In a classic example of what is either near-terminal naivete or a clueless attempt to stir up outrage and make news of a non-story, Politico revealed yesterday that they had documents and comments from the Republican National Committee that suggested that they planned to use "fear tactics" in their fundraising efforts during this year's campaign. Yahoo News and other outlets quickly jumped on the bandwagon, amping up the outrage over this blatant manipulation and disrespect for potential contributors.
While stifling a series of yawns I read the articles, and I'm left wondering what desert island the authors lived on for the last 50 years. The use of irrational fear to get money or votes is not just an old tactic, it's been the standard tactic of fundraisers and campaign tacticians on both sides of the political divide since politics was invented. I know, I used to have a job where I would call old people up and tell them that if they didn't give us money the Democrats were going to take away their guns and their pensions and make them learn Spanish.
These tactics literally go back forever. The Romans convinced citizens that the Carthaginians wanted to roast their babies alive in religious rituals to stir up popular support for the Punic Wars. Edward III convinced everyone that the Jews were responsible for the plague so that he could seize their assets to pay to get the crown jewels out of hock. The Sons of Liberty convinced Americans that the Quartering Act would put British soldiers in their daughters bedrooms. Lyndon Johnson won election to the presidency with a commercial which implied that Barry Goldwater wanted to nuke our children.
Anyone who has a job as a reporter or a political columnist and has only just discovered this or thinks that anything in these RNC documents is shocking, is too ignorant and clueless to be taken seriously. It would be more shocking if a political organization like the RNC was going to decide not to use fear to motivate contributors. Fear works. Fear motivates. This is because sometimes that fear is justified and it's easy to supply evidence that people of an opposing political philosophy are up to no good.