Here's a major reason why the Republicans are still a viable party: they don't mind getting loud. They're willing to flagrantly lie out loud, while also making a huge production out of insignificant and contradictory nonsense that heretofore was never even considered to be a political trespass -- shamelessly and unapologetically amplifying it all to a level of noise that forces the press and voters alike to pay attention.
The Democrats could learn a thing or two about this. More presently.
For all of their faults, the Republicans are absolutely using the whole political animal, so to speak. Like an ancient tribe of hunter-gatherers, they're somehow able to butcher every carcass and turn all of the lies, gaffes and misstatements into something useful. Something that will command attention. Put another way, the Republican strategy seems to be: there's no such thing as bad press, so get loud.
Over the weekend, Sarah Palin appeared in Nashville at the Tea Party convention and while criticizing the president for using a teleprompter -- a device that all politicians, presidents and TV personalities have used since the technology was first invented -- she had the words "tax cuts" scrawled on her hand (or else there was a chance she might forget).
A Republican who might forget to say "tax cuts" is like a preacher who might forget to say "Jesus Christ." But there she was. The leader of the Republican Party -- so ill-prepared, so incapable of even the most basic political skills that she had to write a secret crib sheet on her hand to help her remember to say "tax cuts." Say nothing of the fact that Miss Drill-Baby-Drill had to write "energy" on her hand also.
In her defense, I understand Lincoln had to write "slavery" and "Civil War" on his hand so he wouldn't forget. So there's that.
And yet the Republicans don't mind getting loud about it. She's just like regular folks, they say. She's just like you, they say. This makes her qualified to be president, they say. (The Republicans are even loud about repeating colossal mistakes. Even after George W. Bush nearly destroyed the Republican brand, they're doubling down on the stupid by elevating Sarah Palin. Just remarkable.)
Elsewhere, Rep. Eric Cantor released a statement about the president's invitation to the Republicans to attend a televised health care summit later this month. The statement lead off with the words "government takeover." So right there, when greeted with an outreached hand, Cantor insulted the reform bill by referencing Frank Luntz's completely exaggerated "government takeover" line.
John Boehner, meanwhile, held a press conference in which he discussed the president's bipartisan outreach. And at one point Boehner used the epithet "Democrat majority." Out loud and on television, Boehner used a pejorative term for the Democratic Party designed to emphasize the "rat" syllable. I'm actually shocked he didn't accidentally refer to the president as "Osama."
And Tuesday night, Newt Gingrich flat out lied to Jon Stewart about the nationality of the Shoe Bomber. When Stewart noted that Richard Reid was read his Miranda Rights, Gingrich quickly responded by saying that Reid was, and is, an American citizen. It was a kneejerked lie. Reid is British. Painted into a corner by reality, Gingrich just made shit up (not unlike his awesome "WHOOPS! What If The South Won the Civil War?" book). Fox News Channel does this all the time, by the way. They're so cynical about their audience that they'll go on the air with demonstrably false information, knowing that no one eating their bullshit will bother to look it up. Then, if they're called out by an independent fact-checker, they'll issue a correction days later. Maybe.
Here's where it gets crazy. The Republicans filibustered the jobs bill this week. They filibustered it. Do I need to spell out how wrong that is?
Now, I've been reluctant to rip into the Democrats, mainly because, despite myths to the contrary, Congress and the White House have been able to accomplish some pretty big goals in just a year. Positive goals. Accomplishments that will help real people.
The only problem is that they're not loud enough about these things. They're not loud enough about the Republican obstructionism and treachery. Consequently, other players are writing the script and the Obama administration, along with congressional Democrats, are being mischaracterized. By not fighting back against these mischaracterizations with the full force of their political majorities, they look weak.
Looking at the list of Democratic achievements along with the list of Republican lies and blunders, there's obviously plenty of ammunition. But most of it is being allowed to rot on the vine -- at least so far, even though November is growing larger in the window.
For example, that jobs bill filibuster. Those of us keeping up the congressional activity know about it, but how many rank and file voters know that the Republicans tried to block a bill that would create jobs in the aftermath of a deep recession? I have to ask: if the Republicans filibuster a jobs bill, and no one makes a big stink about it, does it make a sound?
Instead of going on every news show on television and screaming about the Republican filibuster in the same way the Republicans scream about teleprompters, "Democrat Party," and "government takeovers," the Democrats did... what? Not much of anything really.
At the same time, the Democrats were contemplating a bit of clever politics this week by tricking the Republicans into voting on Rep. Paul Ryan's so-called "shadow budget," which calls for privatizing Medicare and Social Security. Forcing the Republicans to vote on privatizing Social Security and Medicare is a terrific idea, of course. But let's say the Democrats were to go forward with such a plan. Who's going to know about it? Those of us in the blogosphere. People who watch Morning Joe, maybe. But will your neighbor? Or that co-worker who doesn't know which party to support right now? Probably not, because the Democrats probably wouldn't get loud about it.
And what of the president's big health care summit? If the White House successfully calls the Republican bluff, and they back out, will the White House get loud about it? I don't know. Maybe now that David Plouffe is back in the fold. But so far, they haven't been as effective as they could be with making a big deal out of the Republican nincompoopery and contradictions. (Question Time, to their credit, was a big step in the right direction.)
All told, the Democrats are generally on the right side of these fights, and their opponents are handing them pure political gold. Epic win material. Yet, instead of capitalizing on it, they're remaining silent and acquiescing to a marginalized, obstructionist party.
Crank it up, boys, or get ready for disaster in November.