What the GOP can learn from Obama, Reagan, and even Hitler

For 2016, the Republican Party should get back up on their feet and take a few cues from Obama, Reagan, and (ahem) Hitler. Photo: Associated Press

PHOENIX, November 24, 2012 — The 2012 presidential election was a devastating setback for the Republican Party. Still and all, for 2016 the Republican Party should get back up on their feet and take a few cues from Obama, Reagan and Hitler. 

In 2008, Obama won the country over with his promise of hope and change, but it wasn’t just the words he was saying, it was the way he delivered them.

Then-Senator Obama was arguably the most articulate presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan. Even people who disagreed with his policies agreed that he knew how to make them sound like the right path to the future. Hope and change? We could believe in it.

Being in the audience during an Obama speech is a powerful experience. Many of us who listened to him in 2008 found ourselves wondering whether his vision for American might not really become a reality if he were elected the 44 president. 

Any person can get up in front of a crowd and give a speech promising hope and change, but it takes a special talent to actually make people believe you. If Obama didn’t carry the “great communicator” trait, he probably wouldn’t have defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008. 

Obama is hardly the first man to hold audiences in his hand with his rhetoric. Cicero was said to have that gift, and Shakespeare gave a large nod to the power of political oratory when he penned Marc Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar in his play, “Julius Caesar.” 

In post-WWI Germany, Hitler rose to power because he successfully convinced Germans that he could end the calamitous state that Germany had been thrust into by what they considered the vindictive Allies.  

Germany was strapped with enormous, punitive war reparations that destroyed any chance of economic growth or political stability. The country plunged from being a European center of culture and prosperity to a broken nation with no clear direction. 

Though Hitler largely lied to the Germans as he swept them to support of his perverted Reich, they listened to his lies willingly, drinking them down with pleasure. Before he had his SS and his Gestapo, he had the power of his rhetoric. Hitler spoke in a way that gave voice to the thoughts, hopes and fears of his listeners, convincing them that he must be right because they’d had these ideas on their own, or because they thought they had.  

Hitler represents the undiluted evil side of political rhetoric, but he was  indeed a “great communicator,” as other successful leaders of our mass-media age have learned to be. The point isn’t what he made people believe, but that he made them believe. 

Ronald Reagan had the same gift. His tone wasn’t Hitler’s angry bombast, but a winning mid-western sincerity that made supportive and neutral listeners feel that he was speaking to them, voicing their beliefs in a way that made perfect sense. It was strongly tinged with humor, and people who don’t remember his actual policies still remember the man with enormous affection. 

Reagan won the presidency because he spoke to the American heart, or more importantly, what Americans believed was the American heart. He taught Americans in an understandable way about the need for a smaller government and the importance of standing up to the Soviet Union.  

Instead of beating around the bush, Reagan said of the Soviet Union, “we win, they lose.” Critics were horrified by what they considered his militaristic rhetoric, but Reagan ushered in the end of the Cold War. 

Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Adolf Hitler couldn’t be any further apart on the moral and political spectra, but together they are all “great communicators.” 

What makes them great is hard to pin down, but it isn’t just rhetoric. It would be a disasterous mistake for Republicans to think that they just need to say what they’ve been saying better. They need to better define and understand what their message is. Our “great communicators” each had a clear message, a message that was relatively simple, a message that they deeply believed, and a message that their listeners could and wanted to believe. Focus groups and message bracketing and calibration are all important tools of the trade, but they aren’t the message. 

Communication was a hard lesson for the Republicans in 2012. Romney’s message wasn’t always clear, and people weren’t convinced that he believed it. Senatorial candidates probably did believe their remarks about rape, but that message was ill-formed and not the one their listeners were waiting to hear. Many Republicans seemed offended and hurt that their message on immigrants was perceived as anti-immigrant, but they didn’t hear what they were saying with the ears of Latino Americans. Their message was anti-immigrant.

Careless, thoughtless remarks up and down the ticket contributed to the Republicans not doing as well in the elections as they could have. It wasn’t just a problem of saying things badly, but of not having a clear idea of what the message should be. 

Barack Obama should have been an easy president to unseat. The economy has yet to recover and his autocratic style of leadership is beyond belief. he knows the country isn’t where it should be. He also knows how to proclaim to the electorate that four more years of his administration will get us back on track. He knows his message and sticks to it. That is how he triumphed over Mitt Romney.  

To win over the country, Republicans need to nominate a candidate who can articulate Conservatism in a coherent and inviting manner. 

For 2016, it’s time to dismiss the so-called “electable” candidate and nominate a great communicator who has a message, believes in it, and can share it in a thoughtful, clear way. Only then can they win the hearts and votes of the nation.  

Henry D’Andrea is a Conservative opinion columnist at the Communities @ the Washington Times. Feel free to email Mr. D’Andrea at writedandrea@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter (@TheHenry)


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Henry D'Andrea

Henry D'Andrea is a Conservative columnist and commentator. He writes a weekly column at the Washington Times Communities called "The Conscience of a Conservative," which features his commentary on current events and political stories from a conservative perspective. He often writes on foreign policy, domestic and economic issues, the conservative movement, and elections.

 

D’Andrea has been a guest on many radio shows throughout the country since writing columns at the Washington Times Communities. His work has been featured in many publications, including Townhall.com, Commentary Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Tea Party Review Magazine, Big Government, Big Journalism, The Gateway Pundit, Instapundit, and many more.

 

Feel free to contact Henry D'Andrea at writedandrea@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @TheHenry 

 

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