Last Wednesday night on The Rachel Maddow Show, Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis made a case for leaving the GOP attacks and propaganda unanswered, stating that ‘Americans’ see the hypocrisy of the GOP and that fact checking and other counters to the GOP BS would end up being counterproductive. He’s correct for a segment of Americans, the one that describes most of us here at DKos, or MoveOn, but he’s totally wrong for the large and still growing Independent segment that does and used to identify as GOP. (Language warning- minor scatological words ahead if you have kids reading)
Intelligent, educated political junkies, like much of the MSNBC viewership and those who post here, are going to see through the lies and the RW’s tactics are going to backfire with them. What he’s overlooking, and an awful lot of Democrats have been overlooking this for decades, to our mutual detriment, is that many, if not an actual majority of Americans are some form of low informations voters, either swamped in dealing with their lives or politically apathetic or raised on conservative pap. We’ve abandoned those voters in message and outreach and the Republicans scooped them up with convenient lies and took over the country by cultivating either their apathy or their hysterically active support . We've neglected to counter the RW BS with those people who only listen to sound bites. We’ve allowed a couple of generations of Americans grow up with nothing but the Noise Machine to lay the foundations of their views and values. TRMS’s ‘fake ad’ last week is what we need to be doing to educate and win back the support of those now independent but low information/enthusiasm voters. They’re at least marginally awake at the moment, the iron is hot, we have to strike now and follow up.
After FDR the Democrats were the popular majority for decades, with solid support among rural voters. Then we quit talking to those voters. The Republicans started lying to them and leaning on them and have been getting them to vote against their own best interests for decades now, ever since St Ronnie. We need to start talking to them again. Consider it an extension of Dr Dean’s 50 State Strategy, we need to quit being so snobbish and assuming that ‘all Americans’ have our interests and conversations and operate at our educated level of awareness. We need to TALK to those low information voters on the level that they’re willing and able TO talk and receive info. We need to tailor the message to their understanding and in language and scenarios that they identify with. A while back Crissie introduced us to Fred. Fred’s an everyman sort of fellow… not overtly political, he doesn’t pay too much attention to the overall rhetoric, but he hears it, and when all he hears is either the Noise Machine or dry policy and silence, it doesn’t give him much confidence in the people running things. That’s us.
TRMS’ fake ad is great! It’s exactly what the Dr ordered and we need to target it to those low info and apathetic voters and for those like Fred, who have limited time or interest in understanding or being involved with the nuts and bolts of governing. This is part of why we get pegged as elitists, we only talk to the educated, who pick up and pursue information. We’re blind to those who have different levels of interest and greater focus on their lives, jobs, friends, and relatives than we do. Newsflash- We are not the norm, and we never will be. We’ve been steadily losing the interest and understanding of the average person over the past 30 years at least in part because we quit talking to them. We abandoned the field to the R’s and neocons who spouted endless lies that we allowed to become the common wisdom by default. Lies that they heard, day after day year after year, unanswered. For many Americans that crap’s the only thing that they’ve ever heard. And who’s fault is that? Ours. Kofinis and many of us don’t want to engage with the lies, don’t want to do the work to counter them. It is hard work and can seem like a waste of time and resources. Until you look at the consequences of not doing it. We stick our collective heads in the sand and use the excuse that we don’t want to get down in the mud with the liars. And because of that, the liars have been winning. Not all the time, some things really are obvious for all to see, but we’re losing a lot of swing voters and independents that could make up a much larger mandate because we’re ignoring them. We’re not speaking their language, we’re not formating information to fit into their lives and pointing out and reinforcing inconsistencies that have escaped their notice or have gotten muddied by the propagandists.
A lot of the neocons’ messages over the years has been based on greed being a ubiquitous and acceptable trait, (to be fair, it is one of their most notable traits, they just keep projecting it onto everyone). They’ve trumpeted the meme that everyone’s greedy and it’s not only perfectly natural and acceptable, but even to be admired. That to be childish, self indulgent and grasping is perfectly normal. They’ve used it almost exclusively since the Reagan years. They assume and push the thought that everyone’s overwhelmingly greedy and exacerbate people’s fears that someone else is going to get the stuff that they could have had. And we’ve forgotten how to elevate and motivate on higher commonalities. When FDR said ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’, he calmed a panicky country and led us into the belt tightening and hard work of recovery. What the neocons have to work with is ‘Greed is good’, and ‘Don’t-tax-the-rich-because-you-might-be-one-someday-and-wouldn’t-it-suck-to-have- your-hard-earned-money-taken-away?’, and they use it to distract while they profit. Where we need to be the grownups is in pointing out how childish the neocon approach is. How unsustainable. How it destroys civil community. And because we haven’t kept up on the meat of why taxes matter and that boring ‘infrastructure’ thing, (admittedly hard to make sexy, but I could see where a sort of Schoolhouse Rock approach might be helpful), the fear of someone taking away what most people will probably never have has trumped our conversation on governance. We don’t have to be mindless propagandists, but we do have to educate and motivate people to vote and support the things that make good governance. And the drag is that we have to keep doing it. With every generation. Just because we learned it doesn’t mean that the next generation will automatically pick it up through osmosis. ABC's, folks, gotta teach the basics and reinforce them for each class that comes up.
