The RNC dilemma: how to transform service to a wealthy minority into populism and votes

Jonathan Chait discusses the RNC Growth & Opportunity Project:

The Republican National Committee released a major report today that amounts to the party’s formal response to its 2012 election defeat. The report determinedly avoids confronting the party’s most fundamental problem: Its attachment to an economic agenda that most voters correctly identify as serving the needs of a wealthy minority. Rather than confront the problem, the report is a detailed and generally shrewd plan for working around it.

[…] The closest the report comes to advocating a policy response for non-rich voters is its call for “making sure the government’s safety net is a trampoline, not a trap.” Everybody obviously wants programs for the poor to help the poor advance. But what does this mean? Paul Ryan always talks about the safety net as a trap that lulls the poor into laziness, and his budget likewise devotes enormous space to “repairing” the safety net, which he defines as slashing subsidies for health care, food, college, and other fripperies so poor people get off their lazy butts and make something of themselves. Is that how the RNC wants to stop the safety net from being a trap? Or does it propose the opposite? The report does not even hint.

[…] The vast majority of the report devotes itself to advocating a lengthy series of mechanical campaign fixes. The most interesting of them are a call to cut the number of presidential primary debates in half and to undertake a vast effort to eliminate restrictions on political donations. The aggregate effect of these changes would be to have Republicans spend less time communicating their ideas via moderated public debate, and more time communicating them via crafted propaganda. Whatever the civic merits of the idea, it appears to be a shrewd gambit to present a more appealing face to the public.

Or as Charles Johnson says,

“Bottom line: the RNC report is a set of recommendations on how to better trick voters into supporting the GOP, even as the GOP continues to work against their interests.”

Political Wire: “Tucked in near the end of the 97-page autopsy “are less than four pages that amount to a political bombshell: the five-member panel urges halving the number of presidential primary debates in 2016 from 2012, creating a regional primary cluster after the traditional early states and holding primaries rather than caucuses or conventions,” Politico reports. Each of those steps would benefit a deep-pocketed candidate in the mold of Mitt Romney. That is, someone who doesn’t need the benefit of televised debates to get attention because he or she can afford TV ads; has the cash to air commercials and do other forms of voter contact in multiple big states at one time; and has more appeal with a broader swath of voters than the sort of ideologically-driven activists who typically attend caucuses and conventions.

Benjy Sarlin highlights the RNC’s commitment to skillful rhetoric: 

Less than year after nominating a millionaire investor who proclaimed that “corporations are people,” the RNC is concerned that the party has become too closely tied with wealthy interests. “We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare,” the report says. “We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

The report doesn’t offer much beyond rhetorical suggestions here — it actually recommends loosening campaign finance laws to allow corporate money to influence politics even more — but it does acknowledge the issue is a legitimate threat. “The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed,” the report reads.

You see, it’s “perception” that must be addressed — not beliefs, deeds, or actions. The takeaway for conservative voters: the beatings will continue until moral improves.

Igor Volsky laughs at the “disconnect between the principles and rhetoric the RNC espouses and the policies the party continues to advance:”

We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.” Republicans have proposed slashing the corporate tax rate just as corporate profits are skyrocketing and wages for middle and lower income Americans remain stagnant. The GOP seeks to repeal Wall Street reform and resists any efforts to tax capital gains at a higher rate, close the carried interest loophole, or raise any taxes on higher-income earners. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, for instance, “would result in tax cuts worth an average of about $330,000 a year to households with incomes of more than $1 million a year.”

The Democratic (obvious?) response to the RNC’s Lipstick on a Pig Plan:

“I think it’s important to note that the best way to increase support with the public for your party is to embrace policies the public supports. And embracing policies the public does not support or aggressively rejects makes it more difficult to earn the public’s support.” — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday.

What else can be said?

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1947 FBI Memo Re: “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Yesterday vs. today:

1947 FBI Memo Re: “It’s A Wonderful Life”

With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. [In] addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.”

Related: 

Mitt Romney’s “gifts” remarks: straight from the Southern Strategy playbook

Mitt Romney on Wednesday attributed his defeat in part to what he called big policy “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.

In other words, Romney’s last words on the national stage might be the dying gasp of the Southern Strategy. It’s how Mitt really feels. Finally, after everything, through all the years of running a presidential campaign and the flipping and gyrating and etch a sketching, we got to see the core of the hollow man. Bottomline: if you’re not white and rich, Mitt Romney hates you.

