I have a theory on why I now believe the Republican party faces a high probability that they will get a shellacking at the polls this November.
Call it CCD: Campaign Cognitive Dissonance.
I kicked back after a long day today and treated myself to an evening of reading, watching some television, and giving Miro (that strange cat you see in the upper left side of this page) and Yoshi (the dachshund) each a spot to curl up and take naps. The reading went well enough, but the television sucked rocks. It wasn’t so much the shows; standard-fare whodunits and whatnot. It was the campaign commercials.
At this point, you might be thinking, Who isn’t sick of these commercials? True enough, but somewhere along the way, I watched a few GOP and Republican candidate ads in quick succession. The first one, Mark Kennedy’s Iraq ad, basically talked about how bad things are over there yet we need to stay the course and keep the GOP in power. Next up was a Tim Pawlenty ad more or less suggesting that he’s done a lot of great things for the economy and will make things even better for us. Finally, the Republicans had an ad up about how terrible Mike Hatch is and that, if we were to elect him, he would only make things worse.
That little LED light in the back of my brain flicked on that moment. Waitaminute, I thought, Republicans screwed up the war in Iraq from the get-go, but they want us to back them anyway? The Republican party claims that the economy is hunky-dory, yet I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t seriously concerned about their financial well-being, and they promise to keep doing what their doing? How is it that Democrats — out of power and for all intents and purposes shut out of the legislative process for over a decade — have simultaneously screwed up the economy and will make things worse if they get into power?
There those questions sat, like a nine trillion dollar bar tab after a lost weekend. None of that makes sense, right?
So here it is: The Republicans are suffering from a collective case of Campaign Cognitive Dissonance. They can’t run away from the mess they started and have sustained for now over thee years in Iraq. They aren’t convincing people that the economy is in great shape and will only get better under their watch. They aren’t succeeding in their efforts to convince voters that the Democrats are vile, evil creatures who will drag our nation down into the black pits of national despair. Despite all these things, they still campaign as if the voting public has no memory of the past two, four, or six years.
Over that time, it has been reported that poverty has increased in this country. More people are without health insurance and those entering the workforce are finding themselves either without health benefits or offered jerry-rigged programs such as health savings accounts that don’t provide enough coverage or indirectly compel a person to put off necessary treatments for their ailments. Thousands have died, tens of thousand have been wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost in Iraq over the past three years and no end is in sight. This nation’s deficit is at its worst ever and yet our social and public infrastructure looks increasingly frayed and tattered. Still, with no hint of guilt or shame, nor even the slightest acknowledgment that they bear the bulk of the responsibility in these matters, still the Republicans ask for your vote.
I believe it is the cognitive dissonance generated by the GOP’s campaign rhetoric in their speeches, debates, and especially in their advertisements that is making this year’s election very competitive and may produce net gains for the Democrats on November 7th. I dare suggest that this is a year where many people have become very politically aware and are looking for a different path. How else can we explain why more and more Republican candidates find themselves facing tough, competitive campaigns in places they thought would be clear sailing for them?
Look at what is happening with the party’s rhetoric on Iraq: Earlier this year, Republicans planned on making the war on terror and Iraq into an issue that would benefit them and hurt the Democrats. They trucked out slogans such as “Stay the Course” (good) for themselves and “Cut and Run” (bad) for the Democrats. It backfired, however, and forced them to drop the issue. Now the Bush administration is trying to shift the party’s rhetoric to something akin to Iraq setting timetables for stepping up to the fight, theoretically so we can step out, but they are finding that both labels — and their corresponding value judgments — they slapped onto themselves are hard to remove and asked questions about how they can make such a major, contradictory shift in policy and expect people to suddenly accept those changes.
This year, 2006, may prove unique in many ways. It may be a year for one of the highest turnout of voters — we’ll see about that, but I have a sneaking suspicion. This year may see a sea change in who holds the reins of power in Congress. Most importantly, though, may be that this could prove to be the year when a party tries to play the public for suckers and the public refuses to buy into it.
We’ll see. There are only two more weeks until those damned commercials are off the air.