Eric Cantor’s Self-Serving Nonsense

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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19 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    Well, messaging is the first step right? Suppose they messaged what they did differently. By messaging what they did differently, they would allow policy differences to occur in different dimensions than are currently occuring. I’m not expressing this very well.

    The idea is that for any given narrative, a different set of policies will be within reasonable deviations of the party line. As an example, let’s suppose that I am a hardcore libertarian and I sell my preferred policies as just what is owed to us in virtue of our natural property rights. So, taxation is slavery! Regulations are nanny statist paternalism! If I give that messaging, I cannot credibly allow any kind of deviation. But supposed I messaged differently: Medallion systems hurt poor minority taxi drivers. Medallion systems drive up taxi fares and hurt customers many of whom are too poor to afford a car. Barber shop licensures hurt hair dressers many of whom are minorities, and drive up costs which hurt working and middle class people. Hair dressers should be for everyone, not just the rich!

    I still have pretty much the same policies, but start attracting more moderate guys as well. Hell even Matt Yglesias may want to sign up! Of course, by having a softer message, this does allow the party to bring in people who are comparatively more pragmatic on some issues. Maybe voters will not drop me just because I support a second best proposal.

    Once you soften the messaging, if you wish to stay on message, it is going to be harder to not allow for some pragmatism to creep into the partyReport

    • Elias Isquith in reply to Murali says:

      I agree in theory but I don’t think Cantor’s rebranding even goes as far as what you’re citing as an analog. It’s barely removed from what the GOP was saying throughout 2012; the only difference is that we’re being told there’s a difference.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

      For messages to be believed, the messenger must be trusted — or at least have no reason to be distrusted. It would have been better for another herald to have borne this message: Cantor is a known quantity.

      It takes two characters in Japanese (well, there are many ways to write it) to convey the meaning of honesty or frankness, Shinsotsu. The first is Shin, truth. The second is Ritsu, to rate or compare.

      But there’s another way of writing it, Seii, again two glyphs, Makoto, truth in terms of faithfulness and devotion, especially to unpleasant facts and such, the sort of truthfulness required in a relationship. The second is I or Kokoro, intent, conviction, what we really want. Heart, if you will.

      Cantor cannot be believed. It’s clear his heart isn’t in this.Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    One of the issue here, I think, is that in the world of effective PR messaging, messaging itself often has to don the role of public villain.

    It’s quite possible (and, I think, likely) that the GOP establishment is well aware of the need to makes some difficult and substantive changes to be more competitive nationally. Unfortunately, they work in an industry where short-term victories are necessary for getting back on track in the long-term. This means you cannot lead with the message:

    “Boy, you know all those things we argued over the past couple of years with such end-of-the-world veracity? Yeah, funny thing… we were totally wrong. WAY off the mark. Didn’t have a clue, really.

    Hey! You know what you should do? You should totally vote for us!”

    Even if you’re going to make some very fundamental changes (as I think the GOP would be wise to do), I think you’re forced to announce that you were of course 100% correct all along, but because of your own bad wording it just sounded like you were on the wrong side of history.

    “Wait – you thought we liked to demonize the fine people who risk all to come to this country to help build our economy? Oh, man, we must have really fished the wording up there, because we’ve always loved and embraced our south of the border brothers and sisters. We’ve been fighting for them all along!”Report

  3. James Hanley says:

    Well said.Report

  4. Rufus F. says:

    Okay, I agree that it’s cynical to focus on messaging (god, I hate that neologism!) rather than on ideas. But if they tried to come up with different ideas in line with more moderate voters and abandon their old ideas, wouldn’t we read that as cynical too?Report

    • Elias Isquith in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I wouldn’t. That’s how the system is sposta work!Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        Fair enough. What if the shoe was on the other foot? Imagine the US was going through one of those spells it seems to from time to time where people get really worked up about criminals or immigrants or welfare cheats and the Democrats had to decide whether to tack hard to the right or keep losing elections. I know the obvious punchline here is they do that all the time. But what gambit would you support?Report

        • Elias Isquith in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Wouldn’t the analogy be that the Dems kept supporting policies that the country rejected? Not so much that they were refusing to support policies… Maybe it’s a semantic difference.

          But I don’t consider myself a Democrat but rather a liberal, so if Dems did that (and, yes, they did already — see: Clinton, Bill) I’d find it regrettable but necessary and would want Dems to do it as little as possible while still gaining electoral advantage. If Dems were challenging access to voting and the like in service of not changing their policies I’d like to think I’d find it objectionable in the extreme and would say as much.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            Maybe it depends on the policies. What I was thinking of was about three or four years ago when everyone was freaking out about ‘illegals’ and the politicians were trying to one-up each other for hardassedness. Now, they’re all talking about paths to citizenship and playing moderate to court the Hispanic voters. When certain issues become highly popular, there are Democrats who will bend over backwards to probe they’re not liberal- see also: the early days of the war on terror. Would a liberal have more respect for the Democrats who tried to come off as hard line then, but have softened since, or for the ones who were always calling for a path to citizenship?

