Since the election returns came in Tuesday night, politicians, pundits, and just regular ordinary people have been scratching their heads about what happened and how the Republicans got their butts handed to them nationally and statewide.

You can go online and find essays, columns, and analyses ad nauseam to support whatever view supports your own preference: Romney was too conservative, Romney wasn’t conservative enough; the Republicans need to embrace social liberals, the religious right needs to toughen their message; whatever… I’ve read so many articles, posts, and comments, I can’t even remember all of them, but there is one thought that I stumbled across a couple of days ago that has remained forefront in my brain. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I read it – but a big H/T to the brilliant soul who succinctly summarized the fundamental difference in the two parties that led to the results that we, as Americans and Montanans, will be living with for the next four years at least. Another H/T to my friend, Linda, for supplying the visual image that illustrates the words:

Click to embiggen

Now before my Republican friends go breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for having superior intelligence, and my Democrat friends head to the tool shed for pitchforks and ropes – I am not commenting on the relative intellectual capabilities of either Democrats or Republicans. Each party has it’s own quota of smart folks and mental midgets. The difference is that, especially in this last election cycle, the Democrats clearly understood not only the intelligence level (average) of the electorate, but the engagement level (not much) of the average voter, and designed their message to appeal to that reality. While the Republicans were dishing out thoughtful, reasoned, intellectual arguments to support their policies, the Democrats employed “bumper-sticker” themes to convey their message.

The whole election came down to one central issue – and it was reduced to a bumper sticker: “Freedom or Free Stuff?” And the Democrats won handily – because they understood that most Americans really don’t know what “freedom” means – but, by golly, we totally get the concept of “free stuff” – and we don’t want to lose out on any of the goodies!!!

Let’s use the abortion issue as an example. For many social conservatives this is such a fundamental, theological, and moral issue that they can’t conceive of anyone not “getting it.” To this group the “Right to Life” is not a slogan, but a commitment to the basis for this country’s very existence. They are passionate about this issue; the public is about evenly split on whether abortion should be legal or not. And in reality, this is an issue that directly impacts very few Americans. Less than 20% of the US population is ever confronted by the decision to have an abortion, and less than .004% of the population will actually have an abortion in any given year. Why aren’t Republicans/conservatives able to “sell” their message successfully? It’s not like they’re going against a huge philosophical opposition. How did the Democrats win this one? By framing the Republican’s position as “taking away” something the voters already had. Add to the mix the whole “war on women” thing. While Republicans were snickering at dancing vaginas and shaking their heads in disgust at a creepy ad comparing first time voting with losing one’s virginity, the Obama campaign was confidently putting the message out – those nasty Republicans wanted to take away something from a group that perceived an entitlement that they didn’t even have! The Democrats understood that by framing the issues of abortion and contraception as “free stuff” instead of the more complex issues of freedom of religion and right to life, the majority of voters would perceive the conservatives’ position as a threat to them and their stuff!

Most voters aren’t budding Einsteins, nor are they political junkies – they get their news from Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart. Why would anyone expect much intellectual depth and sophistication from someone like that? After all, a sixty watt bulb that isn’t plugged in isn’t very bright.

Like it or not, the Democrats understand the fundamental motivation of the majority of the electorate: “Free Stuff.” Unless, and until, the Republicans learn to frame their positions in terms that appeal to the majority of the voters, it won’t matter how “right” they are – they will continue to lose when it counts.

And that, my friends, calls into question the intellectual superiority of the Republicans.

2 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. A pedestrian crosses in the crosswalk with the light. He is run down. He was in the right but he is still dead. That is how I feel today.

    To paraphrase (I think it was P.T. Barnum) Nobody ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of people.

    I think you can interchange stupidity with greed equally in that sentance.

    Like W.F. Buckley we need to clean house of the extremists. Get the Tea Party on board. And argue fiscal responsibility. Cut back on the gay marriage attacks. It is going to happen either by Supreme Court fiat or citizen votes. Argue the basics. We can worry about the periphial stuff when we get back in office. The public does not seem to be able to choose if their are too many things to choose from.

    And if what I think is about to happen to the economy happens, that could be soon. Obama’s economy can not take tax hikes, lower employment, layoffs, more stimulas, handouts, free college and the collapse of the European markets.

    Obama, about to bring back the great old days of FDR’s soup lines.

  2. I just had to embiggen that graphic image.

    Embiggen is my favorite new word. I wish we could embiggen the “fundamental motivations” of American voters so they would make the effort to learn who and what they are voting for.

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