What the republicans do well, is Spin.....
Big time. They use rhetoric to manipulate and mislead. Not just voters, but themselves. They have their beliefs. And they distort, and contort, shape and reshape the facts, and invert the logic, to support those pre formulated beliefs. And to sell their beliefs to America.
In fact, it is not just a big problem. It is THE problem.
"patriotic," "values," etc.). They have defined the issues. They have defined the facts. And, most importantly, they have defined their opponents.
And the far right wing, the right wing's biggest asset, does it the best. Because it is the far right wing that engages in this manner the most consistently. It is the far right wing that engages in this manner the most egregiously. And it is the far right wing that has most successfully shifted the terms of the debate and helped to mischaracterize the issues.
It is also the far right wing that needs be used as part of the answer. Just as what is largely an imaginary "far left wing" was successfully used to mischaracterize democrats and liberals both, a very real, and currently very predominant far right wing, needs to be used to successfully characterize and define the right wing.
More importantly, what the far right, and thus the right, engage in as a consistent pattern, needs to be illustrated, exposed and tied into a larger, nationally recognized tendency.
The far right, by mischaracterizing issues and their opponents, has managed to bastardize the term "liberal" and, in the eyes of many Americans, make it uncool to be liberal. Why? Open minded is uncool, whereas close minded, stodgy, set in ones ways, pounding one's hollow chest while others' do the dirty work is somehow "cool"?
Yes. When you can spin what the Bush administration is doing into "working within the requirements of the Constitution" to half the American people; when you can spin needless and debt spiraling tax cuts to an already wealthy upper class, while borrowing even more to pay for a war that our soldiers will now needlessly bear the interest costs on as well, into somehow benefiting the same middle class whose real wages actually fell instead; when you can spin additional tax cuts for those making over 200,000 as wages or personal profit into somehow creating "economic wealth" or "more jobs" rather than more debt for the other unaffected 99%...
...When you can spin the right wing's stance on gay marriage as "compassionate," and John Kerry's more reasonable and consistent approach as "flip flopping and vile pandering": when you can spin the one thing besides national defense that we HAVE to protect together, the environment, into something that is nevertheless, the one thing that we don't; when you can spin a sickening hit by depraved pyschopathic terrorists into a need to thus "get Saddam at all costs" even though he had nothing to do with it, while even to this day the psychopaths' leader continues to mock us with videos aired to the world; when you can spin the idea of needing, again at all costs, to encourage democracy abroad while hacking away at its fundamentals here at home; when you can tell the world that our enemies are wrong because they believe they have a mandate directly from God, at the same time you tell the world you personally believe freedom is God's gift to the world, and unpopularly use your armies to install it...
...When you can talk about love of country, patriotism, land of the free and home of the brave and the Constitution all in one sentence, and then in the next cowardly hand over the right to decide your own liberties to a "benevolent" president to protect us all, and attack others for disagreeing at the very same time; when you can spin the idea of separation of church and state, and freedom of expression and freedom to be free from forced expression, for all, into persecution of christians; when you can spin judges who don't serve at the whim of the legislature as its rubber stamp but exist as a check on the will of the majority upon the rights of the mainority, into "unelected, activist judges": when you can spin "American values" into spitting on the Constitution, or telling people what to do or believe...
...When you can spin a president who never served, and sat for five minutes reading "my pet goat" after learning that America was under direct attack on our own soil, into strength on national security; when you can spin a president whose administration for 8 months ignored what was known to be our greatest national security threat, who then after being again directly warned went fishing, then on a one month vacation, and then afterwards attacked the wrong country, letting up too early on the organization actually responsible and the country that did harbor it, and spied clandestinely on America citizens in direct contravention of a law amended and signed by this same president after we were attacked, while our borders and fissile materials world wide remain unsecure, America is more disliked, and the terrorist organization that attacked us still exists and national policies have helped recruit copy cat cells, into, once again, national security strength, when you can spin the party that authorized, along with the other, by a vote of 518 to 1, to go after the right country, into a party that nevertheless would not have...
