Sunday, August 12, 2012

Republican strategy: Democrats do it too!

Over a year ago, Steve Benen wrote what I believe is the quintessential article about Karl Rove's favorite strategy: projection.
Karl Rove has a special, some might call it "pathological," quality as a political pundit. More than anyone I've ever seen or heard of, Rove identifies some of his own ugliest, most malicious, most pernicious qualities, and then projects them onto those he hates most.
I suspect we might need a new word for this because, as wiki points out, what Rove, Republicans, and now the Romney campaign are doing is something very different.
Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.
What we're seeing from the right is clearly not "subconscious," but an overt strategy.

For example, it was almost funny this week to hear Mitt Romney say this:
Mitt Romney said Thursday that President Obama and his allies should be embarrassed over a controversial ad from a super-PAC supporting the president that links the death of a cancer patient to the GOP contender's tenure at Bain Capital.

"You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad," Romney said on Bill Bennett's radio show. "They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact-checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they're wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them."
As we all know, Steve Benen has been chronicling Mitt's mendacity weekly for months now. What makes the list so long each time is that Mitt keeps repeating the same lies over and over and over again - not matter how many times he's called out on them. He's the one who ought to be embarrassed.

Another example from just this week would be the Republican's pre-emptive attempt to suggest that its actually the Obama administration that's out to destroy Medicare.

This kind of thing happens so regularly that its impossible to believe that its subconscious. Its clearly a strategy to defend themselves against legitimate attacks by saying "Democrats do it too."

What you have to understand about this as a strategy is that when voters get cynical about about politics...Republicans win. Here's former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren explaining how that works.
There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).
President Obama has been aware of this strategy for a long time. Here he is back in 2005:
The bottom line is that our job is harder than the conservatives' job...I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.
Our best defense against this kind of strategy is to show American voters that we're better than that.


  1. good thing kevin drum is around, because he would NEVAR help republicans out with the "both sides do it" lie!

    oh wai.....

    1. Kevin ought to know better. The minute you go lose.

    2. Kevin's been doing that since the Calpundit days, eschewed that during the lead up to the Iraq debacle, but his recent b.s. about the Priorities USA ad sorta reprises that nonsense he proffered earlier. Not only does the cynicism play in to the 'both sides do it' crap that the media is all too willing to oblige, the outright lying allows the stenos of the beltway to be as lazy as they wanna be intellectually, and downright dishonest in their assessments.