Listen to the late Lee Atwater in a 1981 interview explaining the evolution of the GOP’s Southern strategy:


Atwater: ‘‘You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N—er, ni—er, ni—er.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘ni—er’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘N—er, ni—er.”’        

It’s interesting to note that two loyal members of the GOP tribe who are publicly denouncing Romney’s comments, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, are not conservative white men:

Jindal: “This is not where the Republican party needs to go,” he said. “Look, If you want voters to like you, the first thing you’ve got to do is to like them first. And it’s certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought.” […] “Look, the Republicans, we need to stick to our principles, but we need to treat other people with respect,” he said. “Even those we don’t agree with, we need to show them we respect them and their beliefs.”

Martinez: “That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party — our comments that are not thought through carefully,” Martinez told Yahoo’s Chris Moody. Martinez, who previously criticized Romney’s “47 percent” remarks in September, added that his fundraiser video was a “ridiculous statement.” “You want to earn the vote of every single person you can earn, whether they be someone who relies on,” she said. “Why would you ever write off 47 percent?”

The Fox Infotainment Channel, however, has decided to stick with the Southern Strategy (anger! racist viewers! ratings!) because it’s good for business. As JM Ashby notes, “they’re running wild with the Makers vs Takers meme. Watch Varney and Kilmeade speak about giving “goodies” and “handouts” to people in exchange for votes:”

Varney: Look over here. What position are we in in American today? I say we’re just getting started. We’re throwing the handouts out left right and center.
Kilmeade: Mitt Romney mentioned that yesterday. He says he couldn’t win because all these other people are giving things away.
Varney: Buying votes with taxpayer money. Handouts all over the place. […]
Varney: The president thinks that if you tax the top 2 percent some more, you will pay for all the goodies, all the handouts that we’ve got going.
Kilmeade: There’s not a single person who knows how to add that believes it’ll make any significant difference…

JM Ashby accurately reflects: “The problem for Republicans seeking reelection or higher office in the near future is that Fox News has a much larger audience and wields much greater power over the conversation than any single conservative politician. And if anyone on the right side of the aisle is going to issue a memo on how to cover a situation, it’ll be Fox delivering the orders. It only took one week for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to be demoted from future king of the GOP to someone you don’t want to be caught associating with because he had the audacity to cooperate with the Obama administration following one of the worst disasters New Jersey has ever seen. If Fox News continues to select candidates for the Republican party, the party will never change. There’s too much money to be made in maintaining the status quo.”

Is Fox bad for the Republican Party? I’d say only if you’re currently a member of the Republican Party.

Chris Hedges: our elites have nothing to offer

“Welcome to the revolution. Our elites have exposed their hand. They have nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They can talk but they cannot speak. They are as dead and useless to us as the water-soaked books, tents, sleeping bags, suitcases, food boxes and clothes that were tossed by sanitation workers Tuesday morning into garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no vision for the future.”

Chris Hedges


Elites vs. unions: mapping the demise of the American middle-class

Josh Marshall created a map of collective bargaining rights by state:

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Dennis G. at Balloon Juice offers a map of Right to Work States (in red) and Right to Unionize States (in blue), and adds something I completely agree with:

When all the States turn from Blue to Red, then the Middle Class in America will be gone. It will be over. The Government will be organized to promote and support the theft of Labor by the elites just as the government of the Confederate States of America was organized.

150 years ago we fought a Civil War over the question of the theft of labor. Now the Republican Confederate Party and their shock troops of TeaBagger simpletons seek a new battle over the theft of labor. I say we give it to them.

Pro-Union vs Free Labor States

Just so we’re clear on what’s been happening since Ronald Reagan was president, let’s take another look at a chart that perfectly illustrates what Robert Reich calls The Republican Strategy,” which is – in part:

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans hope to deflect attention from the big story. That’s the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

Here’s exactly what Robert Reich is talking about.

Finally, consider what’s been happening in Wisconsin this past week and try (I dare you!) to explain how the “teabagger simpletons” aren’t constantly protesting, arguing and voting against their own economic self-interests. Worse, they’re taking everyone else down with them.

Want to attend a solidarity action this week? See the list of participating events across the country. Everyone is welcome to attend.