The Republican Party's success over the past several years, until the November election, was due in large part to their framing of the issues. Their concern about facts and positions was secondary because they picked the issues to be discussed. It was a marvelous strategy and worked with amazing success. It had only one flaw. It was interrupted by reality.
It seemed Republicans had the magic formula for winning votes. They simply found the common denominator among key groups, issues strong enough, emotionally charged enough, to make people abandon loyalty to their other long-standing beliefs to secure their future with regard to that one precious issue. They were the masters of the single-issue campaign, and fear was their key motivator.
Fear is one of the basest emotions, at the root of survival instincts. When it is appealed to, it is one of the most effective motivators. Republicans became masters at framing campaign issues in fear.
Vote for Republicans. We're for Homeland Security.
"Homeland Security" -- a brilliant marketing term. If they could have bottled it and sold it, it would have made them billions of dollars.
Who could have watched the events of 9/11 and not felt fear for ourselves and for our nation? We all experienced trauma, in a way many had never before and in a way we may never again. The Republican strategy seized on that weakness, like a master manipulator, and used it rather than healing it. Regardless of whether you view this as opportunism at its worst or the only way to save our nation, the fact is it worked. At least it worked for a time.
Initially, when someone raised an objection to the Bush Administration's approach to The War on Terror, domestic surveillance or the Iraq War, Republicans simply waived the Homeland Security flag, said anyone who opposed them was unpatriotic and rather dismissively said, "Go away."
The Bush Administration and its followers badmouthed, spied upon, arrested and even blacklisted people who dared to express opposing views. It was all quite McCarthy-esque.
But little beams of light did break through. Reality persisted. It's kind of annoying that way. The Administration attempted to maintain a choke hold on much of the media. They used innovative techniques such as "embedding" journalist with troops, making them one of the team fighting the war and therefore emotionally embedded as well. They used old standards such as intimidation and revealing government secrets to control people's public speech. Nonetheless, little bits of accurate information made it through the media and into the stream of public consciousness. Reality is just so annoying that way.
Eventually, it became clear to the vast majority of people, undeniable even for President Bush, that the war in Iraq is going badly. Unfortunately, that CNN footage of IED's repeatedly blowing American military vehicles to pieces, with American men and women inside, does nothing to bolster our image of Homeland Security.
Expert after expert has come forward declaring the Iraq War has disintegrated into Civil War. Our efforts may have destabilized the region to a great degree, fostering the strengthening of dangerous factions that are likely to remain long after American troops leave the arena, and creating a much greater threat to Homeland Security than the alleged WMD which were never found.
Americans are worn out by fear. They want a way forward that will work. They are tired of threats of failure used to control.
Before the war, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that "there will always be some uncertainty" in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon and stressed, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Now President Bush warns, "If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons."
Americans want, need, are yearning for, a positive way forward. The key is hope, not dire predictions and threats.
Enter Obama. This is where Obama's message has been wildly successful and will continue to be so. The presentation of his message is always positive.
Barack Obama may or may not be the winner in '08, but whoever the winner is will learn from his message. The winner will have a plan, although it need not be complicated, voters are rarely interested in details, and an identifiable goal, revealing the way to an obviously attainable successful conclusion.
Fear will always be a motivator, but the leader who shows voters the path to success, the way to triumph over fear, will win in '08.