I don’t think I would have found many. Prouty was intelligent, judicious, and thoughtful. He seemed completely sincere (I say seemed since I don’t know the man). He knew exactly what he was doing. Weaknesses were few to nonexistent.
Let me put it this way. In my post yesterday, I fretted about the onslaught he was about to experience from the right. But as I Google his name this morning, I see nothing from the right-wing media. If you’ve ever done such a search on a topic that the right-wing press has jumped on, you know that the first page and sometimes the first two pages return you nothing but conservative media. So they aren’t piling on the guy, so far at least. Long experience teaches me: When they go dark is when they know they can’t win.
So here’s how it happened. Prouty had worked for a while for this high-end caterer. He brought his camera to the event because he thought there might be opportunity afterwards for picture-taking sessions with the candidate (which never materialized, and which made him think Romney was sort of a jerk). He started recording the speech just to capture it. Obviously, he had no idea Romney was going to say the things he said. And then Prouty started listening.
Interestingly, the thing that bothered Prouty wasn’t so much the 47 percent remarks, although he had enough news sense in him to know they were dynamite. What bothered him were Romney’s remarks about a factory in China Bain had bought, a factory whose grounds were surrounded by fencing and barbed wire to keep the young female workers in. Romney spoke about it in a way that struck Prouty as disingenuous and unfeeling, and he got mad.
He went home and did some Googling. He learned that Romney had profited from outsourcing. He saw an article on the factory by David Corn. He spent two weeks pondering whether to take it public, thinking through the moral and legal consequences, whatever they were. He finally looked himself in the mirror and said fuck it. Here we go. He got in touch with Corn.
He said last night he’s a registered independent, but he’s clearly a liberal-minded person. He said he was proud Obama is the president. He decided to give the interview to Schultz because Schultz is uniquely devoted in the TV universe to class issues. So whatever his registration, he’s on a side. Fine. He decided to help that side—or more accurately, to stop the other side.
It was Romney’s appearance on Fox on March 3 that made him go public now. Romney’s self-serving interview clearly infuriated him. The greatest thing he said during the whole hour went something like (I can’t find a transcript yet): You know, Romney could still be making positive contributions. He could go to one of those communities where Bain closed a factory, that town in Illinois say, and say he’s sorry about what happened, start a fund or a foundation to help people there. Yes, he is right. But yeah, sure. Can anyone picture Romney doing that? It would be an admission that his life’s work was something less than wholly admirable, which is an admission he shows no signs of being able to make.
I kept thinking while I was watching the left’s accidental hero of 2012 of the right’s accidental hero of 2008, Joe the Plumber. The Republicans and the right used Samuel Wurzelbacher, who was neither named Joe nor was a (licensed) plumber, as a convenient cudgel against Obama, and Wurzelbacher was delighted to play along, reveling in the fame that came his way as a result of his frequent Fox appearances during the 2008 campaign.
Prouty, by contrast, never sought notoriety during the campaign, and even now, well, he’s being hailed today, and properly so, but I’d be very disappointed and frankly quite surprised if he becomes some kind of slatternly MSNBC fixture who shows up to mouth half-coherent DNC talking points as Wurzelbacher has on Fox, and run a crappy and stupid race for Congress. Prouty sounded last night as if he wants to seize on this opportunity to do the kind of work he cares about and help working people or union people in some way. Wurzelbacher was a show horse and a blowhard, playing to a movement that loves show horses and blowhards provided they’re blowing the approved notes. He changed nothing.
Prouty is a serious and earnest person who is actually trying to help working people and who did make an enormous difference. Their notoriety and how they gained it and the purpose to which they used it tells us not only something about them, but about the two sides as well.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 14, 2013
Remember in “Seinfeld” when George Costanza got a new job and his employer thought he had a physical disability? He loved the benefits and attention, so he fully committed himself to the lie — and intended to keep it up indefinitely.
The episode reminds me a bit of how Republicans treat their 2012 welfare reform lie.
As you’ll recall, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway, so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened. It inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to make up a shameless lie, accusing President Obama of weakening welfare work requirements.
The blatant falsehood didn’t make much of a difference, and I assumed the issue would disappear once the election ended. But like George Costanza, Republicans have become so invested in the lie, they’re afraid to let it go.
Prominent House Republicans are relaunching efforts to stop the Obama administration from giving states waivers under welfare reform.
GOP leaders of several committees reintroduced a bill Thursday that would block the policy, which Republicans say “guts” welfare’s work requirement.
“This legislation makes it clear — the Obama administration cannot undermine the work requirement that has resulted in higher earnings and employment for low-income individuals,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) in a statement.
That the Obama administration never undermined the work requirement — and has no intention of doing so in the future — apparently doesn’t matter. What’s necessary, apparently, is to keep the lie alive, even after it’s been exposed as untrue.
