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Paul Hayden

Tone-Deaf Republicans Self-Sabotaging Again

May 13, 2024

Where do I begin on this?  Like Charlie Brown with his football, Republicans never seem to learn how to play the game. They allow the hapless Democrats to continue to run circles around them in politics while they engage in the latest circular firing squad. Let’s look at a few current examples:

  1. Kristi Noem. The South Dakota governor, an apparent short-list candidate for Vice President this year, threw a hand grenade on her chances with a needless revelation in her memoir that she (gasp!) killed a puppy that was causing mayhem with her and her neighbors’ chickens. Then she doubled down by going on a Sunday program designed to make conservatives look bad and somehow justify, in enemy territory, what they saw as the indefensible. Needless to say, that did not end well for her. The “cruel to animals” narrative will stick with her just as surely as Sarah Palin’s alleged remark about “seeing Russia from my front porch.” And she has no one but herself to blame for not thinking about the field day Democrat operatives would have with this information, not to mention those in her own party who piled on.
  2. Mike Johnson. Admit it, if you’re conservative you had high hopes when Johnson was elected as Speaker of the House. Although not a dynamic individual, he did seem to stand firm on his core principles. Sure, he would need to make some concessions as the Speaker that he wouldn’t think of doing as a mere representative. But the extent to which he has given in to the Democrats’ agenda has been disappointing, to say the least. When you allow the odious Chuck Schumer to crow that his party got everything they wanted in the latest spending bill, you’ve failed. Calling Marjorie Taylor Greene an extremist weirdo may be in vogue, but she has a point in claiming that Johnson is not doing what he was elected to do as the Speaker.  
  3. Ken Buck and the Needless Opt-Out. Regardless of whatever motivation he had, Buck’s premature resignation from the House left the party with an even smaller razor-thin margin. Heaven forbid, but if I was a conspiracy buff, I’d conclude that either someone paid him off or had something bad on him. Especially when there’s no evidence that he’s gearing up to run for a higher office. Whatever the case, you can be sure that a Democrat would never dream of leaving his party in the lurch like that.
  4. Donald Trump. I know what you’re thinking…why Trump when he’s the only one with the (ahem) intestinal fortitude to go after the Left effectively? I’m going to modify the famous line from Cool Hand Luke to say of Trump, “What we have here is a failure to articulate.” Trump’s mantra about Biden being the “worst president in American history” is a dead-horse beating in action. He needs instead to be hammering home all the big reasons WHY that is the case, but like so many Republicans before him, assumes that the voters understand why and don’t need to hear it again and again. In short, Trump, for all his loquaciousness, often talks in shorthand. Let’s take just one example – the economy. If Trump has just one crackerjack staffer who can keep him abreast of, say, inflation, then he could point out that inflation is still a major problem for the average American (which he does from time to time), but then back that up with some meaningful data. At a time when the Dow Jones average is still 38,000-plus most days and the artificially-low unemployment rate keeps getting trotted out by the Bidenites as gospel, there needs to be effective pushback and Trump is the guy who should be doing it. It’s not enough to simply bloviate about how horrible the economy is.

You might conclude from the above that I’m suggesting that Republicans need to take every action and utterance with an eye toward what the Dems and their media accomplices will do with it. The answer is yes, but this does not mean to operate out of obsession or fear. In my opinion, most Republicans have operated out of misplaced obsessions and fears for a long time now, and that may explain why they have caved to the progressives time and time again rather than standing up to them. They’re often more afraid of the opposition than they are of us the voters. And that is so inappropriate and needless!

So how do you learn to play it smart against a determined foe who wants to take the government in a totally different direction than our Founders intended?  

First, avoid unforced errors. What was Kristi Noem hoping to prove by including the dog-shooting incident in her memoir? Perhaps how tough she is as a woman to allay the possible fears of male voters that she might not be tough enough? Surely her record as governor should be the primary test of her fortitude, but not anything else when it comes to political office.  

Second, don’t draw a line in the sand that you erase later. Mike Johnson had previously stated that he would never support a spending bill on Ukraine without inclusion of meaningful action on our southern border’s security. However, the backdrop that led to Johnson’s failure here was that Republicans tried to impeach the so-called secretary of Homeland Security instead of the president for their massive violations of the law at the border, and in fact, did not start impeachment proceedings at the outset of Biden’s presidency as they should have. Poor political decisions tend to have a snowball effect, and it can be argued that Johnson walked into an untenable situation from the get-go because his party set him up for failure.

Third, don’t fall into the trap of tacitly accepting the opposition’s premises and narratives. Liz Cheney of all people showed the way on this many years ago by challenging the premise of Anderson Cooper’s “gotcha” question before providing an answer. That was a real and necessary eye-opener, and put the usually smug Cooper back on his heels, even if only momentarily. The point is, if you accept the premise of a progressive reporter’s question, you’re put automatically on the defensive. And the latest example of falling for the false narrative is going along with the description of illegal immigrants as the much tamer “migrants.” As Rush Limbaugh said over and over, “Words mean things.” Don’t give in to using their language when trying to make a point in opposition!

Next up – how the Republicans’ self-destructiveness shows up in their inability to “govern” like the Democrats – you know, to act like they are actually in charge.

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