The Media Beats a Dead Macaca
By: Michael R. Shannon
Former Virginia GOP Senator George Allen has always been more politician than movement conservative. Allen throws us the occasional social issue vote — he opposes abortions, except in the politically expedient case of rape and incest, and he’s on record as supporting gravity and man/woman marriage — but George is also a big spender and crony capitalist, which come to think of it, is also politically expedient.
But after watching his performance in the Fairfax County Chamber’s Senate Candidate debate with former Governor Tim Kaine, one starts to wonder if he’s much of a politician.
In 1994 Republicans took the House after Hillarycare collapsed. In 2010 Republicans took the House in response to Obamacare. A majority of the public still opposes Obamacare and wants to see it repealed. Discussion of and opposition to Obamacare should be a given for any conservative Senate candidate.
Yet during the debate Allen uses the leaden euphemism “healthcare tax bill” instead of the more obvious Obamacare.
This is a mistake on two levels. “Healthcare tax bill” is a term that only saw light after Chief Justice John Roberts applied for asylum at the White House and ruled Obamacare constitutional. To understand the term a listener must be reminded of the decision — something conservatives want to forget — and then connect it with Obamacare.
So it’s a descriptor that’s once removed from the topic at hand. Secondly this bloodless term has none of the baggage and negative connotations that Obamacare has acquired. So why use it at all unless your goal is to discourage your own vote?
Does some consultant think that using Obamacare will alienate independents? Good grief, even Obama embraces Obamacare as a label. And is that also why Allen talks about reforming the “healthcare tax bill” rather than repealing it?
Even in Minnesota — a state that sent Al Franken to the Senate! — a majority of likely voters want Obamacare repealed. In 2010 Virginia voters didn’t defeat Democrat incumbent Congressmen Glenn Nye, Rick Boucher and Tom Perriello because they wanted to send Obamacare to rehab.
Voters want it sent to Restland.
Consultant–pecked candidates pledging to tinker around the edges of Obamacare are everything that’s wrong with conservative politics today. It sucks the enthusiasm out of your own base in a futile effort to seem less threatening to people who won’t vote for you anyway.
However, I know this discussion is inside political baseball. Readers are really asking: What about Macaca? The term Allen used to describe a Democrat tracker during the Senate re–election campaign he lost over six years ago.
It just so happens 34 minutes and 31 seconds into the debate Macaca reared its ugly head (on second thought this particular topic might not be the best candidate for personification, so let’s just say the question appeared).
Holy smoke! What’s the statute of limitations on stupidity? George Allen is a serial apologizer for his Macaca comment. Allen personally endowed the Macaca Studies chair at the University of Virgina. He journeyed overseas and built a school in Macaca’s village. The entire Allen family sends him a non–denominational “Season’s Greetings” card every winter solstice.
What more does the media want?
Why does the MSM have a memory like an elephant for Republican mistakes, but when a Democrat sounds like a jackass interest dies in a month? In mid–August Vice Buffoon Joe Biden tells a campaign audience full of blacks that Republican policies are designed “to put y’all back in chains.” By mid–September the controversy is gone.
By comparison, what would the MSM would do if Paul Ryan told an audience of Jews that Democrat policies on Iran are designed to “put y’all back in the ovens?” Let me save you the trouble. For the next decade demonstrators dressed as kitchen appliances would appear outside Ryan events as the media jostled each other for the chance to interview the burner with a brain.
And should Ryan participate in a debate, he would be peppered with penetrating questions from Anderson Cooper, just as soon as Andy was able to remove his Jenn–Air costume.
If George is paying attention, there’s actually a lesson in semantics buried here among the bias. The debate questioner didn’t ask George about “an unfortunate slip of the tongue” during a campaign rally. She asked about Macaca because she knew the word had impact, would put Allen on the spot and would reaffirm her caring credentials among peers and watching Democrats. (Save your email. I know this is redundant.)
Obamacare does the same thing for public policy. The word is motivational. It shows conservatives that Allen is on their side and the unpopularity of the issue puts Kaine on the spot.
Allen’s consultants appear to be telling him otherwise, but I suggest if he has any doubts, George should call former Congressmen Boucher, Nye or Perriello and ask whoever answers the phone if Obamacare is a good word for Republicans and a bad one for Democrats.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.