Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times seem surprised:
The memo distributed to House Republicans this week was concise and blunt, listing talking points and marching orders: "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance." "Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs." "The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk." "Continue Collecting Constituent Stories."(Emphasis added.)
The document, the product of a series of closed-door strategy sessions that began in mid-October, is part of an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature legislative initiative. Republican strategists say that over the next several months, they intend to keep Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault.
The idea is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law -- through social media, letters from constituents, or meetings during visits back home -- and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic.
For a House more used to disarray than methodical game plans, the success so far has been something of a surprise, even to the campaign's organizers.
What's so surprising about this? What does the House GOP's utter failure at governing have to do with the party's ability to crank out a relentless propaganda spew?
There's disarray in the Republican-led House in large part because Republicans don't give a damn about governing. The act of governing (or governing-by-tearing-down) to which they've devoted most of their energy recently was an impossible effort to repeal Obamacare. They can't defeat it, they won't negotiate on altering or improving it, and they won't put aside futile attempts to repeal it in order to accomplish the real governing tasks for which they're paid. They don't care. They don't believe that governing is their job. They don't believe it should be anyone's job. They don't believe in government.
Propaganda? Now, there's something they do believe in. The decline of the Republican Party as an institution devoted to governing has not been accompanied by a decline in messaging and propaganda skills. Attacking liberals and Democrats, and the ideas and accomplishments of liberals and Democrats, is what Republicans see as their number-one priority, as they have for many years. It's what they care about most. So they keep their propaganda skills at a high level, and they devote as many resources as possible to propaganda efforts.
They do this because they want to win power -- power for its own sake. Oh, sure, there are a few things they want to do: make the rich richer, punish the have-nots. But even the latter is largely in the service of their permanent campaign to demonize Democrats (in this case, by directing voters' anger against the perceived beneficiaries of Democratic policies). They don't really seem to care about the policies they enact where they're in power on, say, abortion or union pensions or minority voting rights, except to the extent of hoping that what they do turns voters against Democrats and/or ensures that more Republican than Democratic voters will cast ballots. It's all about winning for the sake of winning.
So of course we have this:
A 17-page "House Republican Playbook" walks members through "messaging tools" like talking points, social media tactics and "digital fliers"; details lines of attack; offers up a sample opinion article for local newspapers; and provides an extensive timeline on the health care law and an exhaustive list of legislative responses that have gone nowhere.And this:
A message of the week is presented to the Republican members at the beginning of each week, Ms. McMorris Rodgers said. A "Call to Action" email chain distributes relevant breaking news. A new website, gop.gov/yourstory, is collecting anecdotes from each member.Of course the thing they're most excited about is the opportunity to disseminate more propaganda:
But Republicans are already looking ahead to next year, when they expect a raft of new issues as people start using their new health plans.For D.C. Republicans, this is literally all that matters.
"We're trying to stay as agile as we can," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. "We know what issues are coming. We know what the consequences will be. We can't say when they will pop exactly, but we're prepared to talk about them."