When House Republicans retreat to their districts for the August recess, they will each be armed with a detailed guide — an exceptionally detailed guide — on how to assure their already convinced constituents that Washington is broken.
The August House Republican Conference planning kit, titled “Fighting Washington for All Americans,” offers a rare glimpse into the constituent outreach efforts of the GOP. Those efforts, it turns out, are highly calculated, hashtag-heavy and rife with references to the video app Vine.
The best way to stay in Washington appears to be to deride Washington, and Republican leadership isn’t going to deviate from that familiar formula.
Of the many topics Republicans could delve into — the impending debt ceiling debate, immigration or, perhaps, the sequester — the 31-page GOP packet focuses on safer ground: Obamacare, jobs and the fierce hatred of all things Washington.
It includes a cookbook of events largely aimed at whacking the Obama administration and highlighting House Republicans' efforts to fight it — while using social media every step of the way.
There's an “Emergency Health Care Town Hall," for starters, with detailed recipes on where to hold the event, how to promote it — tweet it, Vine it, Instagram it, Facebook it — and how to hold an "impromptu" media availability to "frame the key takeaways."
Riva Litman, the spokeswoman for Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, said it is the job of the House Republican Conference to equip members with "the tools and resources they need to take our message to all corners of this country."
"That's why, in anticipation of the upcoming August recess, we've provided offices with a thorough and comprehensive planning kit — complete with suggested events, best practices and talking points," Litman said. She noted that a second packet, complete with updated talking points, would be on its way to members soon.
The first kit offers variations on an old Washington favorite: bashing Washington.
"Washington is out of control," warns a "sample op-ed" titled "Fighting Washington for You."
Naturally, it's not the specific member of Congress' fault.
“But every day I serve in Congress, I work to fight Washington,” the theoretical House Republican declares in his or her theoretical op-ed.
The memo suggests the member use the op-ed to tout an event and promise attendees won't get “another boring speech or more inside-the-beltway rhetoric."
Members should also consider an op-ed about the tea party-IRS scandal and the "rampant overreach of power by the Obama administration — and what House Republicans are doing to combat it.”
Democrats, for their part, accuse the GOP of creating the very dysfunction it derides.
"As the saying goes, Republicans claim government doesn’t work, then they get elected and prove it," a senior House Democratic leadership aide said. "With no record to go back home and sell, it’s no surprise that House Republicans will spend the summer regurgitating the same old anti-government rhetoric."
While Republicans have a familiar rhetoric, leadership does suggest that members seek out diverse groups during the break with "Meetups" — forums to "ensure the Member is engaging with all demographics."
"Potential groups to organize Meetups around include women, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and millennials," the kit explains.
As always, don't forget to assign a staffer to live-tweet the event with photos, Vines and a consistent hashtag. The memo loves the budding Vine app, which has traditionally been used as a means for frat brothers to share their drunken misadventures in six-second bursts, not as a means for House Republicans to spread their limited-government message.
To get the conversation rolling in the right direction, the playbook suggests planting questions: “Prepare a few questions in advance in case the conversation slowly starts.”
“Invite at least 3-4 people with whom the member already has an established relationship,” the memo instructs. “This will strengthen the conversation and take it in a direction that is most beneficial to the member’s goal.”
A successful constituent relations operation, however, is not just about talking the Republican talk; it is about helping people.
The conference suggests that members offer that help in the form of a jobs fair — as long as members have the opportunity to speak at the fair a few times and can tour the event with the media.
“Target invitations to veterans and college students — two groups of people struggling to find jobs,” the memo tells Republicans.
But what is the August recess without the opportunity to better understand your constituents, to better understand their issues?
On the Energy and Agriculture Tour, members can go on an excursion to a farm or ranch. “Members in more urban districts can conduct a similar tour visiting greenhouses, nurseries or other agriculture-related businesses,” the August kit theorizes.
“Use social media to upload photos and videos when possible,” the social-media-obsessed playbook suggests. “Try to tweet at or between each stop."
Other recommended “issue tours" include:
- an Energy Production Facility Tour — “wear a hard hat”
- a Gas and Groceries Tour — "wear clothes in which you feel comfortable doing ‘hands-on’ work”
- a Higher Education Tour — don't forget to wear the school’s colors or team gear
- a Hospital or Health Care Facility Tour — “utilize the new ‘Vine’ app” and “capture snippets of the tour for a 6-second video that encapsulates the experience”
- a Main Street Tour #4Jobs — don't “overstay” your welcome
- a Red Tape Tour and Roundtable — "confirm the status of regulations at each local business and make sure they are discussing regulations that have actually been implemented, not ones that ‘they have heard of’”
- a Senior Center Tour — be sure to identify the best time to visit with “built-in crowds"
And there's also the "Emergency Town Hall: Stopping Government Abuse."
But whatever you do, just don’t remind voters you are part of that government.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.