Political consultants continue to doom the Republican Party

This fall if Steve Greenberg’s loses to Melissa Bean in the 8th Congressional District we’re expecting Tom Cole’s excuse to sound much like his recent comments following Jim Oberweis’ defeat in the 14th:

Maybe Steve wasn’t the best of candidates.

Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole is the new Trickster in Chief over at the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the U.S. House Republicans. He’s the guy who is filling the vacuum left by the exit of Karl Rove from the White House and Ken Mehlman from the Republican National Committee.

Karl and Ken were the guys who helped prepare the ground for the comback of the Democrats in 2006.

Cole is in many ways perfect for the job of Chairman of the NRCC—especially if you want more of what you’ve been getting. For many years Tom Cole earned his living as a campaign consultant, where cool things like micro-targeting and “robo calls” and clever TV, radio, and direct mailing advertising blitzes make political hacks into wealthy people.

You can consider it a rule of thumb: over-reliance on a campaign consultant’s bag of tricks means the political office holders aren’t getting the job done. If politicians aren’t accomplishing enough, they then have to rely on expensive and shallow p.r. efforts to fool voters into giving them another term.

We’ve pointed out how former Speaker Dennis Hastert’s leadership had successfully exported failed Republican thought and action from Illinois to the nation. Republicans held power but more often than not governed like Democrats, so the end of their majorities was predictable. The hope following that defeat was that they’d learn from it. Unfortunately, it seems they haven’t.

Thus far there have been few signs that Congressional Republicans are behaving any differently. Sure, they might occasionally be holding an extra press conference, but rather than fashioning a real reform agenda and then executing a sustained and innovative strategy to sell that agenda to voters, they’ve decided to put a political consultant in charge.

A recent news story reported this:

With eight months to go before the U.S. presidential election, the candidates have raised almost $1 billion to fund their campaigns—more than the size of the economies of several African countries,” Reuters reports. “The unusually long race for the White House—which began in earnest more than a year ago—has been a cash bonanza, especially for Democrats who are breaking all records.

Make no mistake: despite all the money spent, public opinion probably won’t be impacted to any meaningful degree.

After all the campaign spending records are set, very few Americans will understand that government taking more money out of the productive sector of the economy is not conducive to economic growth. And few voters will have a better grasp of how health care should be reformed or how hiring more federal bureaucrats hurts rather than helps.

When it comes to foreign policy, not enough people realize yet that air travel plus biological and chemical weapons makes the world is a very small place in the 21st Century. Since human nature doesn’t change, it’s unlikely that our enemies will be deterred by Barack Obama’s sunny personality. His supposed eloquence won’t keep them from wanting to do this country and its people real harm.

It was just four years ago that our last Trickster in Chief Karl Rove was talking about permanent Republican majorities. But then, oops, Karl found out that voters actually expected to see results from those they entrusted with power.

Karl’s big bag of tricks stopped producing, so it was time for him to go share his extensive knowledge and draw up elector maps based on polling for the Fox News channel. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Rove’s understanding of campaign mechanics much like I admire a good auto mechanic. What I’d argue, though, is that you shouldn’t take the guy out of the garage and put him in charge of nationwide political communications strategy.

Let’s carry this a step further. You don’t hire a mechanic unless you’ve got a mechanical problem. In politics, our leaders still haven’t figured out that what they have is a serious communications problem that will never be fixed by consultants who profit from its continuation.

Because Republicans squandered their power, they lost it. Now that they’re out of power, Republican still aren’t presenting voters with an easy to understand explanation of how the GOP would govern if they were to do so based on their party’s platform principles.

Ken Mehlman, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, recently offered this profound quote:

Right now, we are where we are.

Wonderful. Way to go, Ken. Thanks for all your hard work. Oh, but Mehlman thinks “Tom Cole is the perfect leader.”

In Mehlman’s eyes, another guy with a bag of tricks is just what’s needed when the goal is winning campaigns without a list of accomplishments or compelling message.

Some may say that I’m jumping to conclusions about Tom Cole’s abilities. More on that topic tomorrow.