Two markedly different paths forward have emerged for Republicans as they decide how to rebuild and compete in the 2010 elections. These divergent paths have been characterized by the politically similar, Glenn Beck and Joe Scarborough.
Both pundits have an affable personality, but their styles are far apart. Beck makes emotional appeals and frequently embraces conspiracy theories. Scarborough focuses on reason and practical policy solutions. There is a place for emotional appeals but there must be more for a party to move forward. Practical communication of conservative principles, in Scarborough’s style, is the key to the rebirth of the Republican brand.
Republicans must overcome President Obama’s personal popularity to succeed in the 2010 midterms and in 2012. The President ran as the anti-Bush who would be all things to all people. Unlike President Obama’s 2008 campaign strategy, Republicans can’t simply run on the fact that they aren’t their opponent. While the President’s policies are losing traction with independents, his personal popularity is too strong of an asset to compete against as the anti-Obama party.
Beck attempts to appeal to the public as a likeable ordinary guy. This style will lead to a doomsday for Republicans and will squander an opportunity because it fights against the President’s primary strength, likeability. Scarborough attempts to shape the debate by putting forth practical policy suggestions. This style is a winner because it emphasizes the President’s weakness in shaping the policy debate.
President Obama has a unique ability to sell the public pseudo-truths. A recent example is the illogical idea that he can easily cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste from Medicare without a decline in the level of care. Republicans need someone who can counter this preposterous rhetoric but do so in a style that maintains their likability across a broad swath of America.
Beck’s style has the ability to emotionally galvanize red states but it isn’t enough to win national elections. Scarborough’s even-handed style, with its practical application of conservative principles, can appeal to moderate blue and red states. For the GOP to capitalize on the President’s declining popularity, adopting Scarborough’s style is their last best hope at speaking truth to power and pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. Conveniently, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is supplying them with ample material.