I cannot remember a time when right wing pundits were more viciously bashing the political left and its leader. In print, TV, and radio, the president is being openly spoken of as a liar, a wannabe dictator, a representative of ‘creeping socialism,’ someone who is secretly seeking to destroy America as we know it, and so forth.
What does this accomplish?
At first glance, depicting the opposition this way seems to strengthen the right. Alternatively, the attacks may not matter at all; conservatives already oppose Obama anyway, and liberals ignore whatever they say.
Another counterintuitive possibility is that these attacks on the left actually help liberals and their objectives. Classical Jewish wisdom concurs with this approach.
The book of Ecclesiastes (3:15) teaches that the Almighty favors one who is being pursued. Ancient Jewish texts add that even when a good person is justifiably pursuing a bad person, a groundswell of public sympathy will be evoked on behalf of the “victim.”
What happened to former President Bill Clinton is illustrative.
In his defense, many felt that Mr. Clinton was a fine president, one who was more fiscally responsible then the Republican presidents who preceded and proceeded him. As a person, he was tainted by scandal. Among other things, he was only the second president to ever be impeached, and his lewd behavior inside the Oval Office debased the prestige of the U.S. presidency when the details of his shameful conduct hit the news, where they would remain for months on end.
The right wingers were always castigating Clinton personally. One famous talk show host almost always referred to him as “Slick Willie.” Clinton, however, was smart enough never to fight back. Public sympathy thus went in one direction only – away from the right and toward the recipient of their criticism. What was the result? Unbelievably, despite his sordid conduct, Mr. Clinton became one of the most admired politicians of the last century. Credit the conservatives.
As for defeating Obamacare, a first step is to put an end to all personal denunciations and accord the president the deference his office mandates.
The focus should instead be on the hardship and suffering that Obamacare is inflicting upon the American people, i.e., ‘My nephew was saving money in order to attend graduate school. But when his healthcare premium became ten times more expensive, his dream was shattered.’ Or, ‘My grandmother’s personal relationship with her doctor is what keeps her alive. She has diabetes and a heart condition, but she can call her physician day or night to advise on symptoms or adjust her meds. Now she is headed for an impersonal HMO, and it might literally kill her.’
In the eyes of the public, this type of focus will transform the foes of Obamacare from heartless monsters into blameless victims – people who are suffering terribly as a result of the new healthcare bill. I feel confident that an ongoing deluge of such messages will defeat Obamacare.
Conservatives could also dwell upon irrefutable facts that speak for themselves. For example, they might continued to point out that despite 3.5 years of preparation for the Obamacare rollout, its computer system failed miserably. Managing actual healthcare is infinitely harder than designing its computer system. Should the medical care of 300 million Americans be entrusted to an entity that is so grossly inept? Again, the people are victims.
The same tactic can also be utilized when battling the other major failings of the Obama Administration.
As for battling President Obama himself, one possible approach is to point out that when the IRS scandal first broke, Mr. Obama proclaimed that the IRS was a semi-autonomous agency that had little to do with him. Indeed, during his eight years as president, George W Bush had but one meeting with the head of the IRS. Yet, while the Tea Party was being harassed, President Obama met with IRS chief Douglas Shulman roughly 160 times — three or four times more than he met with either the secretaries of state or treasury.
An unprecedented number of meetings suggests that an unprecedented type of activity was afoot. Mr. Obama, who promised the country a transparent presidency, should be firmly asked to explain what those meetings were about – specifically, were they discussing how to harass the Tea Party groups? The distraction of personal denunciations should be avoided, but this focused question should be repeatedly but courteously posed until it is satisfactorily answered.
Additionally, if legally doable, Mr. Shulman should perhaps be prosecuted and then offered clemency if he would answer the same question under oath. He would be under no compulsion to either implicate or exonerate the president, but if he dares to lie, he would be sent to prison.
This overarching approach would likely succeed in defeating Obamacare and other initiatives of its chief sponsor. Liberals will object far less once they feel that their ideas and leadership are being respected. Unlike a personal smear, this will not evoke sympathy and support for what is being criticized. In fact, the Democrats, especially ones in red states, may even join with the Republicans on some of these issues. But if conservatives continue to personally attack their foes, is it is almost certain that they will thereby guarantee their own demise and continued liberal victories on almost all fronts.