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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Making Every GOP Candidate Choke on Their Tea

tea bags
Toward the end of last month, I wrote that everyone was nationalizing the craziest teabagger candidates -- that is, everyone but the Democratic Party. If dems put Republicans on the spot with positions held by out-of-state nutjobs, those Republicans would be forced to either reject Tea Party orthodoxy or embrace craziness. The last thing a candidate wants to do is spend a lot of time explaining that they're not Christine O'Donnell -- for more than one reason. My argument went like this:

The only avenue left to dig Democrats out of the hole is to point out the obvious and the undeniable -- a lot of these people are crazy. And not the fun-at-a-party kind of crazy, the bad kind. Put Republicans on the spot, make them defend these lunatics or cut them loose. Are you with Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act? Do you agree with Alaska senatorial candidate Joe Miller that federal unemployment benefits are unconstitutional? Do you agree with Sharron Angle that Social Security should be phased out and the Department of Education shut down -- or that rape can be a blessing in disguise? Give Republican candidates a choice: appeal to the teabagger base or to the rest of the electorate. It's a situation most won't benefit from. Advantage becomes predicament, since most of that GOP enthusiasm comes from the feverish base. And that's not enough in all cases.

It seemed like a no-brainer to me. And now it seems that the Democratic Party has come to the same conclusion. Run against the crazies, no matter what race you're in.

Huffington Post:

Democrats are starting an effort to tie the entire Republican Party to the controversial statements made by a few of its candidates supporting the elimination or restructuring of minimum wage laws.

Strategists have begun urging members to press both incumbents and their general election challengers to formally state where they stand in the debate. The template is the campaign that Democrats ran in 2006 forcing GOP lawmakers and candidates to explain where they stood on privatizing social security.

"We ought to be telling everyone in the House who is a Democrat to say, 'I challenge you, I want my opponent to commit to not lowering the minimum wage,'" said one top-ranked strategist who consults on several races.

It's not exactly identical to my strategy of putting them all in the same box on every issue, but it's close enough. I don't think there's a recent poll on this point, but I've never seen a poll where a majority didn't support raising the minimum wage. And I'm certain that there would be a majority opposed to eliminating or reducing it. The traditional GOP line on the minimum wage is a loser -- the teabagger line is even worse. At the very least, the minimum wage can be used to paint wealthy Republican candidates as out of touch with the average working American.

Raw Story:

In an interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, RNC Chairman Michael Steele refused to rule out repealing or lowering the minimum wage. When pressed, the chairman couldn't even cite the rate of pay for the lowest earning Americans.

"What is the minimum wage, Michael?" asked O'Donnell.

"You really like the minimum wage, don't you?" Steele said with a chuckle.

"It's okay to say you don't know. If you don't care about the minimum wage it's okay to say you don't know what it is," O'Donnell pressed.

"Look, Lawrence, stop the trap playing here," said Steele.

That happened just last night. Sure, Michael Steele may be history's worst RNC chairman, but do you really think that some Tea Party activist, in way over their head in a congressional or gubernatorial race, would do any better? These people seem to believe that speaking their mind -- even when their mind is empty of facts -- is a virtue. And the more you put them on the spot, the more radical their arguments become. Why do you think they don't speak to mainstream media, but limit themselves to FOX News and overly-friendly rightwing talk radio?

Because those outlets won't put them on the spot. They won't make them prove they know something. They won't bother them with facts. So these teabagger whackjobs can spout off BS political theory about corporations being the "job creators" and tax cuts creating jobs and reducing deficits. Their arguments only work in the fact-free zone of rightwing media, because rightwing media doesn't deal in facts. If you doubt that, listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck pull their mindreading acts to create straw men, then call this whole exercise in paranoid supposition "analysis." Almost any sentence that contains the phrases "I think," "I believe," or "they think," "they believe" is not a factual statement. It's not even a logical argument. If Republican candidates are afraid to come out of the slow-pitch league of rightwing media, then you have to force the real world into that media bubble.

And you do that by talking about what the candidates are afraid to talk about. It's the entire reason they retreat into that bubble. Every time some Republican candidate says what they really think, it becomes something of a scandal.

I'd still like to see this broadened, based on what electorate the candidate is talking to. Sharron Angle's "rape lemonade" statement would never fly around here, so maybe Russ Feingold should challenge Ron Johnson on where he stands on abortion for victims of rape and incest. You know he doesn't want to answer that question, because it's a no-win: if he's for it, he loses the crazy single-issue voters. If he's against it, he loses everyone else. It's a corner he can be backed into and a wedge he doesn't want to see turned the other way. In other states or districts, it may be the minimum wage. Or it may be Social Security or Medicare or unemployment benefits or the environment. Grab an insane statement from some high-profile frootloop GOP candidate someplace in America and force your opponent to take a stand on it one way or another. And, if they try to weasel out of it, make an issue of that. Put them all in the same boat, then try to sink it.

It's nice to see Democrats finally coming to the same conclusion, but you really wish they wouldn't limit themselves only to the minimum wage.


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