So, we have the usual post mid-term election gnashing of teeth and rending of fabrics, and while I’ve assiduously avoided the Pundits, there are some ordinary types who have some insights which deserve a mention and more.
Messages and Media
For example, there’s this excerpt from the comments section of the previous post:
“It isn’t so hard to realize what we need to do — but I’ve been saying this for five years straight. We need to run against REPUBLICANS, not the one Republican that is our opponent. We need to put Republicans on the defensive, instead of letting them define the situations so we are too bust defending ourselves.”
There are two kernels of useful insight illustrated here. First, that Democrats have to define their agenda more clearly and succinctly for public consumption. The first element leads to the second: Democrats need to adopt the time honored rule of election campaigning – define your opponent before he or she defines you.
What ARE we for?
Economically speaking we’re FOR increasing the prosperity of the 99% of the citizens in this nation; those who are not members of the exclusive set of 1%’ers whose income is primarily obtained by investment. Or, in a shorter version – we’re the party for Middle Class Americans.
Socially speaking we’re FOR liberty and opportunity for all. We respect the rights of every single citizen in this nation – white, black, young, old, male and female, gay and straight.
Politically speaking we embrace diversity. There are fiscally conservative Democrats who are socially liberal. Socially liberal Democrats who are economically more conservative, and we want every one of them to believe that the right to vote is essential for one and all.
We can distill this down even more finely: We are the party for the vast majority of Americans, and those who want everyone to participate in our democracy.
Who ARE they?
The Republicans are the party of the 1%, a party which embraces the interests of Wall Street and the financial sector. They oppose increasing the minimum wage; they oppose equal pay for equal work; they oppose any proposition to make health insurance more affordable, and any plan to allow students to refinance student loans at more affordable rates. They oppose any regulation of the financial sector, in the face of the Enrons, World Coms, Lehman Brothers and similar debacles. Ye shall know them by their works.
The Republicans are the party of exclusion. “Some people” ought not to be included in ‘their America;’ while they speak of divisive politics in sneering tones, it was their idea to peddle the notion that both white and black Americans receiving social services were ‘stealing from the pockets’ of hard working people. While they speak of the politics of division, it is their adherence to the idea that America is a Christian Nation – in spite of large numbers of non-believers, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and non-evangelicals among us. The only way their Politics of Complaint works is via the ideological buttress that they are a Persecuted Majority – a more illogical concept is difficult to imagine.
The Republicans are the party of Big Daddy Government. Hey, African American citizen or Hispanic American citizen – know your place, and it’s not at the precinct polling station. Hallo, Little Lady – Father knows best. You should have that transvaginal ultrasound procedure, whether you want it or not. Your employer will decide if you can get affordable contraceptive prescriptions. Hello, little man – we’ll tell you all those things of which you should be afraid. Don’t fret, while you’re worried about your job being off-shored to some Asian manufacturing base, Big Daddy will protect you from ISIS, Ebola, the IRS, the Homosexual Agenda (whatever that might be?) and Big Government.
We’ve seen Big Daddy on the silver screen, he was Burl Ives in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He’s white, he’s rich, he’s large. He’s a fetishist of the first water. He will have what he wants when he wants it. He’s Entitled to what he wants when he wants it. Not a very appealing character – but he was never meant to be; he’s beyond caring about being acceptable, he’d rather simply be obeyed.
Media and Messages
Forget about seeing the corporate media independently reveal the elitism, or the exclusionism, or the innate authoritarianism of the Right. Corporations are people, with shareholder value to consider, ratings to gain and advertising to sell. Witness the disdain with which the chatterati observed the Occupy Movement. Witness the decline in the popularity of broadcast and print media as sources of news. It’s in the interstitial spaces where opportunity lies.
There’s room in the use of one of the oldest axioms of political life: All politics is local. However, in this world there are two kinds of local: Your neighbors, friends, and physical community; and your social media friends and followers. Thus far both parties seem to be clutching a rather old fashioned view of social media – both my e-mail inbox, and the inbox of a Republican friend were overflowing with Send Money Messages (attached to precious little substance) during the last campaign – who’s going to be the first to fully capitalize on the power of social media to DEFINE the opposing party? The opposing party’s candidates?
There are spaces in and among interest groups. During the recent election I received three glossy mailers opposing a tax increase to support the Nevada Distributive School Fund – all three contained massive misinformation, and all three came from the same source – a combine of Real Estate Interests. There was precious little tie-in between candidates and the tax issue on display in this little segment of the world. There should have been. Who should have told me that a combination of corporate interests and Republican allies were opposing more money for schools?