We don’t need to preach to the choir, Kofinis is right about that. The educated and engaged folks are pretty much on board, it IS self evident to them/us. We do need to make our case to the segments of the population that we’ve lost over the
years decades by not talking to, or listening to. Those are the folks that the right wing has targeted and inundated with crap, the ones who aren’t going to fact check, who aren’t going to take 30 seconds to Google or check Snopes when they get an incendiary email full of lies and totally made up crap, much less spend half their afternoon chasing sources and pulling tabs and researching how a poll question was asked. This is where we fall down and come across as elitist snobs, we don’t think that all those people are smart enough, or worthwhile enough to spend our time targeting. Well the right wing did, and look how many of them they’ve got thoroughly duped and showing up at Teaparties. And voting booths before that. A lot of those folks have different priorities on their daily time management, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all dumb, it means that shit has been the only thing on the menu. In sound bites that they can graze on and assimilate into their personal views. The combination of fear mongering, spin, simplistically intuitive but wrong, and outright lies that the spin meisters know aren’t going to be fact checked accretes and solidifies into the collective culture. ‘Everybody knows’, not because it’s true, but because the talking points and buzzwords have been slavishly repeated from all points and many mouths. And because they incorporate the emotional component that Caractacus talked about on Tuesday, they bypass the intellectual debate because they can’t win it and manipulate people emotionally, provoking fear or racial tensions, circle-the-wagons herd responses, greed, or religious imagery. Their agenda profits using wedge issues to divide people and we’ve gotten out of the habit of reminding people of our commonalities. We’ve gotten out of the habit of elevating the conversation in a moving way, and we’ve gotten out of the habit of calling bullshit, shaming liars, confronting crap tactics and pointing out the obvious motivations of the RW in ways that stick with people.
We’re better at advertising and we’re smarter about presentation, when we’re paying attention to it, but we’ve just spent a decade getting our asses handed to us because we’re abandoning the field and leaving all those non political junkie voters with nothing but the Rush/Hannity/Beckerheads to choose from. We need ads like TRMS put together. The facts are obvious to anyone who looks, but many don’t realize that they need to look, or it’s presented in an inaccessible way, or they’re juggling jobs and families and trying to keep heads above water, so we have to take it to them and show them how they’ve been duped. It’s damned embarrassing to realize you’ve been used and not easy to get people to see and admit it, but once they do, whammo. Pissed off!? You bet. Motivated, oh, yeah. I have no doubt that there are wingnut message managers shaking in their boots after Rachel’s ‘fake’ ad, terrified that we might actually start a counteroffensive against their lies, because they got nuthin’ in the tank to fight back with. Thomas Paine said "But such is the irresistable nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing." It does, however, need to be presented, and we haven’t been doing that. Dr Dean’s 50 state strategy started targeting folks that we’ve left behind and look how effective it was. We need to extend those inroads and make the truth available and accessible to people different from ourselves, people who don’t fact check, people who need things to be apparent on their face in order to fit into their busy days. People who have been distracted and sent down the garden path by the RWNM. When we’ve done enough of that to have some credibility with them again, then we can broach some of the more complicated and counterintuitive issues and we’ll have that credibility banked with them to give us the benefit of the doubt.
Climate change is going to affect everybody’s grandkids and the corporate stranglehold on our electoral system is unsustainable. Think getting the beginnings of HCR was tough? Wait’ll we dig in to tackle those. Addressing problems of this magnitude is going to be an all-hands-on-deck proposition, we need every voter we can get to apply enough pressure to make the necessary changes. We need to recruit, and we need to do it on a massive scale. We need to persuade, we need to undermine the lies with truth and perspective, we need to build foundation to support the rebuilding of our country and repair the damage and neglect that has gotten us into this state. This state. Where torture has been used in our names and gone unpunished. Where Congressional subpoenas are just blatantly ignored and the criminals walk free and unafraid of being held responsible for their actions and the consequences of those actions. We’ve got work to do, folks. And we need all the help we can muster, so we need to start talking to someone other than ourselves, ’cause we aren’t nearly enough.
