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The GOP's Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Brian Wagner

"In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club -- the 'hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.'" -- Vice President Spiro Agnew, September 11, 1970

Regardless of one's personal politics, there is a serious reason for concern when the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan forgoes any sense of optimism or positivity to ceaselessly lament the sorry state of the United States of America.
The negativity began in earnest in August, when the Republican candidates first gathered in Cleveland, Ohio to inaugurate the start of the debate season.
"This country is in big trouble. We don't win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody."
- Donald Trump, Aug. 6, 2015"Leading from behind is a disaster. We have abandoned and alienated our friends and allies, and our enemies are stronger. Radical Islam is on the rise, Iran's on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon, China is waging cyber warfare against America."
- Sen. Ted Cruz, Aug. 6, 2015
In every debate since August, the GOP field--once in the double digits, now in the "Trump plus viable guests" range of candidates--has lamented the decline of America, doubling down on their appeals to a fear of immigrants, a fear of globalization and a fear of change.
The tune was no different in January.
"The millionaires and billionaires are doing great under Obama. But we have the lowest percentage of Americans working today of any year since 1977. Median wages have stagnated. And the Obama-Clinton economy has left behind the working men and women of this country."
- Sen. Cruz, Jan 15, 2016"Our healthcare is a horror show. Obamacare, we're going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. And yes, I am angry."
- Trump, Jan 15, 2016"We elected a president that doesn't believe in the Constitution. He undermines it. We elected a president that is weakening America on the global stage. We elected a president that doesn't believe in the free enterprise system [..]. Let me tell you, if we don't get this election right, there may be no turning back for America."
- Sen. Marco Rubio, Jan. 15, 2016 2016-03-09-1457489404-3917951-gop_debate_cruz_trump_rubio_ap1144x686.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-09-1457489404-3917951-gop_debate_cruz_trump_rubio_ap1144x686.jpg
By the most recent March 3 debate, the candidates had shifted slightly away from lamenting American decline, only to expend an absurd amount of time attacking each other with such regularity that the debate transcripts were rife with the phrase "crosstalk" to signify instances when multiple candidates were talking over one another simultaneously.
"I'm not playing to anybody's fantasies, I'm playing to the fact that our country is in trouble, that we have a tremendous problem with crime. The border is a disaster, it's like a piece of Swiss cheese. We're going to stop it, we're going to stop people from coming into our country illegally. We're going to stop it."
- Trump, March 3, 2016"For seven years, millions of Americans, we've been struggling, wages have been stagnating, people are hurting, our constitutional rights are under assault."
- Sen. Cruz, March 3, 2016
Only one remaining candidate steadily avoided fear-mongering throughout the debates.
"You see, because throughout this campaign I've talked about issues, I have never tried to go and get into these scrums that we're seeing here on the stage. And, people say everywhere I go, "you seem to be the adult on the stage.""
- Gov. John Kasich, March 3, 2016
Clearly, he's never going to be the GOP nominee.
This strategy of consistent, calculated negativity is the rhetorical equivalent of burning down villages and razing fields. One cannot effectively lead and govern a country that has been told it is weak, it is failed and it is in decline.
With unemployment rates in a steady decline, Iranian nuclear ambitions curtailed, millions of Americans gaining health insurance and no existential threats on the horizon, there is plenty of reason to be hopeful about America's future. The Democrats understand that people want hope, even as they seek the pragmatism and experience to back it up in 2016.
"This has been a campaign focused on issues. And I'm proud of the campaign Senator Sanders and I are running. [Our differences] pale in comparison to what has happened on the Republican side."
-Secretary Hillary Clinton, March 8, 2016

Yet the GOP candidate field has chosen to wallow in pity and dissent like a potbellied pig, convincing a large number of Americans that the country is on a fast track to hell. That's inaccurate. More importantly, it's downright depressing.
Even when it is at its worst, America should dream about what it can be at its best. Every great president in the country's history has understood that even in the darkest times, Americans are capable of rising to meet great challenges. But in order to be able to rise, they must not first be beaten down with fear and hate.
The nattering nabobs of negativism who make up the GOP field have forgotten that lesson, and are coarsening the political discourse with their consistent appeals to Americans' worst fears and basest instincts at a time when the country is not weak at home or abroad.
The 2016 election is far from over. But what remains of the GOP field needs to make a major course correction for its attitude if it wants to stand a chance of selling the American people on its brand of politics in November.
America likes winners. America likes winning. That's why Donald Trump has found success as a human brand. Selling America short in pursuit of a self-destructive victory is a horrible tactic, a horrible desire and ultimately a losing strategy.

BEING POSITIVE © stevanovicigor via Getty Images BEING POSITIVE

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