The news this week brought back the old joke about the European immigrant attending college in New York City. Every time he had to address the teacher, he would stand up and make a courtly bow before asking if the “honored Professor” would honor him with a response. A classmate who was a local decided to disabuse the poor greenhorn of his Old World notions.
“That’s not how we do things here in the United States of America,” he said. “Just ask a question in a casual tone without preliminaries.”
“Sir,” the immigrant countered. “You can get your A your way and let me get mine my way.”
The Republican Party thinks it understands how to score A in politics. You identify the major issues of the day and you develop positions consistent with the pertinent information, the U.S. Constitution, existing laws, traditional practices, morals, ethics and ideals. Then you go out to communicate those views to the public and hope the people react to them by casting votes in your favor.
The Democrat Party has a different approach to acquiring the desired A grade. First you cultivate a series of trite clichés that artfully misrepresent reality in such a manner that all the wrong choices sound exactly right. Should the government spend money it does not have? “To do less would be to abandon the unfortunate.” Should the government interfere in what food we eat, what soft drinks we imbibe, what we smoke, what fuel we drill and mine for, what light bulbs we use, what toilets we use, what shower heads we use, what cars we drive? “To do less would be to abandon the planet.” That concludes the substantive debate.
Then you start the smearing and the scoffing and the sniggering and the scorning, the mocking and the marking and the mucking and the muddying, the putdowns and the potshots, the detractions and the detractions. Laugh at the Republicans, who are anyway all dummies; berate the Republicans, who are anyway all meanies; taunt the Republicans, who are anyway all squares.
This week’s flap over something misguided a Republican candidate said followed the familiar pattern. Mister Akin, running for the post of U.S. Senator from Missouri, acted a mite too Trumanesque in making a preposterous assertion during an interview. He tried to walk the comment back and to change the subject to matters of importance, but to little avail.
It seems to me there are two ways to win, but the Republicans always take the third way. One way to win is by resolutely refusing to get involved in nonsense talk, to never give stupid interviews to ambushing reporters. Just stay on message, speak only about the issues, and make them come to play on your side of the field. With both sides playing the same game, you have a fair shot of winning, and when it is the substance game, the Republican has the home court advantage.
The other way is to play only the other guy’s game. Dredge up his dirt, bait him into talking out of turn, sneer at him with a lip that can match his curl for curl and a nose that can match his upturn for upturn. He says you’re inaccurate, you say he’s a liar; he says you’re a racist, you say he’s a racist and a sexist; he says you’re willing to help the rich at the expense of the poor, you say he actually takes from the poor with his policies and gives to the rich with his government contracts.
One thing is for sure, Republicans are not going to win until they recognize the Democrats are playing a different game. It does not make you look more noble when he’s smashing you but you’re respecting him; it just makes you look naïve and unschooled and misplaced.
I’ll conclude with a story from my own life experience, one I have mentioned here before in detail. Briefly, I was in a store selling Jewish religious articles and I witnessed a quirky sort of negotiation. The store owner kept explaining to the customer the high quality and value of the item he wanted, while the customer just kept trying to haggle down the price. Eventually a young Yeshiva student jumped in and told the storekeeper the following: “Rabbi Cohen, don’t feel bad. The two of you are not actually having a discussion. You are talking about religion but he is talking about money.”
In honor of the birth August 22 of my 9th grandchild, first male who shares my last name, born to Aaron and Devora Homnick of New Jersey.