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Intro: "The Republican party needs to get a grip: cheering executions and booing a gay soldier in prime time are not good for the brand."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the presidential campaign trail, 09/18/11. (photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the presidential campaign trail, 09/18/11. (photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

The Republican Party Needs to Get a Grip

By Ana Marie Cox, Guardian UK

25 September 11


Never mind the candidates, can you believe what GOP debate audiences are telling us? The Republican party needs to get a grip: cheering executions and booing a gay soldier in prime time are not good for the brand.

robably the best thing that can be said about the audiences for the GOP presidential debates is that they are not representative of either the Republican party or the country as a whole. For one thing, debate audiences have an active interest in politics, a passion the overwhelming majority of Americans lack. But that indifference towards the political process also translates into an amiable ambivalence regarding the government's role in our lives: "live and let live" could be our national motto, right behind "super size me", in terms of how often we apply any piece of wisdom to our daily lives.

By contrast - and it is a stark one - Republican debate audiences have thus far shown themselves to be in favor of both government cruelty and personal vengeance.

Thus bloodlust was explicit when a vocal contingent hooted its approval for Rick Perry's bloody tenure as the killingest governor in American history, as well as when a slightly less rabid crowd indicated that sometimes sick people should just be left to die. Yet neither of these distasteful examples of a casual and deadly application of conservative political philosophy was quite as surprising - and as antithetical to a precious GOP myth - as Thursday night's petulant dismissal of a gay soldier whose only offense was honesty.

Obviously, such behavior goes against the "support the troops" jingoism Republicans have traditionally worked in parallel to their enthusiasm for military spending. But at the moment, its hypocrisy isn't quite as galling as the mere fact that it happened.

During the general election, the non-partisan commission on presidential debates oversees the process and it discourages audience participation. So, primary debates have always been more raucous. But in recent memory, they have not been so belligerently so.

What the hell is happening out there? Polls show that Republican voters aren't that excited about their candidates. Then is the exuberance that would be applied to an individual campaign spilling out into indiscriminate exclamations over policy? If so, how come we can't get more vocalising on behalf of the party's less ugly philosophies: three cheers for reducing the corporate income tax! When I say "state," you say "rights!"

Those ideas have their supporters, of course. Fanatical ones (looking at you, Ron Paul). It may just be that issues that can be personalised (there's the soldier, there's the dead prisoner, there's the sick man) draw out more visceral responses.

But what should concern the GOP is how their audiences' reactions distort platforms and campaigns. A 2007 study showed that cheering influenced positively - and measurably - a viewing audience's perception of a candidate's performance. If the campaigns proceed and profit from these unruly, even uncivilised outbreaks, the party will get pulled further and further from the core of its appeal to moderates, which used to be that Republicans are the people who will let you be.

The news outlets that organise these debates have no interest at all in keeping the GOP from embarrassing itself. Indeed, they're willing to lead the way. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

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It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+64 # Anarchist 23 2011-09-25 19:56
This is the party whose Rand Paul followers put a boot on a woman protestor's neck during the senate campaign but their candidate gets elected to the Senate anyway! This is the party whose candidate for Vice President put up little cross-hair gun-sight designs over the names of Democratic office holders and then the Representative from AZ gets shot. The MSM is bought and sold, along with the democratic process itself. To equate what the GOP and its partisans are doing as 'embarrassing' is an innocuous understatement that misses the point he actually made. This is the party that appeals to the most brutish, vengeful, scapegoating impulses of an under-educated, under-employed, underpaid, under-fed population who are angry. And armed. If you think "It can't happen here" you should read some books on the rise of authoritarian regimes. "Fasten your seat-belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride."
+20 # wwway 2011-09-25 22:53
People get the government they deserve. Republicans have made it clear for years that they intend to impose big government cruelty and encourage personal vengance so it should be no surprise to anyone that bloodlust is on the Republican menu.
+22 # ruttaro 2011-09-25 23:15
So it is acceptable to the pro-life party that a sick person who made the choice not to have health insurance should die rather than be cared for? It is acceptable to the pro-life party that state executions of prisoners should continue, the more the merrier? And it is acceptable to the party of "support the troops" to deride and boo a soldier who is gay? So if that gay soldier is captured by the enemy and threatened with death I guess we know what at least the Tea Party Republicans would say. I wonder how Palin squares her deep (but ludicrous) concern about government death panels telling grandma or grandpa that they have to go off an die and the people in her wing of nutballs who yelled that it is OK for a sick person to die? Sounds like the only difference to me is that she replaced a government panel with a mob. Same result.