Many of us are, unwittingly, political snobs, and it's counterproductive. It's not just Kofinis, plenty of other strategists have been crafting the messages that leave out so many Americans that the R’s have then scooped up, riled up, fed bullshit and turned lose to vote. A lot of us seem to think that if people don’t put the same energy and attach the same importance to research, sourcing and analysis that we do, they must be dumb, crazy or lazy and therefore not worth our time to translate for. And that’s much of what it is, translation from the terms that we take for granted into a vernacular and format that people with other priorities can easily access. TRMS’s fake ad is great, Schoolhouse Rock, for that matter, was great, and for much the same reason. Not just factual but short, catchy and accessible.
What's wrong with us starting a counter campaign? TRMS cut together a very credible piece with a handful of staff in an afternoon. Admittedly a very talented staff with access to broadcast quality equipment, but we've got talented people here, what about getting some of us together and producing similar pieces? They don't have to be for big, expensive ad buys in huge markets, YouTube and email campaigns would be a good start. 'Reply all' to some of the RW emails from your crazy neocon relatives, for starters, (if you reply from another name on the cc list, it takes longer for them to ferret out who's relative is sending ;-)). On a larger scale, what about an answer to The Family Research Council and other RW 'policy institutes'? The RW has been setting up think tanks and that sort of pure propaganda generators for way too long without nearly enough real balancing and debunking push back from our side.
Look at the response to Reps Grayson and Massa, ‘Wow a spine! In a Democrat! Great! Finally!’ Gauging by that alone, there’s a significant and underserved audience waiting for exactly this sort of push back to the RW’s incessant lies.
Frankly Kofinis’ approach hasn’t worked all that well, overall. Okay, that’s unfair, he’s far from the only Dem strategist who’s been advocating the ‘stay above the fray, let’s be the adults here’ meme. Kerry lost in large part because he ignored the Swiftboaters too long. Yes, WE all knew that they were lying sacks of shit with filthy agendas, so the strategists didn’t need to defend him to us. Of course it was apparent to us, we have a firm foundation in the facts, not the specious crap that has been pumped out by the RWNM for so long. But we weren’t enough. We needed all those other voters who didn’t do their homework, whether they were working nights or their kids were sick or they didn’t have time between 3 jobs trying to make ends meet, or whatever, to do that homework. We needed them! And we let them go on believing that because the Swiftboaters weren’t called out in a big way, that they must have been right, somehow. Kerry took some idiot’s advice about ‘Be a civilized adult and ignore them, people know it’s a lie’, instead of reacting promptly
with perfectly reasonable outrage that most people would have understood. Instead of standing up and correcting the record, he lounged around and ignored it. It made him look both weak and guilty, losing the respect of many, including myself.
We’re smart. We’re smartassed. We’re talented. We’re good at finding creative ways of getting things done. And we need to do this. We need to round up a ton of independents for this year’s elections to counter both the right wing nutjobs who are whipping up their followers, and the apathy of our own side where so many are so disappointed that we haven’t finished changing the country back into America yet. WE NEED TO DO THIS. The RWNM is and will be feeding people increasing piles of crap over the course of this year, there’s nothing wrong with using a similar format to point out the facts. With using the same language for better, and truer, factually correct messages and balancing perspectives. The 50 state strategy worked, it brought in new voters that we desperately needed and gave us the cushion to prevent another election from being stolen. This is the followup. Sound bites and properly researched outreach in a recognisably similar vein to the lies spewing out of the RW aren’t bad. They’re much better than what’s out there without it. And they’re effective. We don’t have to follow them into the mud, but we do need to make strong, assertive counters. Fact checks, promotion of what’s really happened and perspectives like TRMS’s web ad are just the ticket and we need to put a lot of them out there. Starting now. We’ve abandoned the field of recruiting and educating new Democrats and progressives and alliances with independents years ago, decades ago. It’s been fallowed too long and gone to rampant weeds and thistles sown by the neocons and the wingnuts to benefit them and impede us. And it’s worked, the Bushies never could have gotten nearly as far as they did without it. We need to start clearing the crap and replanting good crops or what we harvest will be what we got with the Bushies. Don’t believe for a second that it couldn’t happen again, the opposition is heavily invested, lies are easy, and they have nothing better to do…