Did you need a little Monday morning reminder of why GOP politics and libertarian ideals so rarely mix when Republicans hold power? Well check out this piece from last week by Yahoo News' Chris Moody, who went inside a recent Republican Governors Association plenary session to watch spinmeister Frank Luntz give a bizarre list of 10 GOP-messaging do's and don'ts in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Here's how Luntz set the tone:
"I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death," said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation's foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."
Notes from his Top (Bottom?) 10 list:
1. Don't say 'capitalism.'
"I'm trying to get that word removed and we're replacing it with either 'economic freedom' or 'free market,' " Luntz said. "The public ... still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we're seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we've got a problem." [...]
5. Don't say 'government spending.' Call it 'waste.'
"It's not about 'government spending.' It's about 'waste.' That's what makes people angry."
To overstate what should be the obvious, there is a roughly zero percent chance of OWS converting Americans into democratic socialists, let alone Norweigians. The movement is, however, (like the Tea Party, though in a different way) drawing attention to the fact that our capitalistesque system is too often manipulated to protect deep-pocketed capitalists from their own failures, at the expense of justice, efficiency, common sense, and the rest of us. The historical moment when any capitalism-defender should have really been terrified was when the most recent Republican president said: "My natural instinct is to oppose government intervention. I believe companies that make bad decisions should be allowed to go out of business. Under normal circumstances, I would have followed this course. But these are not normal circumstances."
Luntz's desire to get the word capitalism "removed" from political discourse speaks for itself. My capitalism- and bad metaphor-loving heart reckons that the best way to make a urine-soaked rose smell better is to stop pissing on it, rather than try to banish the word "flower" from your vocabulary.
And while Luntz probably has a better statistical grounding than I on the question of "what makes people angry," a political party that cares more about (alleged) $16 muffins than 2011's very real $1.3 trillion budget deficit does not deserve to be taken seriously by the clear majorities of Americans who think, rightly, that government spending and debt are urgent national problems.