Yesterday, the White House criticized the House GOP bill, which has 23 cosponsors, as standing in the way of “innovative” state-based programs that could help more welfare recipients into new jobs. The administration called the bill “unnecessary.”
Which it is, though that doesn’t seem to matter.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 13, 2013
If Mitt Romney had taken a moment to thank the wait staff at a Boca Raton fundraiser last year, he may now be president, or at least could have removed one of his biggest obstacles to the White House: the so-called 47 percent tape that clouded the last two months of the race.
The anonymous person who filmed the tape turns out to be a bartender with a local catering company who is coming forward now that the election is over. He’ll reveal his identity tomorrow in an hour-long interview on “The Ed Show” on MSNBC, but in an interview with the Huffington Post Tuesday night, he suggested that he was disappointed that Romney never thanked the wait staff, as Bill Clinton had years before at a different event the same bartender happened to staff. Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis report:
Romney, of course, did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters. He was late to the event, and rushed out. He told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there.
One of them had brought along a Canon camera. He set it on the bar and hit the record button. The bartender said he never planned to distribute the video. But after Romney spoke, the man said he felt he had no choice.
The tape came to define Romney and was the fodder for several ads, giving the candidate a noticeable dip in the polls. Even when he recovered after Obama’s disastrous debate performance in Denver, the tape remained a weight around his neck.
Romney probably still would have lost without the tape, and maybe the bartender would still have revealed the video if Romney came back and shook his hand, but there’s some poetic justice in the idea of an hourly worker bringing down a presidential candidate for dismissing the importance of his vote.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 13, 2013
You have to admire, in a sick sort of way, any politician that gets caught mispositioning him- or herself on a major issue and then just quickly flip-flops and denies it. Mitt Romney, to the surprise of many of us, managed this maneuver (denouncing Obamacare and then denying any contradiction with his own authorship of the state health reform initiative it was based upon) for two solid years.
Can Jeb Bush do the same with the immigration issue? He’s sure trying, as explained by TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:
Jeb Bush completed a whirlwind one-week journey on immigration on Sunday, praising a Senate proposal to grant eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants after attacking the idea in a newly released book he co-authored that was itself a reversal of his past position.
To make a long story short, Bush’s new book (written near the savage end of the period of nativist domination of the GOP that began in reaction to his brother’s comprehensive reform initiative and extended throughout the 2012 presidential nominating process) flatly eschewed a “path to citizenship” for those who had earlier entered the country illegally in favor of a vast “guest worker” program that would legitimize most of the undocumented without granting them citizenship, thus avoiding the twin perils of “amnesty” and of cattle cars transporting millions of women and children to the border. Now Jeb’s claiming this carefully calibrated positioning was just a psychological ploy to lure angry wingnuts onto the paths of righteousness:
On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Bush downplays the inconsistency between his book’s tough criticism of a path to citizenship and his apparent support for a Senate plan that includes exactly that.
“Well first of all, I haven’t changed,” Bush says. “The book was written to try to create a blueprint for conservatives that were reluctant to embrace comprehensive reform, to give them perhaps a set of views that they could embrace. I support a path to legalization or citizenship so long as the path for people that have been waiting patiently is easier and costs less — the legal entrance to our country — than illegal entrance.”
Yes, that’s right: Bush is not only (a) denying he changed his position, and (b) suggesting he was just acting as a shepherd to the wayward nativist sheep, but is (c) trying to take credit for the recent reemergence of comprehensive immigration reform as an acceptable conservative policy goal. That’s some serious chutzpah, folks.
The Romney analogy is apropos in another sense: before it became ideologically toxic, Romneycare was Mitt’s calling card, his example of successful conservative policymaking on an issue that had long been “owned” by Democrats. Much of Jeb Bush’s appeal (beyond the general belief that he was the most genuinely conservative pol in his family) as a potential presidential candidacy came from his theoretical appeal to Latino voters as someone married to a Mexican-American (his kids were the ones famously referred to by his father as the “little brown ones”) who also had close ties to Florida’s Cuban-American community. His brother, after all, had championed a “path to citizenship,” and he was generally regarded as Marco Rubio’s political patron. By choosing to publish an entire book on immigration reform at the very beginning of a new presidential cycle, Jeb drew a great deal of attention to his background on the issue, and thus had nowhere to hide when it turned out he had guessed wrong on where his party was headed on this subject.
So like Romney before him, he seems to have decided to just brazen it out, hoping his acrobatic changes of position become yesterday’s news if he decides to run for president. It more or less worked for Mitt–at least in securing the GOP nomination–but if Jeb does want to run, he cannot be so assured that he will face the kind of clownish intra-party competition that was so crucial to Romney’s nomination campaign. It would be particularly ironic if Jeb were to be pushed aside by his former protege Rubio as someone with greater credibility in both Tea Party and “pragmatic conservative” circles. But that could happen. George W. Bush’s “smarter brother” may have just out-smarted himself.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 11, 2013