This post is printed in The Chronicle.
Something must have been wrong in his brain. Maybe a couple of neurons weren’t firing at the right moments. But whatever the reason, in an interview published yesterday in the Washington Times Michael Steele said that the GOP’s new public relations initiative would be “off the hook.” He used the phrase—which died at least seven years ago—to emphasize his upcoming focus on “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”
I swear I’m not making this up.As pitiful as his attempt at vernacular was though, it highlights an important point: although it’s flailing right now, the GOP is not dead. Not by a long shot.
The signs of life generally aren’t as pitiful as Steele’s mental lapse. Anyone that has been paying attention to the stimulus bill knows that House and Senate Republicans put up spirited and vocal opposition to it at every level—even while governors in the party embraced it. They knew just as well as anyone that the bill would pass with or without them onboard. As we know, they chose the latter. And in the process they played the political game as well as we all knew they could. They crafted a narrative about government waste and inefficiency that was so compelling that it almost reminded me of the Clinton days. Granted, the stimulus had plenty of ripe targets in it but I can’t take anything away from them; they pounced on everything they saw.
In an all-too-familiar scene, the Democrats seemed to be back on their heels until President/hero/savior Barack Obama swooped in to the rescue. But it wasn’t before plenty of damage was done. It seemed like the Dems bought into their own post-inauguration hype and assumed that since their colleagues seemed tame after the elections that they would stay that way. They probably could’ve learned from that chimp attack if it had happened a little earlier.
Even before the stimulus, there was a shot across the bow when the most loved and despised shock jock in America: Rush Limbaugh, told his audience that he hoped Obama would fail as president. Some may have dismissed this as bluster or a media stunt, but I think people forgot that he may be the principal ideological voice of American conservatism. People are listening to him. And he’s far from dead.
Then there was a recent interview with Pete Sessions, a Republican House member from Texas, in which he said that his party would need to use insurgency-style tactics to compete with congressional democrats. He went on to reference the Taliban as an example of a good insurgency. Another brain fart, but the point stands. For Sessions—and probably other Republicans—it’s going to be important to cope with their minority position and use it for their political benefit. As Sessions put it, “to get [their] message out” and to “disrupt and change a person’s entire processes.” They’re good, and they’re far from dead.
The interesting piece of this, though, is that there’s so much talk is about spreading the message of Republicanism—particularly to young people and non-whites—when there isn’t really much to spread yet. And that, I believe, is the difference between a healthy Republican party and a fringe party of vocal contrarians. So far, in the Obama era (Yeah, era. Remember that I said it first) the GOP has been the party that says “no” and offers old ideas from the Reagan era. Frankly, I’d like to see better, because the current discourse isn’t helping anyone—including the GOP. It might not be dead but it is sick, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better quickly.
I guess if the “off the hook” tactics don’t work, they can’t try being “Off the Heezy Fo’ Sheezy in the GOPeezy.”
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