Harry Reid’s love of demagoguery and the 2014 elections


Harry Reid’s love of demagoguery and the 2014 elections

By Dave Andrusko

Two separate but related stories in POLITICO speak—make that shout—volumes.

The first, written by James Hohmann, is headlined, “2014 Senate rankings: Map favors GOP.” Bearing in mind that there have already been and will no doubt be more “waves”—some where GOP prospects ebb, others where they will flow– Hohmann’s lead sentence is, “With four months until Election Day, Republicans are as close to winning the Senate as they’ve been since losing it in 2006.”

The reasons are not complicated. Incumbent Republican senators are looking solid; there are “top recruits” taking on first-term Democratic senators; and “Obama’s approval rating continues to hover around his all-time lows, especially in the GOP-leaning states that will decide control of the upper chamber.” And, of course, there are many more Democrats up for re-election in 2014 than Republicans.

With that in mind, consider a remarkable piece by Kenneth P. Vogel which ran under the title, “Behind Harry Reid’s war against the Koch brothers.” Our single-issue concern is not the Koch brothers per se but what Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nv.) is attempting to do with what can be—at best—characterized as a demagogic attack on two rich men who (like their Democratic counterparts) are contributing millions to nonprofits that support conservative candidates and hammer liberal candidates.

Here are just a few of the characterizations of Reid’s habit of saying whatever comes to his mind, the more vicious the better. The first is the opening of Vogel’s story:

“At first, it seemed like just another example of Harry Reid being Harry Reid.

“The Senate majority leader, whose unscripted attacks can veer into bellicosity and take liberties with facts, spoke on the Senate floor last October and appeared to blame billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch for the government shutdown.’

Yup, Harry being Harry. Then there’s

“His staff affectionately refers to such ad libs as Reid ‘getting out ahead of his skis.’”

How cute.

About a third of the way in, Vogel writes

“Still, Reid’s attacks have drawn cries of McCarthyism from around the political world, including MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and Mother Jones editor Daniel Schulman. And they’ve even created discomfort among liberal big-money donors and operatives, who worry the argument might expose them to charges of hypocrisy, while they also question the effectiveness of running against donors who won’t appear on any ballots.”

And then these intriguing passages:

“Coincidentally, in the midst of that early strategizing, Senate Democrats huddled for their annual retreat at Nationals Park, where they heard a presentation from business-messaging gurus Chip and Dan Heath, who touched on the effectiveness of identifying foils.

“Their breakout book, ‘Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,’ asserts that in order to gain traction for ideas, it’s helpful to replicate some facets of urban legends and conspiracy theories. They encourage readers to make their ideas about people, rather than abstractions and to tap into emotions such as ‘fear, disgust, suspicion.’

“The Heath brothers didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“But an operative who has worked with Reid said the presentation ‘had some impact. In some ways, it affirmed what we were considering with the Kochs.’”

These are the kind of loathsome tactics that Reid embraces: appeals to fear, disgust, suspicion—and don’t forget to mix in “some facets of urban legends and conspiracy theories.”

“War on women” anyone?