Words That Don’t Matter

Just when I think the Republican Party has turned a corner in the arena of big ideas and a bold vision for the future of this country, despondency creeps back in.

The latest case of despair/rage comes in the form of the Republican vocabulary playbook. A story last week by John Harwood of The New York Times depicts the latest pursuits by the party to position its members to strike a chord among the American electorate — what words work and what do not. Harwood goes on to quote Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan state party chairman who lost to Michael Steele in a bid to become the head of the national party.

“Rhetorically, Republicans are having a very hard time finding something that raises the consciousness of the average voter,” said Anuzis. Workaday labels like “big spender” and “liberal” have lost their punch, he says.

Harwood then writes, “So Mr. Anuzis has turned to provocation with a purpose. He calls the president’s domestic agenda ‘economic fascism.’ ‘We’ve so overused the word ‘socialism’ that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago,’ Mr. Anuzis said. ‘Fascism — everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.’ ”

We couldn’t make “socialist” stick on a presidential campaign when every American was tuned in, so Republicans now believe the solution is to turn up the volume and throw out words like “fascism”? No more callers, folks, we have a winner! I’m not sure what’s worse — believing that a bumper sticker campaign can get the conservative ship of state afloat again, or that the lunacy of bombastic phrases like “economic fascism” will actually spur Americans to storm the Obama castle, pitchforks in hand.

If they actually believe such logic, why stop there? Why not call the Left’s HUD proposal “housing fascism”? Or what about stem-cell “Hitlerism”?

I understand we live in a world with a surplus of news and a deficit of attention, but trying to cut through the clutter with caustic words is not the answer.

I’m not sure any message is the answer right now. That’s what got Republicans in trouble to begin with — they tried to message their way out of bad policy decisions. Good labels don’t substitute for poor policies … or no policies. Fix your agenda, my GOP friends, and you’ll fix your messaging woes.


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