Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Ineptitude Redefined

Michael Tomasky says the Republican's are worse than liars. They are "total incompetents"!
Republicans, at least since the 1980 election, have gotten lots of mileage out of billing themselves as the party of competence. They knew how to deal with the Russkies. They understood a budget. They knew how to crack down on the crooks and hoodlums. They understood the bottom line, and they knew what was right for America. The Democrats, meanwhile, were supposedly more interested in their dainty little social-engineering schemes than in success. Lots of people bought all of this, and of course there was a little bit of truth to it -- then. But the labels stuck hard. Democrats still have to take dramatic steps to prove their competence while Republicans are presumed -- by the mainstream media, anyway -- to possess it until they demonstrate otherwise.
I think James Carville has been making a variation of this argument for years and I think Dean, in his most recent campaign stump speeches, has really started to push it as well. Republican's really are bad managers. Why would anyone trust them to be in charge of anything?
When voters recognize that one party knows how to get things done and the other party does not, they tend to gravitate toward the former even if they don't particularly agree with everything it stands for. Lots of people have voted Republican in the last few elections, and certainly in 2000, because even though they weren't nearly as right wing as the zealots now in power, they felt that the Republicans would do a better job of looking after their money and leaving the world a safer place for their kids. Voters surely can see that the Grand Incompetence Party is doing neither of those things. The Democrats just need to drill it into them.
Confidence in your own ability is a big selling point in any endeavor. People admire people who seem to know what they are doing and Republicans, of late, have gotten very good at faking competence. The problem the Democrats have had is that they have repeatedly acted hesitant in the face of Dubya's onslaught and that has made them unpopular with the electorate. The same electorate who, in poll after poll, consistently side with Democrats on the issues. This is, I think, the secret of Dean's success more than anything else: he recognizes that you have to act like you believe in what you stand for if people are going to vote for you. Up on right now they have a clip of a Hardball segment where Frank Lunz interviewed a focus group after watching some Dean videos. Dean really wowed this group. What's more, several of them said that they liked Dean even though they didn't necessarily agree with him on certain issues. This is the kind of thing candidates want to hear from the electorate. It means that they can get votes from people without having to pander to their particular interests. As I have said before, winning the muddled middle is not a matter of figuring out what they want as it is telling them what they want in such a way that they come to believe it. The Republicans learned this a long time ago and have used it successfully. But, as Tomasky points out, they are incompetent administrators and may have started to believe their own myths about themselves. The time is ripe for the GOP to fall apart.


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