This post originally appeared on OTYCD in July 2019.
Believe It, You Matter: the GOP really is that bad.
Sarah Jane here. I write all the Believe It, You Matter pieces for OTYCD.
Some time in 2018, I came across tweets from David Roberts (@drvox) that referenced the results of focus groups convened at various times between 2000 and 2014 with voters. They laid out information that showed what the GOP intended to do, if elected.
I’ve had trouble finding direct reference to the George W. Bush-era focus groups, but I was able to find them for the Romney-Ryan campaign in the 2012 cycle.
It describes groups convened by a Democratic Super PAC that attempted to alert voters to the extreme nature of the Romney-Ryan platform–promises to cut taxes for the wealthy and essentially destroy Medicare.
They hit a truly startling finding.
Apparently, a large number of the focus group recruits simply refused to believe that what the Super PAC described was, in fact, the Romney-Ryan platform.
They couldn’t wrap their heads around the notion that real politicians would advocate such unpopular and ruinous policies. Did not make sense. Did not compute. So they rejected the notion that the platform was the platform. It couldn’t be. It was cartoonishly evil. Real American politicians aren’t cartoonishly evil, because democracy, and civility, and American values, and rules and norms, and blah blah blah.
I’m going to drop the cites here before pivoting. Here’s a passage taken from a 2012 piece by David Roberts for Grist:
“If it’s hard for many folks to see the centrism already on offer from Obama, it’s also hard for the general public to see — to really understand — the radicalism on offer from the GOP. In the middle of Robert Draper’s recent New York Times Magazinepiece on Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC, comes this astonishing detail:
Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.[my emphasis]
That is, of course, an entirely accurate description of the Ryan budget plan. It’s precisely what Romney and the congressional GOP have said they will enact. And yet when voters hear it, it sounds over-the-top, like fear-mongering.
My guess is that most voters wouldn’t believe that the GOP has embarked on a nationwide effort to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, but that’s just what they’ve done. (Here’s the latest.) Most voters wouldn’t believe that Romney and the GOP want to end the Environmental Protection Agency as we know it, but that is precisely what they have said they will do; Romney has expressed only eagerness to work with the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in the history of the institution.”
Here is the July 5, 2012 New York Times piece in which Roberts found the information about the focus group. (Scroll down to the subhead with the words “Last December” in bold:
And here is a MaddowBlog piece that references the post-9/11 focus groups. Not an ideal cite, but unfortunately, I can’t find other sources talking about it (I invite others to send them if they find them):
I realized I should pass on this information about the focus group results, but for months, I couldn’t figure out how. One of the fundamental tenets of OTYCD is to offer bad news with substantial side dishes of, you know, THINGS YOU CAN DO to fight back against what the news represents.
The focus group results are important, but they don’t offer anything inherent to act on.
Well, I’ve finally figured it out.
You can use this information when you talk to friends and family about the importance of voting.
It seems gross and Pollyanna-ish to find a silver lining in the torrent of bullshit that Trump has rained upon us since November 2016, but there is this:
The disbelief that people expressed earlier in the century about the GOP should have evaporated by now.
People should be far more likely to believe that the GOP and its goals are cartoonishly evil.
Only people who are cartoonishly evil would stick with Trump, despite the mountains upon mountains of evidence that he’s incompetent, incapable, venal, self-serving, and thoroughly corrupt.
Only people who are cartoonishly evil would support placing babies in cages.
Only people who are cartoonishly evil would go mute in the face of Trump’s outrageous capers with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Mohammad bin Salman, and other autocrats.
Only people who are cartoonishly evil would plow ahead with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh after the president, who was, by then, credibly accused of a felony by Michael Cohen, placed 93 percent of Kavanaugh’s work product under the veil of executive privilege, and off-limits to their evaluation.
Only people who are cartoonishly evil would stand by while Trump refuses to safeguard elections and announces he’d be open to accepting information about opponents from foreign governments, which is a crime.
Only people who are cartoonishly evil… I could write so many more of these. You get the point.
When you talk to friends and family about the importance of voting, you can say “I don’t know what happened, but the GOP has completely gone around the bend. [Reel off a bunch of things they’ve done under Trump, describing each with neutral, factual, uncharged language. That means don’t use the phrase “cartoonishly evil,” btw.] Even if you don’t normally vote for Democrats, it’s important you do so now, to help the country find its way back to something that looks like sanity.”
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