Anyone interested in forming a "Smart Party" to counter the Tea Party? The Republicans can figure out how to save themselves from the Tea Party but the rest of sane America needs to cancel out every single one of the Tea Party votes. Neuter the Tea Baggers and bring this country into the light.
+15 # LeeBlack 2011-09-25 23:36
The squeaky wheel gets the oil. The GOP is listening only to the noisy people which, as Ms. Cox says, are not representative. The rest of us need to make our voices heard.
+3 # epcraig 2011-09-26 01:36
All the Republican Party needs to do to get my vote Is adopt their old planks in their platform. Anti-trust and conservation would be good starts.
+5 # Skippydelic 2011-09-26 10:14
They'll do *that* when GOPigs fly...
+12 # SouthBrun 2011-09-26 05:09
We are witnessing Arrogance in Action redux. Can we stop the insanity in the 2012 elections?
+15 # feloneouscat 2011-09-26 06:29
What is particularly disturbing about this GOP (vs. that in the past) is it's disdain for government - whilst running for jobs in the government.

I won't even get into the lies, half-truths and outright ugliness. As Cox says, this isn't good for the Republican party. And what isn't good for the Republican party CERTAINLY isn't good for America.

This is perhaps the ugliest, meanest, most cruel group of people running for President I have seen in my 50 years. I'm so very unimpressed by the entire lot.
+17 # Capn Canard 2011-09-26 06:35
The Republicans have easily, comfortably and one could even say that they have joyfully become FASCISTS. Meanwhile the MSM is busy giving meaningless praise and hollow criticism for empty proclamations and insignificant gaffs of these "candidates". And no one seems to notice nor care. They all suggest that cutting taxes will cure the looming deficit and financial crisis. No, I'm not joking. They would have you believe that you can reduce the deficit by cutting taxes and reducing spending alone despite the debt that is currently hanging over your children's heads. Nice. These people are the most irresponsible arrogant buffoons imaginable. WAKE UP
+11 # fredboy 2011-09-26 07:16
The Republican Party is missing the boat by running a line of fruitcakes for president. Where are the quality candidates? Where?

The answer: Moderate Republicans are ashamed. Backing off. Shaking their head. Among them are many remarkably prepared potential candidates. But, amid the hatemongers and fear drones, they don't dare get near the ring much less put their toe or throw their hat in it.

They are also disgraced by the House efforts to continue stalling the nation's economy. This has got to backfire--it should be the key issue the Democrats use to keep the White House and regain the House.

Last, the Democrats best educate the "blue dogs" who helped Republicans create this mess. They are disgraceful, and just look at the damage they have done.
+6 # camus11 2011-09-26 12:00
"Moderate Republicans"?? Are you kidding me?! If Mussolini or Franco were alive today they'd be too "moderate" for today's GOP'ers! "Moderate Republican" is a total oxymoron--a complete fiction. Today's republican party is fascist through and through and there are only extremist GOP'ers and more extremist GOP'ers.
+3 # kyzipster 2011-09-26 09:16
"Probably the best thing that can be said about the audiences for the GOP presidential debates is that they are not representative of either the Republican party or the country as a whole."

It's obvious the writer doesn't know very many registered Republicans.
+5 # fredboy 2011-09-26 11:41
Holyone, they only follow the gods of hate and fear.
+5 # iris 2011-09-26 11:51
how long has it been since the religious nutballs hi-jacked the traditional republican party?
+1 # Adoregon 2011-09-26 12:13
Perhaps the rabid unreflective yahoos of the right FINALLY will convince those U.S. citizens who do vote to vote for candidates OTHER THAN Republicans OR Democrats.
+5 # Paul Scott 2011-09-26 15:31
Interesting how the party of god wants to kill everything that is not GOP.
+3 # fredboy 2011-09-26 15:44
Adoregon, it won't happen. I know a GOP member in Tennessee who voted FOR candidates who ended her carpal tunnel aide and her husband's disability aide, and another in Florida hooked up 24 hours a day to Medicare-paid oxygen who supports GOP kook candidates who oppose Medicare! That's how deep the cult is! Don't want to be around when the GOP hate squad snaps that oxygen line out of her nostrils...
+5 # SilverFox 2011-09-26 15:55
Reply to KYZipster

Well, I don't know many registered republicans. But if they're out there, and they're "not representative" of the audiences at the GOP debates, why the hell aren't they screaming about their precious party being taken away from them?

People are complaining about progressives not speaking up and doing more. Well, these so-called "reasonable republicans" have disappeared.

If that current list of GOP candidates is the best you've got, I suggest you scrap the whole thing and start all over from scratch.

And while we're being honest, let's call these candidates what they are: fascists.
+5 # Terrapin 2011-09-26 18:00
The Republican Party ... kinda reminds me of the ending scene from CABERET ...
Sieg Heil!
And we thought it couldn't happen here.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.
+4 # Third_stone 2011-09-26 20:23
I strongly suspect that there are not very many republicans, but when the faith based voting machines get done with their manipulations, it looks like there are.
0 # propsguy 2011-10-01 21:54
this is what happens when you have one of the worst education levels in the world- a bunch of dumb people who's belief in their superiority is fueled by watching a few too many john wayne movies

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