Tags: Barack Obama | Homeland Security | Immigration | immigration | amnesty | borders | Republicans

Michael Levine: GOP Losing the PR War on Amnesty

By    |   Wednesday, 21 January 2015 05:59 PM

Republicans think they're winning the war of words over President Obama's unilateral immigration reforms. But from my perspective, despite the legal niceties, I fear the president's flowery oratory is blowing them away.

So far, Republicans primarily have focused on the legal arguments over constitutional separation of powers, and I believe that's a mistake. Oh, it's fine for Republicans to pursue the legal arguments in court. But the battle over immigration reform ultimately will be won or lost in the court of public opinion.

After three decades running a Hollywood communications firm that has represented 58 Academy Award winners and 34 Grammy winners, I would grade the Republican Party a D for their messaging on immigration. I choose to be kind.

Republicans are rooting their arguments in law and logic. But people make decisions for both logical and emotional reasons.

Combining the two is what Ronald Reagan did so well. To persuade voters, you have to offer them both, and Reagan was very unique in his capacity to speak to both hemispheres of the human brain.

Republicans are wrong to dismiss the emotional appeal of President Obama's straw man arguments. In his immigration speech, for example, Obama asked, "Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms, or are we a nation that values families and works together to keep them together?"

The preposterous implication: Anyone who doesn't support his executive fiat on immigration favors ripping children out of their parents' arms. Of course, that is outrageous.
But you don't discredit an emotion-based argument by ignoring it. Rather, you serve up a heart-rending story of your own as an alternative.

Let's take emergency-room wait times. These can be sky high at hospitals that serve a lot of undocumented populations. So if Mrs. McGillicuddy breaks her leg in a car accident, is it right for her to have to wait for treatment while the hospital staff cares for people who aren't even supposed to be there? That doesn't seem so compassionate to me. Does it to you, Mr. President?

Republicans need to work up emotion-based counter-narratives. But in doing so, they should commit the pitfall of trying to match Obama's artful rhetoric.

Let's face it: He's a brilliant Harvard-trained law professor who can make words mean just about anything he wants them to. No matter how unreasonable Obama's proposals, he always sounds so reasonable.

My advice to Republicans is to counter Obama by being down to earth and practical. Preach the gospel of everyday common sense. This where Obama's image is weakest.

Put it in practical terms people can understand: If you're currently earning $10 an hour, and an undocumented worker is willing to work for $8 an hour, you've just suffered a 20 percent decrease in pay. That's something concrete that people can understand. Republicans have to explain how you're injured by this.

That leads me to one final point. The Republican Party has thus far failed to convince people that securing the border is actually achievable. President Obama and the Democrats suggest this mission is delusional. Until Republicans convince people it can in fact be done, they'll be asking voters to put their faith in an unproven hypothetical. And that's not how you win people over.

Of course, Republicans must do all this while convincing voters they really do care about the plight of disadvantaged people in other countries. As Americans, we appreciate their desire to better their lives. But that doesn't mean we have to throw our door wide open to everyone. You wouldn't do that in your home. We shouldn't do it to our nation, either.

Dismantling American society is not a smart way to give people hope. Indeed, it will ultimately give people less hope. And Republicans need to do a much better job helping voters understand that.

Michael Levine is founder and CEO of the Hollywood-based Levine Communications Office. He is a registered independent.

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Republicans think they're winning the war of words over President Obama's unilateral immigration reforms. But from my perspective, despite the legal niceties, I fear the president's flowery oratory is blowing them away.
immigration, amnesty, borders, Republicans, Obama, illegals, undocumented workers, PR
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 05:59 PM
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