...When you can spin the words freedom and liberty and responsibility and accountability into something far more valuable than the concepts themselves; when you can spin the disagreement of others into treason but your own into patriotism; when you can spin the blame for having to explain to your seven year old what a blow job is onto what was likely the 42d president to actually get one, rather than on the media and yourself for turning it into a two year front page story; when you can spin the current president into the candidate who was always straightforward and told the truth, and John Kerry as the one who didn't; when you can spin Kerry, who bled for his country and then protested a war, while thousands of our conscripted youth died against their will for the same mistake that Kerry had both fought in and was trying to end, into the goat; when you can spin the President's statement of "this resolution does not mean war is unavoidable or imminent" and kerry's statement "I only approve this resolution to be able to force inspections, and to use force if the inspections do not work," into the President being consistent and straightforward, and Kerry being mendacious and wishy washy...
...When you can spin a media that already panders to you as the enemy of the state, because, occasionally deciding to print the facts, it does not pander to you enough; when you can spin the party that purposefully misled Congress to the tune of 150 billion dollars on a wildly irresponsible drug bill that served as a half trillion dollar gift to your pharmaceutical lobbying base into the party of trust and responsibility acting for the benefit of our seniors...
...When you can all but shut off the flow of governmental information and yet give statement after statement about the value of liberty and democracy; all but strike out the most important clauses of the first three Articles of the Constitution and yet give statement after statement about the value of liberty and democracy; cave to terrorists, who want a more government controlled society, by supporting a more government controlled society, while giving speech after speech about not letting terrorists cause us to abandon our principles.....[asking for suggestions on this list, by the way], then you can pretty much spin anything into anything.
And therein lies both the heart of the problem for democrats. And the answer.
Right wing rhetoric. It changes the debate. Focus on not only exposing it for what it is, but on using it to correctly define what the right is, what the issues are, and who the democrats are.
It's just the right wing appealing to their base.
This is a point that many democrats and pundits (and even republicans) often repeat as if it were political gospel. While it may be occasionally accurate, it can also be extremely misleading. More importantly, it may reflect if not inspire a tendency that is politically destructive; that is, disregarding the wrong things, let alone focusing on the right things, and using them, in the right ways.
For example, the larger pattern of the far right (often discounted as "appealing to its base," "obviously flawed" or some other such measure) needs to be exposed and somehow turned into the overriding, defining national story. And, this pattern needs to always be supported by complete market saturation with respect to any ensuing distortions or misleading rhetoric, in order to accomplish a trifecta of critical goals: 1) to disable the distortion itself, 2) to undermine credibility, and 3) to correctly characterize the issue and facts.
But there is a secondary, perhaps even more important purpose; to show that "this is the same pattern we see over and over again," in order to tie it into this larger pattern, and create and strengthen awareness of it ; not only to immediately weaken the false veneer of authenticity that such rhetoric otherwise will naturally have, but to undermine overall credibility and trust in the far right's logic.
It is also to begin to create the popular (and correct) presumption that voters are being played by the right -- emanating not so much from a desire by the right to lie to them (this is both hard for many other people to believe, and largely untrue despite what many democrats may otherwise conclude) but because, as democrats need to show over and over and over and over, the far right simply does not understand the issues, or the principles that make America, America.
And when the right does get the facts wrong, as it now tends to do time and time and time again, democrats need to do whatever it takes to turn that fact into the national story.
Whether they are being lied to or the far right is simply wrong, people don't like being mislead, but it needs to be shown that this is what the far right does. Also, giving a rational reason for it, also helps explain it, and doesn't make it sound like democrats are just spinning.
The thing that the far right does best is spin without it making appear to be spin. Democrats, helped along by even more right wing propaganda about left wing "lying" or "distortions" may inadvertently do the opposite.
So why would republicans lie? Many honest Americans are republicans, and calling them all liars only strikes them in the chest before asking them to listen to the democratic message. Those on the far right that do, perhaps do because they really are greedy fat cats. Those that don't, simply don't understand the issues but thrust themselves into the national debate because they are driven by misguided belief, and the many to whom this all seems reasonable, have simply been mislead.
