Republicans say a proliferation of sympathetic media outlets will make it easier for them to get their message across in the debate over health care and entitlement reform.
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has been a leading proponent of repealing the health care law, said Republicans cannot blink in their fight to repeal health care and should use sympathetic media outlets, such as Fox News, to their advantage in getting their message across.
But King contends Republicans have to match their words with their deeds as they try to convey their message to the public that the health care law and other entitlements are placing the nation in danger of a fiscal catastrophe.
“Piece by piece, there are a lot of little things that sound appealing to people in the health care law,” said Tony Blankley, a noted commentator and former press secretary to Newt Gingrich. “But Republicans need to make one big point and several small points. We simply can’t afford the scope of the spending on health care, so we simply just can’t afford it.”
Blankley contrasts the current situation with what Republicans faced 15 years ago when Bill Clinton was able to politically outmaneuver Newt Gingrich, then the Republican House Speaker, and the GOP by pinning the blame on them for the government shutdown.
Major media outlets like CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and The New York Times took the president’s side and made it impossible for Republicans to get their message across, many Republicans believe. This in turn aided Clinton’s comeback after the 1994 midterms and helped secure his victory in the 1996 presidential election.
“We didn’t shut down the government,” Blankley said. “We passed a short-term [funding bill] that President Clinton decided to veto ̶ not to sign ̶ and thereby we lost that battle.”
But the subsequent advent of Fox News and conservative-leaning media outlets on the Internet have deprived Democrats of the information monopoly they had in the Clinton era, according to Blankley.
The growth of the media outlets favorable to the GOP makes Blankley confident the Republican leadership will have an easier time getting their message across to voters and keeping Democrats from gaining momentum.
“I think we have a reasonably good chance of defining the issues the way the public saw the issues during the election,” Blankley said. “A lot of the reason the Republicans won the election was the people were concerned about the administration’s spending habits.
“I think it will be a very fair fight, and I think we have the chance to communicate very well, and I see no reason why ’95 has to repeat itself the way it played out.”
Ultimate success will require Republicans to appeal to the emotions of the masses rather than boring them with a stream of facts, according to Dr. Charles Kenny, a pioneer in emotional research and author of “The Right Brain Way: Drive Your Brand with the Power of Emotion.”
Kenny has a track record of successes in the corporate marketing world, having played a key role in saving Chevrolet’s Corvette brand.
It will not be adequate for Republicans to attack entitlement spending because they will need to provide Americans with an alternative using language they can understand, Kenny said.
But Kenny cautions that the GOP needs to speak with a consistent, single voice that connects with the voters on an emotional rather than an intellectual level.
Besides the media advantage the GOP has today that it didn’t have in the mid-1990s, Blankley contends current House Speaker John Boehner lacks the polarizing tendencies that he and Gingrich fell victim to in the 1990s, which could make it harder for the Democrats to demonize the GOP.
“And that battle I think is easily winnable this time with the media personalities involved, and also the American public is much more concerned about deficit now than it was 15 years ago because it is so much worse,” Blankley said.