The New York Times article “Can Republicans Win by Just Saying No?” by Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam examines the strategies contemporary politicians act upon to effectively transmute their ideals and message to the public in a manner that raises the support of the politician and/or party. The notion is posed that, rather than traditional use of detailed policy planning to communicate the political agenda of the party, it is more useful to simply “point to voters’ frustrations with the high prices of gasoline and groceries,” in other words evoke emotion out of the citizens, in order for them to side with the agenda of the political party—more specifically, the Republican party. Because of this change in preference of tactic, Askarinam and Hounshell imply that “as a political strategy… no plan probably beats a plan” . This exact conclusion poses a serious issue and leads to heavy inquiry about the state of political discussion and action within the United States. The key points and claims of this article highlight a critical component of ideological liberal democracy that is currently being—or, possibly, has been—lost in the United States, furthermore revealing the destructive democratic erosion occurring within contemporary United States politics: the ability to discuss political agenda without manipulative, corrupt rhetoric. This post will cover the inherent values and inner workings of pure democracy, why they are important for the political system, and how they have been lost in the realm of modern United States political affairs, especially through populist rhetoric.
As political scientist Robert Dahl has mentioned in his analyses of democracies and their true meaning and purpose, inherent in democracy is conflict . A balanced democracy will, naturally, have opposing sides, but there will be healthy discourse of logic and reason in order for the public to discern what position is truly in the best interest for the common people. A thorough and true discourse of this matter must come from a place where there is detailed policy and reasoning as to why such policy exists, as well as why it is of more benefit to the public for such policy to be enacted instead of the agenda of the contrasting party (like Senator Rick Scott is originally planning on proposing ). When political affairs are treated as an intellectual matter that ought to have policies and thoughts dissected, the consensus from the public will most likely portray one of true general welfare, or common good, based on the valuable discourse provided.
However, when Republican strategists like Corry Bliss are exclaiming that the planning of policy and agenda, as well as its deliberation to citizens, as unnecessary , it is apparent how the values of United States democracy have been skewed to the point where emotional rhetoric is enough to mobilize the public into action, without them taking a step back to truly analyze the presented agenda with its future implications. This reality, where stark emotions such as rage and heavy dissatisfaction take control over the public in political affairs, unfortunately illustrates the erosion of democracy and its original purposes and systems within the United States.
Political parties—in this context, the Republican party—are violating the critical democratic norm of mutual tolerance, which grants the opposing party value, credibility, and the position of an equal in the political spectrum , through the invalidation of said party via rhetoric. There have been numerous times when former President Donald Trump has instigated within his audience a feeling of hatred and disgust towards the opposing party, with the belief that said party is working towards the detriment of that audience, therefore kicking the Democrats off any sort of valid platform. Even the New York Times articles illustrates the position (from a Republican historian) that the best option for Republican political figures is to “criticize rather than be specific about… remedies” . These tactics can be defined as those of populist rhetoric, which redirect blame and responsibility from the populist, in addition to the delegitimization of the opposing party and use of pathos-oriented persuasion .
The extreme populist position held by the way certain Republican political figures handle their affairs in no way embodies a righteous and honest form of democratic norms. The inability all political positions to unanimously agree on the importance of logos-oriented discourse regarding the inherent, unstoppable conflict between the political parties clearly exhibits the erosion of, arguable, one of the most important components of what is to be considered a true democracy.
It is absolutely crucial for these realizations about the current state of the United States political sphere to be made, and for such realizations to be discussed between peers and citizens nationwide, for it is only the general public who can truly advocate and push for an actual consolidation of original, beneficial democratic norms in the country, positively impacting the generations (and future discourses on policies) to come.
Works Cited Hounshell, Blake, and Leah Askarinam. “Can Republicans Win by Just Saying No?” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 31, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/us/politics/republican-midterm-strategy.html.  Dahl, R. (1972). Polyarchy Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.  Levitsky, S. & Ziblatt, D. (2018). How Democracies Die. Crown publishing.  Müller, Jan-Werner. 2016. What is populism?