Two critical truths here with regard to this last key point. People don't like being mislead. And they don't like being wrong, even more. Thus, they will come up with every contortion in their own mind to convince themselves, that they have not been "foolish" enough to be mislead, or "wrong" to believe the right wing's lies. It has to be clearly illustrated that it is the far right wing's doing by distorting the facts to them.
In other words, democrats - and this is a critical point - have to show what is right without making all of those who have inaccurate perceptions of democrats, republicans, and the issues (most Bush voters, for instance) get defensive. Not only is this still a current problem for the democrats, it is absolutely what the Kerry campaign failed miserably to do in 2004, and as a result lost (got diebolded, whatever) to the worst administration in history running on a campaign theme of "you can trust us," conveyed by in essence a pack of lies.
The simplest and most effective way to do that to is to use the far right's own distortions to characterize and define what the far right is. Ideally by their own statements, when possible. And this is of course quite the opposite of dismissing any such repeated tendencies as "base appealing," or "patently obvious", etc. Again, if it were patently obvious to Middle America, over inundated with sound bites, rhetoric and misinformation as it is, Bush would not have received half of the votes he did in 2004 (nor would some of the far right wing extremists in Congress).
Specifically, the pattern that needs to be constantly illustrated and alluded to, is evidence of the tendency to distort, manufacture evidence, and use misleading (or worse) and often inflammatory rhetoric that appeals to our worst biases and emotions (or our best emotions in an illogical way).
But in keeping with this, it also has to always be shown to AMERICA, with whatever it takes, exactly why and how such misleading rhetoric or logic is not only false, but UN-AMERICAN.
This often takes much more than a sound bite to do, on concepts and principles (where the far right distorts the worse). This is another key reason why it is important [for prominent democrats, also] to always make the distorted facts a big part of the national story as well and once again ALWAYS tie it into a larger pattern; so that, when this tendency becomes aptly illustrated and reasonably saturated into the national debate and psyche, the catch phrases of the pattern alone (which must always accompany) can begin to have weight as well.
(Incidentally, one of the things the far right does is engage in this same pattern I am suggesting, and, they take their own distortions, or perceived examples of democratic distortions, and literally saturate America with the concept as they see it.)
In order to effectively expose what the right is doing, and make it into the story, so that America is no longer simply spun like a top by the right and far right, two big challenges need to be overcome.
1) The democratic tendency to not only preach to their own choir, who often see things the same (and more importantly already have the democratic vote), versus the need to sell and show the same concepts, ideas, and facts, but effectively do so to a broader audience of America who:
2)May not otherwise have the same point of view or perception. Not because of their actual intrinsic views (where few people would actually agree with the far right) but because of what they perceive, and the misleading rhetoric and distortions, often parroted by the media, that they have repeatedly heard.
Notice that the first tendency, preaching to their own choir, may also tend to work against the democrats here in another way as well, because, don't republicans "appeal to their base," all the time?
No. Not in the way commonly perceived.
And that ties these points together.
Applying the second numbered point above; because of human nature, because of the appeal of sound bites, because of the appeal of such "emotional appeals" however distorting, because of the complexity and misperception on the issues, because of the way that Americans perceive things which all of these factors also help shape, including these same distortions and misleading rhetoric that many Americans have heard from the far right -- this same "base appealing" rhetoric of the far right actually appeals to a lot of Americans. And, in fact, it's often an example of their number one tendency; the employment of misleading and divisive rhetoric that either grossly distorts the issues, or appeals to peoples' worst emotions and biases.
"Gay marriage" is a good example. Most people, when the issue is properly explained, are in agreement with John Kerry's position on it, for example.(A position, to drive this point home further, that, although little noted at the time or since, even George Bush essentially agreed with, a few weeks before the 2004 election.)
But few people have the facts, the issue is somewhat complex, and very easy to distort and sound bite into something else. "Kerry and the democrats love gays," or, "...don't support marriage," or, "it's a flip flop," or whatever. That "base appealing" stuff, without the right analysis, and without being constantly shown for what it is (which takes enormous work of the right kind, and saturation), appeals to AMERICANS.
