Trying to Scare The Republican Base

There are a couple of stories that I saw recently, in which a Republican threw the term “Marxist” when trying to smear their opponents.  The first was a while back, where Rep. Allen West called the Progressive Caucus “communists.”  More recently, Eric Hovde, who is running for the Senate in Wisconsin, called Representative Baldwin a Marxist.   Besides not being correct, and demonstrating a complete cluelessness about communism in the first place, it’s a good indicator of who the Republican base really are:  White people over the age of 40.

Why would I say that?  I’m old enough that I grew up during the Cold War era.  The fear that at any moment,  the original “Evil Empire,” the Soviet Union, would unleash nuclear armageddon.  We all knew that their goal was to destoy us, or if not that, conquer us and turn us to their particular version of communism, also known as “Marxist-Leninist.”

But, if you were born after 1980, well, you have a different memory.  The “big scary Soviets” are just a distant memory.   “Communism” isn’t a scare word anymore, and while China is nominally communist, no one thinks they’re going to unleash nuclear armageddon on us, and, to be honest, they’re  among our biggest trading partners/competitors.  So the “fear” reaction that used to be be linked to the terms “Marxist,” “Communist” or even “Socialist” in my generation doesn’t have any resonance for the younger generation.

Throwing around the terms may help scare the Republican base, and get them to turn out to vote, but here’s the big problem for Republican candidates:  The people that works on are getting older by the moment.  The younger generation of voters has no idea of why it’s supposed to scare them.   It’s an indicator that the Republicans have no idea of how to handle demographic change.   Their message isn’t selling to the younger generation, because “what worked in the past” isn’t going to work now.

It’s the same thing when it comes to a host of other things they’ve been using to gin up their base.  “Marriage equality,” “immigration,” and so on.  It works when they’re playing to their base, the problem for them is that their base is shrinking.  The “oooh, scary!” code words which were guaranteed to produce a reaction, don’t work with the newest generation, and the Republicans don’t seem to  grasp that.   It may work in the short term, but in the long term it’s a path to irrelevancy –  and it couldn’t happen to a better group of people.



Filed under Politics

20 responses to “Trying to Scare The Republican Base

  1. overseasgranny

    Being ever a staunch Democrat and born in the early 40’s, those words have a scare factor for me as well. Not to make me vote Republican, Gods NO!. But I worry the words they are using will scare others into doing so. I need to just get over that.

    • That’s the reason they use them, to play the fear card into getting people to vote for them. The problem is that the demographic it works on is getting older. Most people who were born after 1980 have no real memories of the Soviet Union, or why we should be frightened by words associated with it.

  2. Suzanne

    Excellent point! I didn’t bookmark a link, but some Republican made a big flub this year talking about the Soviet Union as if it still exists. Barasso believed that in 2010, but this was more recent. Was it Romney during the debates? If Romney, that would be fairly important to your point. Enjoyed your post, Norbrook.

  3. aquagranny911

    Hola, Norbrook! Good points. I have also found it mentally jarring to hear the buzz words of my youth coming out of the mouths of today’s GOP. It’s like they got lost somewhere back in the 1950’s.
    I’m thinking they should change their elephant logo to that of a mastodon. It would suit them better!

    • That’s what struck me … they were using the same buzzwords that resonated in the 60’s and 70’s, even into the ’80’s. Besides the “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” that crossed my mind, the reality is that if you throw those terms at anyone under 40, it’s more than likely to be met with a “huh?” than anything else. The words just don’t carry the same connotations to the younger generation that they do to us.

    • I like the mastodon idea. And their spokesmodel should be Rip Van Winkle — since they talk like they’ve been in a coma the last twenty years.

  4. majiir

    I know the republicans know they have problems with getting a majority of the youth vote. This is why Romney plans to deploy his ‘Romney Youth Troops.’ I’m not sure this will work on most young voters because I suspect they’d find that they have little in common with young Mormons. Most of them don’t fear gay marriage, think every American deserves affordable health care, think that undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship, think that having corporate money in politics is bad for our democracy, etc. These young Mormons are going to have to change the minds of millions of young Americans, and this will be a difficult task to pull off, imo.

  5. Vic78

    Republicans have always had problems with young people. Young people that are Gop are red state dwellers for the most part. Even young conservatives are alienated from the GOP. The tea party is embarrassing to them. Cold War rhetoric throws them off as well. I imagine that people born after 1990 won’t understand talk about commies.

  6. Alan Scott

    Norbrook ,

    Do not you have your own Demographic trouble ? The Geritol generation who grew up with FDR and would pull that big D lever no matter what, are dying off . Remember how all you had to do was mention SS, cat food , and Republicans, and you could scare the geezers pretty much into anything ? The good old days .

    But let’s speak of the kids . Do you really believe they are as stupid as they were 4 years ago ? 4 years of living in your parent’s basement because your college degree didn’t get you a job, smartens you right up .

    • aquagranny911

      Allen, I ain’t dead yet, never pulled that “big D lever” & don’t have a basement but I did had a few adult young people living with me off & on for a while when their lives got trashed due to the Bush economic disaster. Thankfully they have all found jobs in the last two years due to President Obama & his work to save our economy.

      I’m sure they & I will “smarten” up when it is time to vote.

