Don't laugh: saying the same old thing works
The Repulican Party released a new campaign document this week called 'A Pledge to America'. It is nothing more than the usual boilerplate Republican rhetoric, as demonstrated by John Stewart's cleverly edited segment showing House Republicans using the exact same words in years past. That repetitiveness is what makes it an effective propaganda tool.
The last time the Congressional Republicans made such a fuss about a document rollout was in 1994, when they launched their 'Contract with America' en route to taking over both houses of Congress for the first time in decades. Like the Pledge, the Contract also parroted earlier material, specifically President Ronald Reagan's 1985 State of the Union Address, its main source. The joke, unfortunately, is on the Democrats, who, year after year, fail to articulate a consistent message.
It is easy to make fun of the Republicans' rhetorical recycling, but nothing wins campaigns like memorable catchphrases and the appearance of consistency. The content of that consistency is almost irrelevant. Many people will vote for the candidate about whom they can say 'I know what he stands for' even if what that candidate stands for is inimical to a voter's self-interests. That was one big reason that people found it hard to pull the lever in 2004 for John Kerry, the presidential candidate who had trouble getting a consistent message out: people went with the known rather than the unknown, even if they knew that the known was quite bad. It also worked for the guy who said little more than 'Hope' and 'Change' in 2008.
The Democrats' biggest problem is not that they think too much but that they do their thinking in public. Yes, the problems we face are complicated, but most voters don't want to be reminded that their leaders are full of doubt and circumspection. I, for one, am a big fan of doubt and circumspection, but it doesn't sell well on the national stage.
Self-fashioned thoughtful types can go on laughing at the Republicans' same-old, same-old tactics, but they work. If ever the Democrats started using Republican tactics to sell Democratic policies, the Republicans would be finished.