Is the Republican Party Stupid?

We’re only one caucus into the election season with New Hampshire on deck, but political junkies like me have been following the GOP field for most of the past year. Intelligent, more balanced people won’t pay much attention to things until the conventions in the Summer. Most won’t until after Labor Day, the traditional start of the campaign season (a tradition that’s gone the way of the day after Thanksgiving being the start of the Christmas season).

But political junkies never quit following politics. Like football fans who begin to consider the off-season draft after their teams fail to make it to the playoffs, some people begin to consider prospects for the next election after the first one’s ballots await certification. Continuing the football analogy, pre-season play has just started with the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary. And there have already been injuries that will impact the season, and the crafting of offense plays that could take teams to the Super Bowl.

The Republican Party has already make enough mistakes that we GOP fans are concerned. First, who’s the genius who came up with the idea of holding a bazillion debates, most of which are hosted by key operatives of the opposite party? Take a look at the Debate Schedule. From May 5, 2011 to March 19, 2012 there are a total of 28 intramural debates scheduled. While I cannot find similar statistics for either party prior to this election, it strikes me as a bit much especially when the formats are variants of a question/answer session with the former posed by “moderators.”

Next, check out the sponsors. The majority of the debates were at least partially sponsored by the GOP, i.e. the September 12, 2011 debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express. But the problem is that these sponsorships consist of a news media organization or a group of them coupled with a political entity. While the political entity may support the GOP, the news media outlet it is paired with may not. Take for example the Sept 7, 2011 debate sponsored by the Reagan Library – a conservative supporting institution – paired with NBC and Politico. A UCLA study found that NBC News was biased to the Left. The website Politico, which in its infancy was accused by the Left for being biased against them has focused almost exclusively on the foibles of the GOP, playing a key role in publishing unsubstantiated rumors about Herman Cain that later led to his exit from the race.

Bias itself isn’t the problem. There is nothing wrong with ABC employing former Clinton strategist and Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos as a journalist. But just because he’s a “journalist” does not mean that his political instincts have been neutered and he lacks prejudices against the Republican Party he actively fought for the majority of his career.

These were displayed in their unalloyed grandeur at the Jan 7, 2012 debate in New Hampshire when he brought up the issue of state control over contraception. It is an issue that is irrelevant today after the 1965 Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut which established a right to privacy, setting a precedent cited later by Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe v. Wade is in the GOP platform, and unites the social conservative wing of the party. But contraception is not an issue. While the Roman Catholic church officially opposes it, various Protestant faiths have no problem with it. Romney’s Mormon faith officially allows contraception, but since having children is an important facet of being Mormon, it is unofficially discouraged.

So why did Stephanopoulos raise the topic? Since it isn’t an issue, he could be sure that whomever he asked the question to would be ill-prepared to answer it. Since Stephanopoulos knew Romney is a Mormon, the chances were good that Romney would respond in a way that damaged his standing with the other candidates (taking a liberal position on it) or more likely, expressed the unofficial Mormon position on the topic thereby painting him as an extremist who wanted to ban the Pill. Romney reacted honestly, thereby catching Stephanopoulos in his own trap. If anything unites conservatives, it is distrust of mainstream journalism.

Is the Republican Party stupid? Of the 28 debates only 8 of them are moderated by media outlets friendly to the GOP.

Main OrgPoliticsTotal
Grand Total28
Big 3 NetworksLiberal7
Other LiberalLiberal3
Bloomberg, WAPOLiberal1
Other ConservativeConservative2

Again, there is nothing wrong with bias. FoxNews’s “Fair and Balanced” mantra is annoying. It is impossible to be completely fair and balanced. Humans always have biases which is why double blind studies are considered the gold standard in scientific research. Better to recognize this fact and try to temper one’s biases rather then deny they exist altogether. Conservatives know the mainstream media, Hollywood and much of the non-mainstream outlets on the Internet are biased against them. So why are they allowing these outlets that have an agenda celebrating Democrats  as wise and caring people, and Republicans as hateful, frothing-at-the-mouth extremists to control the apparatus the GOP is using to vet their presidential candidate?

It reminds me of kids in a high school lunch room. The Democrats are the cool kids sitting at the “cool” table, and the Republicans are the frumpy-looking kids who are so desperate to appear cool that they will debase themselves in order to sit with the cool kids. Republicans will never be cool with an attitude like that.

The GOP doesn’t need the dinosaur media like the Big 3 Networks. These outfits are shutting down their news gathering operations because no one watches them anymore. Ratings-wise FoxNews crushes MSNBC, CNBC and CNN - so why did CNN get more debates (8) than FoxNews (6)? An argument can be made that exposing the candidates to aggressive questions from left wing journalists helps weed out those who perform poorly and prepares the eventual nominee for the hurricane-force attacks leveled by journalists on behalf of the Democrats. Yet one could counter that this benefit is lost when the candidates attack using themes such as Romney’s job destruction at Bain Capital. In six months or so Republicans will hear every line uttered by Perry, Huntsman and Gingrich criticizing Romney’s tenure at Bain this week.

So why did the GOP sign up with these liberal outlets? For the same reason that the uncool kids make fools of themselves to entertain the cool kids in high school. They think they’re going to be seen as hip.

Republicans will never be hip in the way they want to be. Conservatives by their very nature question Change, understanding that everything new or popular isn’t necessarily better and everything old or out of date isn’t necessarily worthless. What passes for conservatism today would have been considered liberal as recently as the Reagan Administration. In fact the Tea Party was founded as a reaction to this after conservative Republicans began invading countries and spending profligately like liberal Democrats.

28 debates is overkill. That is close to 3 debates a month, and so far it is questionable how much the party as a whole has benefited from this schedule. The next time we have an open field, one a month would suffice – especially if they were held in different formats (Town Halls, Lincoln-Douglas style) – anything except the question/answer/rebuttal style that only political junkies enjoy.

Also, stick to conservative-friendly sponsors. Fox News should host most of the debates, but how about Big Government, Pj Media, American Conservative or other conservative new media outlets? More people read these websites than watch MSNBC or CNBC. More importantly, these venues would handle questions asked by Republicans to help Republicans decide who their Republican presidential candidate will be. The GOP has smart people. It even has cool people. Nick Gillespie wears a leather jacket and has a tattoo! Such action would show that Republicans are confident, and that while we may not be cool, it doesn’t matter as long as we run the world.

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    Next time, how about starting with some truly conservative nominees ? Just a thought?

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