    • Alan, I’m not that old, but you know what? Most of those “living in their parent’s basement” people were doing it it because of Bush, and they’re smart enough to know it. That’s because when they move din, it was because of what Bush did to the economy. Then again, you’re still willing to defend policies which have been shown not to work.

  7. Alan Scott


    Congratulations on your big win in the Supreme Court today .


    I am happy you are well and above ground . Just explain to me how you are for Obama yet you did not pull the big D lever .

    • Alan, I regard it as a victory for everyone. 😀

      Seriously, we’re the only major industrialized country which did not have a universal healthcare program, and despite the screams of “socialism!” from various people on the Right, I don’t think anyone calls countries like South Korea, Japan, or Germany “socialist havens.” 🙄

  8. Alan Scott

    Norbrook ,

    I believe that if Obama Care is ever fully enacted, that is the end of America . The collateral damage will turn us into Spain, Italy, Greece, Stockton, California, or New York State .

    • Alan, frankly that’s complete and utter bullshit. In fact, it’s what pisses me off the most about conservatives. You want to know who came up with the idea of “mandates?” It was the Republicans. Seriously, this was their own idea, and one they were promoting all over in the 90’s. So just because a Democratic President got it through, they’re having vapors about it.

      Here’s the reality, which conservatives seem to be ignoring. We spend more in healthcare right now than any other nation, both total dollars and per capita. We rank in the 20’s or 30’s in most measures of healthcare. So any talk about the “best healthcare in the world?” It’s a lie. Just to show what the “free market” does, Georgia decide to open up its health insurance market to any insurance company that does business in another state, without going through the registration or other things that would normally be a factor. You want to know how many companies started selling policies in Georgia, and what effect it had on their market? No company did, and it didn’t do anything to lower costs. So the entire “competition is needed” is crap.

      Second, taxes of all sorts are at or near their lowest level in the past century. So any whines about “taxes are too high” is garbage. It’s also a fact that federal government spending has grown less under President Obama than under any other president. Yes, you can look that up. Business profits are at an all-time high, so any complaints about the President being “anti-business” or “socialist” just shows absolute ignorance of his actual policies and actions.

      We can afford this, in fact we can’t afford not to. Which is why any complaints about “this is the end of America” is complete and utter bullshit.

  9. Alan Scott


    Just in case you decide again to declare victory in our argument and close the comments, let me give you my best shot at refuting what you said .

    Conservatives were wrong when they were for mandates . They now realize the mandates are not compatible with non ginormous government solutions . And why would you be pissed ? To paraphrase your girl Nancy Pelosi, you won ! You should be dancin in the end zone, spiking the football . I’m the one who just got kicked in the teeth .

    Real Health care reform involves opening up state markets to national competition. And lets talk mandates . Obama Care will tell me what kind of coverages I will pay for . I own junkers\clunkers which I only insure for liability. Now what if our Emperor Obama mandated that I, a lowly private sector wage slave should pay for the same car insurance that you a public sector Prince pays on his luxury chariot ? Or why should I pay for birth control coverage, I am way past needing, and a 30 year old college student pay for rogain or levitra, she will never need ?

    I know you will say these are ridiculous examples, trust me the health care lobbyists will get even stranger things into the mandates . It’s not like Obama really kept them out of his White House .

    ” It’s also a fact that federal government spending has grown less under President Obama than under any other president. ”

    Legally true, but factually to use your profanity ” utter bullshit. “. You use an abnormal baseline to achieve it . I can do the same thing if I were to use 1943-46 as a baseline to say that Harry Truman in 1947-48 was the greatest non spender in US history .

    You said we can afford ObamaCare, okay . One of the ways the President made the numbers work was to say that if his fantastical savings predictions fail, then automatic spending cuts kick in . ” utter bullshit.”. You cannot force a future Congress to make cuts and with
    history guiding us, it won’t happen .
    Cheer up, you are winning now.

    • I don’t “close comments,” I have this blog set to automatically close them at seven days. You’re now in serious troll territory, Alan.

      So, what you’re saying is that the Republicans were (then) socialists who where intent on bankrupting the country, because they were for mandates. They were even proposing them during the ACA debates, Alan. There’s a lot in that bill which they proposed at the time, and then turned around and voted against it. I might also note that they’re the only ones who voted to have the US default on its debt, so maybe they were trying to bankrupt the country.

      Your auto insurance comparison is particularly stupid of you. Auto insurance is mandated, and if you don’t have it, you either have to (here in NY) file a bond, or you pay significant penalties if caught. Which, turns out to be what the “mandate” is in the ACA. Oh, and the cost of the insurance you buy for your car is the same, unless of course you’re trying to get all the bells and whistles. I happen to know some very wealthy people, and you know what? They pay pretty much the same rates I do for their vehicles.

      The baseline figures for “growth in spending” are not “made up,” they’re based on the annual growth percentage.. In other words, Bush spent on average 10-15 % more each year while he was in office, while Obama is in the very low single digit growth rates.

  10. Carolyn

    My children are 41 and 43…..Communism means little to them. My son was stationed in Western Germany at the end of the Cold War…1988-1990. His base was supposedly a big target for East Germany. After the wall came down, they learned there had been nothing to be afraid of, and the old Communist empire became a laughingstock. In many ways it was a paper tiger. I think to be scared with “Communist” talk, people have to be over 60.
    I lived through that era, would not want to go back, and am glad we have now seen those countries for what they were.
    All of East Germany’s money went into training their Olympic athletes!