Out of Ideas, The GOP’s Strategy Is “Scaring and Sliming”

Harold Meyerson and the Washington Post giftwraps the concept many Democrats have been formulating for some time now – the Republican party no longer has any ideas worth hearing:

Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that Republicans were boasting that they were the party of ideas? They would privatize the commonwealth and globalize democracy, while Democrats clung to the tattered banner of common security in both economics and national defense. The intellectual energy in America, it seemed, was all on the right.

That, as they say, was then. In 2006 the campaigns that the Republicans are waging in their desperate attempt to retain power are so utterly devoid of ideas that it’s hard to believe they ever had an idea at all.

With fewer than 60 days remaining before the November election, the only two Republican strategies left standing are to scare the public about the Democrats collectively or to slime the Democrats individually. There’s nothing new about these strategies, of course, but this year they exist in a vacuum. Having run both the executive and legislative branches for the past two years with nothing but failure to show for it, the Republicans can no longer campaign as the party that will balance the budget, reform entitlements, lower energy costs, fix the immigration problem, create a more secure world or find a suitable way out of their endless war of choice in Iraq. What’s left is a campaign of scaring and sliming, with the emphasis on the latter.

Of course, the latter being “sliming,” which is exactly what the Republicans intend to do, according to (again) The Washington Post:

Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

And if those negative ads don’t work, daddy’s gonna buy you some sour grapes!

Conservative columnis Ramesh Ponnuru at the NY Times believes Republicans will win this fall – by losing. In the first description of perhaps the GOP’s looming sour grapes “we didn’t want to win, amyway” spin, Ponnuru writes:

Conservatives are dreading the November elections. The Republican capture of the House of Representatives in 1994 was one of modern conservatism’s signal political accomplishments. Now the Democrats are poised to take back the House. If that happens, however, conservatives will find several silver linings in the outcome.

It would be worse for conservatives if Republicans actually gained seats. The Congressional wing of the party lost its reformist zeal years ago and has been trying to win elections based on pork and incumbency. An election victory would reward that strategy, leaving the congressmen even less interested in restraining spending, reforming government programs and revamping the tax code. Political incompetence and complacency, sporadic corruption and widespread cynicism: having paid a price for none of it, Republicans would indulge in more of the same.

Of course, that’s just a thought experiment. Almost nobody thinks that Republicans are going to pick up seats. The question is whether they will have a reduced majority or no majority. And outright loss might be preferable. A narrower House majority would most likely accomplish even less than the current one has. The party’s small moderate caucus would gain in power and use it to frustrate conservatives…

A straight loss, on the other hand, would make the Republicans hungrier and sharpen their wits…

I can’t wait to snicker the first time I actually hear this from a Republican… IF they lose. And speaking of the party’s “small moderate caucus” that “frustrate(s) conservatives,” congratulations to moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island who beat back conservative Steve Laffey, who ran to his political right, for the Republican Senate nomination.

In an article appearing in the Associated Press, Chafee said his victory Tuesday against a conservative challenger sent a message across the nation that moderate Republicans remained “alive and kicking.”

“Partisan politics must not prevail,” he said.

In other election news from last night, frontrunning Democrats in New York swept aside primary challengers – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton trounced an anti-war candidate in her re-election bid, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer crushed his opposition for the Democratic nod for governor, and Andrew Cuomo easily won the party nomination for attorney general. (MyWay News)

It shouldn’t escape the attention of my more liberal readers that Clinton, Spitzer, and Cuomo are all New Democrats with ties to the DLC in varying degrees. And victories by these three in November (almost assured) will cement Democratic power in New York not experienced since WWII – the last time they held the top statewide offices and both Senate seats.

In a deal I’m sure the GOP didn’t want to see get made, DNC Chairman Howard Dean the DCCC’s Rahm Emanuel, at odds for months over election strategy, have come to an agreement over election year spending, effectively ending their months-old fued. Reported in Hotline on Call

The DNC has agreed to spend money in 40 of Emanuel’s House races, a Democratic official said this afternoon. Officials at the two committees declined to specify the scope of the the DNC’s investment, but several strategists privy to the negotiations said they believe that the DNC has committed to spend at least $60K per race.

DNC officials are currently negotiating with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee about spending in key Senate contests.

“Democrats are unified and prepared to win up-and-down the ballot, all across America this November,” Dean said in a statement. “Building on successful efforts over the past year, we’re in the final stretch and the DNC is making unprecedented investments to ensure that Democrats retake control of Congress and are elected at every level of government.”

“The money is already starting to flow out,” one official said.

Finally, a continuation of yesterday’s post on “the lineage of a slur,” an October 16, 2004 entry in Language Log traces the origin of the purposely misused noun “Democrat” instead of the adjective “Democratic,” as in “Democrat” party instead of the grammatically correct “Democratic” party.

Back in 1984, William Safire did a column on the “Democrat Party,” label, saying:

Who started this and when? Acting on a tip, I wrote to the man who was campaign director of Wendell Willkie’s race against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. ”In the Willkie campaign of 1940,” responded Harold Stassen, ”I emphasized that the party controlled in large measure at that time by Hague in New Jersey, Pendergast in Missouri and Kelly Nash in Chicago should not be called a ‘Democratic Party.’ It should be called the ‘Democrat party.’ . . .” Mr. Stassen, who is only four years older than President Reagan, is remembered as a moderate Republican; his idea is still used by the most partisan members of the G.O.P. Democrats once threatened to retaliate by referring to their opponents as Publicans, but that was jettisoned. Despite the urge to clip, Democratic and Republican the parties remain.

I had always assumed that story was right, but it was written in the age BC (before corpora), and these things are easy to check now. In fact it turns out that Stassen was exaggerating. (Hard to resist saying “Stassen, stop gassin’,” though I doubt if many people now will recognize the allusion.)

The fact is that “Democrat Party” was in use well before Willkie’s campaign. Hoover used the phrase campaigning against Roosevelt in 1932. And back in 1923, H. Edmund Machold, the Republican Assembly Speaker of NY State, was quoted as saying:

The people of this State have chosen the Republican Party as the majority party in this House, and the representative of the opposite party, the Democrat Party, for the place of Chief Executive of the State, and have given to him the majority of the other house, the Senate. (New York Times, Jan. 4, 1923.)

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