Big Money groups, a product of the highly unfortunate but ultimately predictable decision in Citizens United, can only drive a message so far. And their range can be constrained by defining them as antithetical to local interests. For example, a pro-NRA candidate won the Arkansas election for Senator, BUT Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed I-594, an initiative requiring background checks for firearm sales. [MMA]
“[Washington voters] showed that while the gun lobby can intimidate politicians in Washington, it’s a lot harder to intimidate America’s voters,” former US Representative Gabby Giffords said in a statement last night. “This victory for responsibility in Washington State sends a clear message to the other Washington that if Congress is not ready to act to reduce gun violence, voters in states around the country can and will take the matter into their own hands.” [The Nation, 11/5/14]
There’s a message here. The Big Money NRA took a position antithetical to local interests.
There’s also another space into which the message can be inserted: All politics is national. There are some newly elected Republicans who could come to symbolize the state of the party. Do your friends and neighbors, physical and social media, relate to this comment from Joni Ernst (R-IA)
“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” [HuffPo]
Then there’s newly elected Representative Crescent Hardy (R-NV4) opining on the situation with the standoff between Federal officials and the ‘sovereign citizen’ domestic terrorists on the Bundy Ranch:
“But Hardy also claimed that the BLM and federal park rangers had no right to enforce laws on the property in question. Asked about that odd statement, Hardy cited the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, which he said were ‘part of the Constitution,’ although he acknowledged he couldn’t immediately identify a passage to support his contention.” [LVRJ]
And who could forget Senator Ted Cruz and his government shutdown, except that he’d very much like to have everyone forget he was for it before he was against it. Remember the headline, “House Republicans Credit Ted Cruz As Government Shutdown Looms?” He’d very much like for us to forget this, unfortunately for Cruz and the Republicans – it’s still out there. Who would like to be associated with these three? Some will, and the rock bottom base of the GOP will cling to these characters like quagga on a row boat – the great American middle? Perhaps not so much, especially if Democrats are capable of defining their opponents before the opponents define them.
A modest example: What might happen if some party activists, or some interest group, or just a small group of independent citizens, put together a Top Ten List of Great Republican Quotes periodically, and sent them to everyone on their “mailing” list – to be forwarded to everyone on the recipient’s “mailing” lists… Or how about a nice Viral Video? These activities are relatively cheap and depend more on relationships than money – things could get interesting? If a single person shipped off a Famous GOP Quote to everyone on their e-mail list even if it’s a modest five person collection and each recipient forwarded the message to another five … it doesn’t take long to get to some 625 people, 3125 people….
Here’s hoping the Democratic Party in Nevada, and elsewhere, is not depending on the Big Draw of a Presidential election to create an atmosphere conducive to the Democratic agenda for 2016. I hope that the candidate recruitment process is going on NOW. That the messaging process is being calculated NOW. And that the penultimate strategy is we have nothing to fear from Republican candidates other than fear itself.
Democrats have a party the leadership of which: Produced 63 consecutive months of economic growth; we have 54 straight months of increased private sector employment; the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.1% in October 2009 to 5.9%; the federal deficit has been reduced by 66% since October 2009; the rate of federal spending increases is the lowest (1.4%) since the Eisenhower administration; 95% of Americans pay lower taxes than at any time in the last fifty years; 7 million Americans have health insurance they could not have afforded before the ACA; and the rate of health care spending increases has been less (1.3%) than any year since 1965. [pdf]
Cutting through the Crap from the Noise Machine
No regular viewer of the Faux News Machine is going to believe anything in the previous paragraph. There is a non-productive tendency to want to answer everything tossed out by the Noise Machine when in fact it may better serve Democrats to let them indulge in their regular tantrums and merely enjoy the ludicrous irrationality.
Perhaps we’d be better served by a narrative about fear – as in we’re tired of being afraid. When did this nation become such a country filled with shrinking violets that we can become frightened of ONE case of Ebola infection in our entire territory?
When did this nation become so afraid of our own neighbors that we must arm ourselves to the gunwales and tremble before the prospect – highly unlikely – of a home invasion? (the rate is about 0.42%) When did we become such a troupe of Wet Pants Dancers that we, all 319,000,000 of us, don’t think we can stand up to 33,000 wacky terrorists in Iraq and Syria?
When did we become so afraid of “debt” that we can’t even consider improving our physical infrastructure, building schools and libraries, expanding our parks, employing more high school counselors, increasing the capacity of our community colleges and technical schools, improving medical and social services for veterans, investing in medical and scientific research…. There are issues here. Positive, practical issues. We could use some new voices – voices that aren’t afraid – voices telling us we are the strongest, most productive, richest, and most vibrant nation on the face of this planet – and it’s high time we acted like it.