This past week or so has confirmed my belief that, as despicable as they are, Republicans are also brilliant. Brilliant in the ways the Democrats continually fail to be, namely by being brilliantly ruthless in their political strategizing. The Republicans ridiculous, but seemingly highly effective, tactics against Herr Obama’s Health Care Reform is a good case in point because it captures three of the Republicans most brilliant strategies (developed largely by Karl Rove and Grover Norquist).
First, repeat the lies and they gain more substance than facts. When Palin started talking about ‘Death Panels’, there was absolutely no truth to what she was saying. Yet, it quickly caught on and the right-wing bobbleheads all started mouthing off about Obama’s ‘death panels’ as if they were a real possibility. It was the Iraq=Al Qaeda=WMD mantra all over again. And it works. Obama even had to stand up and address the rumors as if they were true, putting him on the defensive when he should be beating the crap out of the Right on this issue.
Second, act like your biggest weakness is actually a strength. This is the brilliance of Rove. When he sensed that his candidate or party was vulnerable on an issue, he would go on the offensive over it. This effectively defanged his opponents and put them on the defensive. The Health Care issue is a good example of this. Republicans were generally seen as weak on this issue, given their perceived connections with the rich lobbyists and corporations tied to the current failed system. But they are recasting the debate into a discussion of American ideological values and patriotism. Brilliant. Democrats still don’t know how to respond to this move, except to get flustered and flummoxed.
Third, appropriate your opponents tactics. Mock the charges made by your opponents and then turn around and recycle them as your own. This is a Norquist move, in which he explicitly steals the tactics used by the Left (political and cultural) and turns them around on themselves. McCain did that during the 2008 campaign with some success, but he just didn’t do it enough. We now see the Right doing it by appropriating all the various charges made by the Democrats against George W. Bush, and aiming them at Obama. They are recycling the charges of fascism, an intrusive Big Brother government, and so forth. Forget that such charges were more appropriate for the Cheney years, the Right is far more adept at slinging such charges. The Democrats came across as whiners while the Republicans somehow manage to come across as passionate patriots.
Of course, I am currently in the Christian Heartland of the American South, where hatred of Obama is palpable almost everywhere. Maybe when I get back to my liberal enclave in the North I’ll feel better and less out-gunned (literally).