As we move closer to Halloween and the Republican Party seems poised to either rip itself apart over the defunding of Obamacare or witness the ascent of a new era of principled leadership within the party, it might be valuable for the leaders of the party to take some advice from Lisa Simpson and Paul Anka.
In their sixth “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween Special, the creators of “The Simpsons” gave us a vignette of Springfield run amok with ubiquitous advertisement characters come to life due to an ionic disturbance in the atmosphere. These larger-than-life figures include thinly veiled representations of the Marlboro man, the Pep Boys, a blow-dried network news blowhard, and a creeping Tam-O-Shanter which all set out to destroy the town. To combat these monsters, Lisa enlists the help of Paul Anka who pens a catchy jingle, “Just Don’t Look,” advising the townspeople to ignore the monsters and, like any advertisement, they will just go away. She even references the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” woman from the 1980s as a prime example of this advertising phenomenon. Lisa and Paul’s advice worked, and the town was saved.
Like the pervasive Simpsons advertising monsters, President Obama and his media allies have fought a very savvy public relations war over the past five years which is designed to deflect any responsibility for the dismal economy and hapless foreign policy away from the President and on to the (wait for it…) evil, stupid and rich, corporate-backed, polluting, clearly misguided Christians who make up the Republican Party. After the 2013 State of the Union Address, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh even developed his own “Limbaugh Theorem” which demonstrates that despite the fact that many people disagree with the President’s policies, the President remains relatively well-liked. Recent polling data on health care, Syria, and just about everything else indicate that a majority of Americans do not approve of President Obama’s job performance with the one exception, shockingly, being race relations. The race relations number – hovering at 51% approval in the August Gallup poll – goes a long way in explaining Limbaugh’s Theorem.
People like the idea of President Obama. He packaged himself as an articulate, intelligent, cool-under-the-collar post-racial figure who would bind the country’s festering racial wounds while inspiring a new group of voters to participate in the political process. Instead, after admitting that he wasn’t present at the arrest of Louis “Skip” Gates in 2009, the President went on to say the Cambridge police “acted stupidly”, and two years later interjected himself again in the Treyvon Martin affair by egocentrically associating himself with Mr. Martin. All the while, the President has been on perpetual campaign mode, choosing to blame Republicans for the nation’s woes instead of working to build relationships with Congressional leaders – an area even Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House say needs improvement. However, none of this seems to “stick” to the President.
As Obamacare is poised to launch despite consistently strong and vocal public opposition, the Democrats remind voters that it is the law of the land and that, like children, we should take our medicine and suck it up. I have yet to hear a Democrat remind us that the Second Amendment, too, is the law of the land.
As a government shutdown looms, tied both to Obamacare and raising the debt ceiling, few in the press find it problematic that the President himself railed against raising the debt ceiling while carefully planning his run for the presidency from the U.S. Senate in 2006.
And finally, as the Syria crisis fades into the background of an American political landscape where attention spans longer than four or five days is unheard of, only conservative columnists and members of the new media pointed out that President Obama’s red line speech was just that – a speech. Without meaningful action to support his words, President Obama took a melon-baller to the credibility of American foreign policy. It’s worthwhile to note that the ultimate solution to the Syria crisis seems to have been a gaffe by Secretary of State John Kerry, not surprising coming from an administration that has grown accustomed to walking statements back, retelling history, and instructing the American people–high from its lofty ivory tower filled with iPods, solar panels, and former executives from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup who populate the Cabinet–on what it really was they heard (which, more often than not, is not what the President actually said).
So the lesson for the Republican Party these days should be to turn away and “just don’t look” at this political landscape. Create a new one by offering bold solutions for first getting us out of the mess we’re in and then towards restoring the Constitutional republic that the Founders envisioned. By reacting to the miscasting of truth and the retelling of history we only give credence to the President and his supporters. It’s time for the Republicans to rally and begin advocating for the American people and the Constitution.