The Republicans are not very good at propaganda. They regularly miss the obvious.
It can be argued that Bill Clinton was the best Republican president since Eisenhower, until Barack Obama came along. Both of them used traditional Republican ideas. It only looked liberal by comparison with the lunatic fringe that hijacked the republican party.
What Romney could have done, should have done, in 2012 was point out that Obamacare was successful because it was modeled after Romneycare in Massachusetts. He should have campaigned that the success of Clinton and Obama was because they were using traditional republican ideas… and that it was time for Republicans to take back their ideas and stop letting Democrats take credit for them.
It would have changed the race in a big way, and it might have brought the Republicans back from the brink.
Unfortunately, the Republican party was overthrown by a slow-motion coup. The lunatic fringe of the Tea Party discovered that bullying worked not only on Democrats, but also very well on Republicans, especially when establishment GOP politicians gave credence to the threats of being primaried from the right as an excuse why they couldn’t engage in actually running the country. The moderates in the party were bullied into submission or purged. As a result, even though McCain and Romney weren’t part of the Tea Party, they had to pander to those extremists to get the nomination. Indeed, they had to pander so heavily that they destroyed any chance of winning the election. But, if the Republicans had said, “It’s time for the Democrats to share the credit for the ideas they stole, it’s time for us to take back the responsibility for the programs we created,” it would have put the Democrats on the defensive.
If either McCain or Romney had been willing and able to take that initiative and run to the center, they’d have had a much more viable campaign. You win elections by campaigning to the center. Clinton did it, Obama did it. You have to win the undecideds. You don’t drag the center to your extreme; you literally can’t, no politician has that power outside of the repressive thuggish regimes that merely pretend that a vote matters.
This year, we’ll see that fact demonstrated again. Clinton is already in the center. Bernie has pulled her there from her center-right starting point. Meanwhile, on the other side, if either Trump or Cruz end up with the republican nomination, they will have a hard time campaigning to the center.
Hillary Clinton knows how to do it. Bernie Sanders is another case altogether. He will ignore the conventional wisdom and campaign as Bernie, by rewriting the conversation and changing the map. If he gets the nomination, he’ll campaign in the general the same way he’s campaigning in the primaries.
However, it’s a long way to November and the craziness has only been dialed up to eleven. At this point, I’m afraid that riots are almost inevitable, especially if Trump either loses the nomination by delegates or the GOP yanks it away in self defense. A campaign season marred by riots bodes ill for everyone, but especially for whoever loses control of the narrative. That’s what’s happening right now, competing narratives. Well, a fantasy disguised as a narrative competing with empirical reality. Trump has his bizarre story about how the world works. The rest of us have a much more skeptical view of Trump’s narrative, due to the counterargument created by living in the real world. Another strike against Trum is that the anti-Trump narrative has solidified on how dangerous the GOP candidate really is.
It’s still possible for Trump’s campaign to implode; unlikely, but possible. But even if it doesn’t, the Republican convention is going to be a free-for-all disaster of biblical proportions. Even if Trump wins the nomination, he’ll never be able to unite the party behind his candidacy. And if Cruz somehow gets the nomination, Trump will likely dump the party and run as an independent, which will utterly split the conservative vote. The Republican party is in serious trouble.
The Democratic convention could also be contentious. However, the Democrats have learned a lot about how to win, so I think we may see things resolved before then. If Hillary wins the nomination, some of the more extreme Sanders supporters will likely claim she stole it. Bernie will have to bring his people aboard, and I expect he will do it with a rousing speech, and Clinton would be a fool not to give him a prime time slot. Similarly, if Bernie wins, there will be people who are hardcore for Hillary claiming that shenanigans happened. Clinton will have to reprise her role as the gracious defeated party from 2008, and get behind Sanders 100% to bring her fanatical fans around. This process is going to be easier for the Democrats, whichever way it goes, because the conflict has never reached the slanderous levels attained in the GOP nomination process… at least, not from the candidates themselves.
This is all speculation, of course. All the old models are out the window, this time. The one thing that has been proven over and over in this election season is that nothing is predictable. The conventional wisdom isn’t working, the polls are unreliable, and the poo-flinging monkeys have changed the game entirely.