Fear vs Hope
That’s what it all comes down to. As effective as Santorum’s campaign may be, and as strong as Romney’s opposition might appear, there truly is a fundamental difference between our incumbent president and his potential GOP opponent. The Republican campaign is one based entirely on fear, whereas Obama’s has been one of hope.
Looking at the majority of talking points coming out of our frontrunners, so many of them are rooted in this idea of fighting against the great evil (Obama, liberals, whatever). We’re on the precipice of the destruction of freedom, Satan is threatening to destroy America, the liberals want to sneak into your house and steal all of your freedoms and force you to have abortions. It’s the only trick they have, really.
Obama’s strategy has been the polar opposite. He frequently talks about coming together, about moving past partisan politics, and about uniting as a single country rather than a political war between red and blue. Both sides obviously argue about just how genuine he is about this (the right, as above, claims he’s a Muslim liberal extremist, the left thinks he’s just kowtowing to Republicans), but his message resonates with people.
Whereas the campaign of fear worked in 2004, it hasn’t since. The American people, by which I mean the ones who aren’t burning their cerebrums out with FOX News every day, are tired of being told that the other side is an evil cabal conspiring to subvert America for Satanic, communist aims. The only reason the right pulled it out in 2010 was a successful campaign of telling people that liberal policies weren’t helping the economy and that theirs would. That was a winning strategy: talk about how your ideals will help us move forward.
The most infuriating part of this is that they outright mock Obama for his campaign style. From the “NOPE” bumper stickers to Palin’s famous “how’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for a?” quip, the prevailing message from conservatives is that hope and optimism are for chumps; things are horrible and they’re only getting worse and you’d better vote us in before they get really terrible.
True as it may be that negative ads work, that can’t be the focal point of your campaign. You can’t run on a policy of fear. You can’t ride to the White House on a message that the world is on the brink of annihilation. Neither Santorum nor Romney have figured this out, and once the general campaign starts revving up we’re going to see just how failed their ideas are.