The Flag is a particularly good example, because it's such an easy issue for the right to spin. This article, after some brief background, illustrates the lameness of Democrat Senators running from the opportunity to explain principles in response, and illustrate exactly what the far right is doing, whether it be once again manipulating the voters, or once again, a failure to understand the basic principles that make America, America. And, most importantly, it illustrates how democrats allow the right to once again define the issues, and the terms.
There are many such examples. Calling the NY Times treasonous is yet another very recent, and potent one. It is one that has also, frequently, been labeled as "base appealing." Again, it may appeal to the base, but it has cross sectional appeal to Americans, because, once again, it consists of distorted, misleading rhetoric that appeals to our worst emotions and biases. Treason! The Times gave away state secrets! People can die!! (perhaps the most insidious of the distortions).
This particular bit of "base appealing" serves another, very fundamental purpose. It is another critical cog in the machinery of attack against both the media, as well as in shaping the public's perception of the media. "The media is liberal!" "Out to get the President!"
Information is the lifeblood of democracy. Most people, regardless of blogosphere perception (where in addition a lot of views tend to be rather polarized and often more firmly set as well), get most of their news information, and their perceptions, from the media. Thus, to the extent the media does not cover things properly, democracy does not work as well. (Given the facts, this invariably favors the far right, as this same distorting rhetoric tends to then have even more impact, thus furthering the process and making it harder and harder to combat.)
Yet the far right's ongoing onslaught on the media continues. It is hard to establish to AMERICA (again, not to educated participants in the blogosphere who may have a very different opinion), and to the [very defensive] media itself that its coverage has actually been very poor; poor by skewing the facts towards the far right so as not to "appear" as biased towards that same far right that keeps convincing America of the same; a far right whom the facts simply don't support, and which thus a free press can never implicitly support until and unless it no longer ceases to be a free press, probably the most fundamental and essential element of democracy. Ironically, the same democracy this far right constantly shouts out that it loves so much.
Of course, the leader here is the NY Times, so this only helps to augment and magnify that perception, of the "liberal" press, just out to "get the President," not objectively report the facts, so much so that it now will commit "treason."
This is the message that much of America hears. It is what the far right constantly does.
Thus, for example, combining the assessment of this most recent `calling the NY Times story `base appealing,'" with the two enumerated principles above, the tendency in the past has been to disregard or downplay in effect what itself should be turned into the national story -- Again, the highly distorted and inflammatory rhetoric of the far right.
(On this free press issue, one example of the effect of this on the electorate was noted in this otherwise mundane comment, a few lines down, regarding Washington Post radio. Note the expert's startling but well researched point, in response to the callers suggestion that support of the NRO's "NY Times is treasonous" point of view, was far right wing).
When the right "appeals to its base," not always, but often -- and quite in contrast to when democrats appeal to "their base" (which tends to do the opposite) -- they are really engaging in this same pattern. They are appealing to, and spinning America, and shifting perceptions and the nature of the debate, in the process.
This same pattern, which needs to become the focus and the story, for too long has been overlooked and minimized, when again it has been shifting the terms of the debate and moving the politics of American political leaders, at least, almost radically to the right.
Consistent with this tendency to minimize and overlook, the tendency to view and/or label these types of patterns as right wing "base appealing," or in some other minimizing fashion, is exactly the opposite of the direction that those who politically oppose this same right wing, need to focus on.
What needs to be focused on is what the right and far right wing does, and turn IT into the story. Not by telling people, but by showing people. "It's not cool to be republican any more, because republicans want to control America while spewing forth Orwell speak about how they don't, so long as every one thinks like them, and agrees with them." "If you want to be told what to think and what to do, either move to another country, or just join the republican party."
Until that is done, real change will be peripheral and short lived. The reason is, unless people become informed, and it becomes exposed for what it is, misleading rhetoric (aka "propaganda"), unfortunately, works. And for the past five and half years, it has defined America.