            I’d imagine the question for conservative voters would be on which issues the public has swung permanently leftward and on which ones they’ll probably move back to the right in the future. If the GOP moves too far towards the center for short-term gain, it’s gonna look just as opportunist as if they stay the same but talk a good game.Report

    • Scott Fields in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Isn’t there a non-cynical way for conservatives to appeal to moderate voters? One that doesn’t entail abandoning their old ideas?

      I realize that Republican Ideas and republican ideas are not synonymous, but Eisenhower was a Republican and he warned against the Military Industrial Complex gaining too much influence in Washington and supported investment in national infrastructure as a suitable purpose for government. The GOP could go after corporate subsidies and not come close to being Democrats Lite.

      Granted, this is not at all where Cantor and the GOP as currently configured want to go, but there are all sorts of ways the Republicans could shrink government that wouldn’t involve dismantling social programs that are popular with the middle class.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Scott Fields says:

        Good idea. Yeah, I can see that.

        Here’s another one that I thought of recently. I read this thing on No Child Left Behind:

        And I thought, so you’re telling me that the government got involved in trying to micromanage and standardize an important part of people’s lives and they completely mucked it up and made a lot of people miserable? That sounds like a perfect issue for the GOP to take a stand on based squarely in conservative, anti-big government thinking. Admittedly, that would mean they’d have to repudiate George W. Bush in the process, but it would be an important stand for them to take.

        Another important stand for them to take? Repudiating George W. Bush.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Actually, it’s amazing how much of public policy seems to be driven by the sunk cost fallacy.Report

        • Scott Fields in reply to Rufus F. says:

          I think it’s widely held that the way out of the wilderness for the GOP would involve the repudiation of George W. Bush at a bare minimum. That would likely be enough to win national elections again.

          However, IMO, for the GOP to present a compelling, conservative vision that would secure the support of the broad swathe in the middle of the electorate for the long term, they will have to shrink all parts of the government (including defense spending and corporate subsidies) and remove the social agenda from front and center. That would mean repudiating Reagan. I’m not holding my breath.Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    This “softer” approach to policy-making squares with an emerging Republican consensus that the party does not necessarily need to change its policies so much as frame them in a way that is more relevant to middle class, minority, and women voters.

    Though how do Republican policy positions actually matter?

    If I can get boundless corporatism, endless war, and unlimited executive power from the Democrats, why do I even need to vote for the Republicans, much less send them donations?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      This is why you have to talk about stuff like abortion, gay marriage, or gun control.

      Do you want boundless corporatism, endless war, unlimited executive power, and an assault weapons ban or boundless corporatism, endless war, unlimited executive power and no assault weapons ban?Report

  6. So, what are those “substantive changes” that the GOP needs to make?

    I thought Cantor’s speech was at least a good start and had more substance than anything said last year. He talked about immigration in the positive sense which is good and he actually seemed to talk about people who were actually not doing well in this economy. Could it all be just talk? Maybe. We shall see. I still think it was a good speech, but then I’m a Republican.Report

  7. By the way, the supposed GOP plan to rig elections? You might be interested to know that Colorado Democrats tried to do the same thing in 2004. I don’t think the idea is really a good one anyway, but both parties have pushed this idea when their electoral chips were down.Report

    • I’d recommend you check Jon Chait’s response to this:

      What we’ve seen since November is a concerted effort by the Republican Party to leverage both its control of a number of state governments and its gerrymandering of the House map in those states. With the express support of the RNC chairman, and at least cautious initial support by the leading Republican elected officials in the affected states, Republicans floated plans in every GOP-controlled blue state to allocate electoral votes by congressional district. The plan would have the double benefit of splitting a number of blue state electoral votes, while red state electoral votes remain indivisible, and allocating those votes in such a way as to ensure that the GOP’s share of electoral votes from those states vastly outstrips its share of the vote.
      Of those factors I just described, none were present in the 2004 effort to rejigger Colorado. I went back and read everything I could find on the plan on Nexis, and there was no evidence of any elected-level Democratic support for the plan (let alone a national campaign to split up Republican votes wherever possible). The plan seemed to spring from liberal activists and was opposed by Democratic officials. What’s more, it would have allocated the state’s electoral votes proportionally rather than by district — unfair still, but less unfair than the Republican plans to guarantee their candidate wins more electoral votes even in states he could lose.


      I would never defend what those activists, for what it’s worth; but the CO example is not sufficient.Report