The Republican party has a had a run of bad years recently. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, they lost their majorities in the House and Senate, and they also lost the Presidency. Perhaps even worse than becoming the minority in Government, their reputation took a nosedive too. When elected in 2000, conservatives got their chance to show what Republicans could do when they had the majority and they could implement their conservative ideas. But by the end of 2008 the conservative Bush administration was looked at by the majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, as the worst president of all time. The word "failure" was repeated over and over to sum up its legacy. Many people now associate the word "conservative" with starting wars without cause, doubling the national debt from 5 to 10 trillion dollars, ethics violations, and the crash of the financial industry due to bad policy and lack of adequate regulation.
Faced with this, how are the Republicans to regain the confidence and following of the majority of Americans?
It appears that they chose a page out of Karl Rove's playbook. Rove of course is famous for his quote that the Bush administration "creates its own reality". They made people believe what they said by choosing wording that elicited the right emotional response, and then repeated it endlessly. They sent these "sound bites" and "talking points" to all of the major Republican leaders and instructed them to repeat them on television and radio. This strategy worked great. People tend to believe what they hear on the media if it is repeated often enough. It enabled the Bush administration to survive through its second term despite the mounting problems caused by their failed policies. It wasn't until these conservative policies caused major problems like endless war, crushing debt and financial chaos that people began to be swayed more by realty than conservative Republican talking points.
The Republicans realize that they can't offer workable policies to entice the voters. So they are left with the only other option -- attacking the the Democrats. They decided to come up with a narrative, talking points and catch-phrases that attack the Democrats. But what could they attack? After all, the Democrats haven't been in power that long, and they are doing good work. They successfully dealt with the economic crisis left by the Bush administration, the bankruptcies of financial institutions and major automobile companies.
Without anything real to attack, Republicans decided to base an attack on very abstract words and phrases such as "socialism". Despite the fact that their is no gun legislation, they stated that they were concerned that they wouldn't be able to have as many guns as they wanted. Despite the fact that they ignored the mounting national debt that Bush doubled during his 8 years in office, they attempted to say that Bush didn't create his own debt, it was President Obama and the Democrats! They blame Obama for having to spend money in order to prevent Bush's conservative policies from crashing the economy and creating another Great Depression. And of course, they repeated the words "freedoms" and "taxes", but failed to link them with any specific issue or problem along those lines. But the major ploy seems to be this: A loose assortment of Republican backers such as Fox News, conservative talk shows began pushing an odd collections of people to rally at "Tea parties". The reasoning is that this makes it look like a number of Americans are against the Democrats. They attempt to make this look like a grass-roots phenomenon despite the fact that Fox News, conservative talk shows and Republicans politicians are beating the bushes to get these people to show up at the rallies.
Will it work? Will Americans turn right around and vote the Republicans back into office despite the nightmare years of the Bush administration, and the overwhelming competence and successes of the Obama administration? I would have bet that it would work, at least to a limited extent, if the Republicans had been able to kill the health reform bill. After all, as any politician knows, people support a politician first because he looks powerful and succeeds at what he sets out to do, and only secondly because he has good ideas and implements policies that work. But after a roller coaster ride, President Obama and the Democrats prevailed, the health care bill passed, and the Republicans were branded as uncaring obstructionists, and not too successful at that. The economy can only get better by the 2010 elections. The troops will be coming home from Iraq. Health care reform will not be an issue, but an eagerly anticipated event. It's going to be another uphill battle for the Republicans.
Will the Republicans be able to use the Tea Party to promote the notion that the majority of Americans are rebelling against the Democrats? Will broad catch-phrase instead of substance be enough? Or will the Tea Party be equated with mentally unbalanced crackpots, racists and those with a lower class of intelligence? How many people still fail to see Fox News and conservative talk shows pulling the puppets strings? Will a right-wing "create our own reality" portrayal of the Democrats by the Republicans sway voters once again this fall?