The Esoteric Wisdom of Frank Luntz

The elections are over. We lost. They won.

But what does it mean?

To provide a meaningless answer to this meaningless question, the New York Times enlisted Frank Luntz, former adviser to Newt Gingrich (whom he describes, if I may digress, as “the smartest man I had ever worked for”; that should give you an idea of where this is going), and his asinine appraisal of the 2014 mid-term elections goes a little something like this:

The current narrative, that this election was a rejection of President Obama, misses the mark. So does the idea that it was a mandate for an extreme conservative agenda. According to a survey my firm fielded on election night for the political-advocacy organization Each American Dream, it was more important that a candidate “shake up and change the way Washington operates.”

I didn’t need a poll to tell me that. This year I traveled the country listening to voters, from Miami to Anchorage, 30 states and counting. And from the reddest rural towns to the bluest big cities, the sentiment is the same. People say Washington is broken and on the decline, that government no longer works for them — only for the rich and powerful.

They voted out those who promised to do more in favor of those who said they would do less, but do it better. That’s why the Democratic candidates for governor who condemned their opponents for spending too little on education, transportation and programs for the poor and unemployed still lost. The results were less about the size of government than about making government efficient, effective and accountable. Our election night survey showed that 42 percent chose their Senate candidate because they hated the opponent more. One pre-election poll had over 70 percent willing to throw everyone out and start fresh.

Winning on Election Day is not the end. The objective can’t be just to bide time for the next election; that’s a losing strategy. The mission has to be a restoration of confidence in the future. The question is: What can Republicans at all levels do to make this happen, and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past?

First, hold Washington accountable. From the cover-ups of veterans dying while being denied care to using the I.R.S. to target conservative groups, recent scandals highlight the chasm between hard-working taxpayers and Washington. But this also means holding your colleagues accountable. No turning a blind eye to broken promises. If you’re truly different, act truly differently.

Second, make the people’s priorities your priorities. In our survey, the top priorities were making the government more efficient and controlling spending. So tackle deficits and the national debt, and root out the waste and abuse of government programs. Reduce the crippling red tape and regulations that are strangling small businesses. As the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said, show that a Republican Congress has both the wisdom to listen and the courage to lead.

Third, stop blustering and fighting. Americans despair of the pointless posturing, empty promises and bad policies that result. Show that you are more concerned with people than politics. Don’t be afraid to work with your opponents if it means achieving real results. Democrats and Republicans disagree on a lot, but there are also opportunities of real national importance, like national security and passing the trans-Atlantic trade deal.

Aside from a small activist constituency, Americans are not looking for another fight over same-sex marriage or abortion. This isn’t to say that voters want their leaders to co-opt their convictions. People are simply tired of identity politics that pit men against women, black against white, wealthy against poor. More than ever, they want leadership that brings us together.

This isn’t about pride of ownership regarding American progress; this is about progress, period. Americans don’t care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They just want common-sense solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can’t get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this clusterfuck of intellectual dishonesty, I want to make something perfectly clear: these elections were not unique. So often does the President’s party lose Congress in the mid-term elections that we actually have a term to describe it: Mid-term Blues.

If we have learned anything from post-WWII elections, it is that Americans tend to prefer a divided government. There is no reason whatsoever to suspect Republican gains made in 2014 mid-term elections are any different the gains they made in the 1994 mid-term elections; but, as I said, historical voting trends don’t make for engaging subject matter. So, instead, we’re listening to Republican shill Frank Luntz spew a bunch of tired bullshit about “common sense” and “holding Washington accountable” (two phrases used so often and so ambiguously they have lost all meaning).

So, what are we supposed to take away from Luntz’s drivel?

That Americans are tired of “identity politics”, so they voted for the very party that brought identity politics into the 21st century? The party of the Southern Strategy? The party Lee Atwater? The party of Rush Limbaugh’s “sluts”? The party that tells us there are “two Americas”? The party that has without falter and at every turn taken enormous steps to paint liberals as unpatriotic traitors who hate God, America, and Constitution?

That Americans want government to stop “blustering and fighting”, so they voted for the party so unwilling to compromise on even the most meaningless issues that they not only rendered the sitting legislature the least productive in American history, but last year wound up shutting down the goddamned government?

That voters expect “common sense” solutions from these obstreperous assholes?

Yeah, sounds reasonable.


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