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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP’s S-Word Follies Invite Ridicule

Here we go again with the neo-McCarthyist S-word name-calling. As Ed notes below, Roger Simon reports at Politico that the RNC will pass a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party” in “an extraordinary special session” next week. Simon keeps his source anonymous, so it’s hard to say whether the resolution is really a done deal. RNC Chair Michael Steele opposes the idea, as Simon reports:

Steele wrote a memo last month opposing the resolution. Steele said that while he believes Democrats “are indeed marching America toward European-style socialism,” he also said in a (rare) flash of insight that officially referring to them as the Democrat Socialist Party “will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans.”

Well, he’s right that the resolution will invite ridicule, but not only from left Dems, but solution-oriented centrists of all stripes, perhaps even in the GOP. It will be correctly seen by thoughtful voters as another childish ploy to deflect attention from the lack of ideas circulating among what’s left of the Republican cognoscenti. Parroting ad hominem atttacks ad nauseum tends to make obvious failed arguments more than anything else. I won’t be surprised if a great many of the voters they are targeting will yawn or scoff at the name-calling.
This twisted tactic worked to some extent back in the day when the GOP was able to peddle their hackneyed propaganda about the evils of government spending/high taxes as America’s Big Problem. Back then it was all about “Liberal”-bashing (and still is with Ann Coulter and other snarling Republican pundits). But that was before the colossal failures of W’s administration. And who knows, it might work again down the road, if economic trends cooperate. For now, however, the American people clearly support Obama’s economic initiatives in healthy majorities (see yesterday’s staff post on Teixeira’s “Public Opinion Snapshot”).
It appears that the GOP lost most of it’s brain power when Francis Fukuyama bailed and William Buckley and Jack Kemp died. Newt sees himself as one of their last ‘big idea’ guys, but he is sounding more than a little stale these days. I guess it’s all part of the dumbing down process inside their incredible shrinking tent.
In that regard, Judge Richard Posner, who has been called “the most cited legal scholar of all time,” has an interesting post, “Is the Conservative Movement Losing Steam?,” at The Becker-Posner Blog, with this delicious graph, flagged by Nate Silver:

My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

Sounds about right. Still the Republicans behind this lame idea hope that linking the word ‘Socialist’ with every mention of the term ‘Democrat’ in the GOP echo chamber will somehow turn the tide of public opinion in their favor. A recent Rasmussen poll of LV’s, conducted April 23-24, however, suggests that the term may have lost some of its power to offend Americans, as only 53 percent of respondents in the poll now believe “capitalism is better than socialism.”
In any event, it is highly unlikely that a warped form of 21st century McCarthyism will produce the desired result of winning hearts and minds in any significant numbers—– and there are good reasons to believe it may backfire.

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