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Communication 101: Speak the Same Language

I remember watching an episode of Frazier in which uber-WASPy Frazier is dating a brassy Jewish woman. Frazier witnesses a loud fight between his girlfriend and her mother. He then watches in amazement as the two patch things up and end the entire exchange with an embrace. Inspired by the closeness of the two women, Frazier attempts to replicate the scene with his own father. The result is disaster. Neither man is given to explosive emotion, and neither man knows quite how to patch up the relationship after they have battled. In the end the Crain’s are left weeping and confused by the whole affair.

Such is the state of the Republican Party. There are two parts of the party: the fire in the belly religious conservatives who see Revelation and End of Days in every political development which does not suit them, and the up-caste Republicans who would rather cash in their options for a loss than raise their pulses in anger. The result is a party with two wings, each of whom approaches conflict resolution in very different ways: one is passionate and angry, the other cool and calculated.

Occasionally an intellectual Republican decides to adopt the passion and anger of the winger Republican to make a point. The result, as Frazier discovered, is uncomfortable and unsuccessful. Such is the case of Steve Calabresi’s article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, where the Northwestern law professor and GOP intellectual makes the mistake of speaking in the passionate tones of a Pentecostal preacher. The result is comic and embarrassing.

“If Mr. Obama wins we could possibly see any or all of the following: a federal constitutional right to welfare; a federal constitutional mandate of affirmative action wherever there are racial disparities, without regard to proof of discriminatory intent; a right for government-financed abortions through the third trimester of pregnancy; the abolition of capital punishment and the mass freeing of criminal defendants; ruinous shareholder suits against corporate officers and directors; and approval of huge punitive damage awards, like those imposed against tobacco companies, against many legitimate businesses such as those selling fattening food. Nothing less than the very idea of liberty and the rule of law are at stake in this election.”

Writing on the topic of Sen. Obama’s judicial temperament Calabresi loses his cool as he tries to adopt a populist’s cadence. In doing so he completely loses sight of his argument and ends up sounding like a spitting, sputtering lunatic.

Calabresi’s embarrassment is emblematic of the GOPs problems as a whole. The GOP is broken, and the half measures being taken by some to try and mend the fences are not working. The base does not trust the zeal of the intellectual and the intellectual has lost the ability to speak to the base.

The next few months and years will be difficult ones for the GOP and like Frazier many Republicans will be left weeping and in confussion.

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Victor Maldonado

Victor Maldonado

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