Kent Bush: GOP falling victim to echo chamber
Insulated opinions cause problems in any organization.
If your belief about how you or your product is viewed is developed solely within the walls of your establishment, you are probably wrong.
The Republicans seem to be falling victim to an echo chamber right now that could hurt them in 2014 midterm elections and again in the 2016 presidential race.
Republicans don’t blame themselves for a potential government shutdown and the resulting negative press and negative feelings that will develop.
Nicole Wallace, former George W. Bush communications chief, told MSNBC viewers Monday morning that Ted Cruz and others that support shutting down the government in an effort to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act represent the thoughts of “many, many people.”
She is right.
Cruz has all of the political shock jocks whose ratings benefit from outrageous behavior on his side. That puts almost all of the diehard Republicans on his side. He has the dedicated support of millions of people.
And he is killing the party’s chances of pulling more people on the bandwagon.
Yes, fundraising will go well. Yes, all of your books will be bestsellers. Yes, the ratings on Fox News and AM talk radio will rise. And, yes, the Democrats will win the White House.
It is important to be supported by your base. But face it, the base wasn’t that important when a black man with a name that sounded like both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein was running as a Democrat. The base was not the problem.
When I ran as a write-in candidate for president last year, it was merely to highlight the fact that only the undecided voters in about a dozen swing states decide the election.
Nothing has changed that.
Those voters aren’t impressed by publicity stunts and intransigent bargaining styles.
It is simple math.
About 40 percent of the voters in these swing states are Republicans who will vote for almost any Republican over almost any Democrat. That’s why they identify as Republicans. The same is true on the Democratic side.
About 40 percent will vote for a Democrat no matter what.
Whoever wins among the 20 percent in the middle wins the race.
Running shockingly conservative campaigns that alienate less-informed, less-involved and less-partisan voters is a great recipe for less votes.
The Republican platform has cooked up many varieties of that recipe over the past few years. Sarah Palin was, and still is, a ratings driving speaker and best-selling author whose colloquial tones eviscerate her opponents.
How did the 2008 election go with her on the ticket?
When the Republicans choose a presidential candidate in 2015 and 2016, if they use the same purity tests and far-right “play to the base” mentality, the Democrats will have a huge advantage to win again.
I remember in my hometown when a school bond election was on the horizon, many of my good friends fell victim to this type of thinking.
The football supporters had major problems with a superintendent whose daughter was an amazing soccer player. There was a battle within the district because football supporters saw the soccer supporters using their positions in the administration and on the school board to usurp authority and funds within the athletic department.
When a bond issue was proposed, the football supporters rallied to defeat it to teach those in charge a lesson.
They had closed-door meetings, raised funds and convinced each other that this bond issue was going down.
I talked to people outside their meetings. Most people in Chickasha supported bond issues that were at least a little bit reasonable. Even though they didn’t necessarily like the direction the board was going, they didn’t want to risk hurting students in the district to prove a point.
I knew the bond issue was going to pass and pass pretty easily.
I had some heated arguments about it. Many in the “football party” got really angry that I underestimated their impact on the campaign.
Then they lost in a landslide.
The moral of the story is talking only to others who agree with you, reading only press clippings that support your arguments and only listening to radio shows that you agree with is great for your day-to-day emotional well-being.
But don’t let the echo chamber fool you into thinking everyone is on the same page.
The Republicans need some strong moderate voices who can curry favor with the most conservative member of the base and those outside the party as well.
They haven’t found those people yet. In the current environment, those people would be banished from the party.
That has to change if the colors on those all-important swing states are going to change in November 2016.
But don’t believe me, just keep asking the echo chamber what you should do.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.