April 13, 2009
-- by Dave Johnson
We're all laughing at the right's nuttiness, especially the teabagging campaign. They say Obama isn't an American, that he is a communist, that in ten weeks he is responsible for the bush deficit, that he is planning to put everyone in concentration camps, that he is going to replace the dollar with a world currency, that he is gutting the military... And he has only been in office ten weeks.
In fact they're back to being as crazy and paranoid as they were when Clinton was President. Remember the accusations that Clinton and Hillary were murderers, that Hillary personally killed Vince Foster, that Clinton ran a drug-smuggling operation out of an airstrip, that he was looking through FBI files, that he fired the travel office to put a cousin in, that he "sold" plots in Arlington cemetery, that he held up runway traffic to get a $500 haircut, that he used cocaine in the White House, that he hung obscene ornaments on the White House Christmas tree and the other fabrications that came daily?
We laughed then, too, and how did that work out? They took over the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Then they started wars. They tortured people. They appointed corporate lobbyists to run every agency. They filled the courts with Federalist Society judges that rule for the corporations and religious right every time. They stole billions -- in one documented case actually having the Fed ship truckloads of pallets of hundred dollar bills directly to Iraq to be distributed to Bush cronies. They destroyed the economy of the world. And they worked hard to destroy the world itself -- the arctic is melting, the fisheries are depleted, the resources are plundered... And they get away with it -- who is being held accountable for any of that?
When Joe McCarthy was spreading his poison we dismissed him as a nutcase. We laughed at the John Birch Society's paranoia, when they called Eisenhower a communist, and they ended up getting Bolton appointed to the UN. We thought the "Impeach Earl Warren" campaign was a joke and now they have the Supreme Court majority. We laughed at Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's campaign and the religious right ended up staffing the administration with their followers. ... And now we mock them for being insane over Obama.
So I want to say, please take the right seriously. They may appear to be crazy - and they are - but this doesn't mean it isn't going to work. Let me explain.
In another life I was involved in direct mail. I learned a lot.
Direct mail lets you measure the effect of every smallest thing. You can change the color of the paper the letter is written on and then measure the effect this has -- and by the way, the color actually makes a measurable difference. Changing the price from $9.99 to $9.95 can have a significant effect on the number of people who choose to buy what you are selling.
So what I am getting at is that the most important lesson I learned was there is a reason that direct mail is worded the way it is, and looks the way it looks. That reason is that it works. "Buy now" is a call to action, and if you put "buy now" at the right place in your offer, people ... buy now. Every single word, the color, the font, the thickness of the ink, the headline, even the placement of periods and commas have all been tested and they are there because putting them there that way increases the number of people who make the decision to buy.
Repeat: they do it because it works.
What the right did in the Clinton years worked. They know how to do this stuff. That is why people across the country are reporting that a mass robo-call effort is underway to invite people to these tea parties. This is a funded strategic operation. They are reaching out to the general public with their message that Obama and "liberals" are to blame for the economy. They are setting the stage to own the issue when the economy gets worse.
Going out and talking to the general public with their message is effective, and that is what they are doing. Everything with them is about shaping public opinion. Everything is propaganda, saying whatever they need to say and refining what they say until it is having an effect, and then repeating and repeating that message. It's just standard marketing and advertising. And they get away with it because they are the only ones doing that. They have an entire TV channel dedicated to telling the public that conservatives and their ideology are good, and that everything that is bad in their lives is the fault of the liberals. They still have dozens - hundreds - of radio shows repeating that message 24 hours a day across the country. They still have hundreds of paid operatives writing op-eds, books, speaking to groups, appearing on their TV and radio shows, always always always repeating a coordinated strategic message.
It works. They're doing it and they are funded and strategic. We aren't. We're right and they are wrong, progressive policies and candidates are better for people than conservatives ones, but we aren't telling the public. We have no coordinated marketing effort to explain to the general public how and why progressives and progressive ideas and policies are better for them than the conservative approach. Until we do the right remains just as dangerous as ever.
Watch your backs.
Posted by Dave Johnson at April 13, 2009 9:02 AM
I agree that the left could reach out to the public more often and more effectively.
But I don't see the Republicans gaining control of anything for a really long time. The tides have shifted - the nation is more progressive now than it was in the 1990s. There is a chance that the GOP's "advertising" will begin to have an impact, but should that happen, Obama will simply adjust and out-maneuver the Republicans. I don't think there can be any doubt that Obama is the most sophisticated politician in the country right now, and that this group of crazy Republicans could out-message him seems unlikely.
Don't forget that it's the Democrats who understand the internet. The Republicans have a long way to go to catch up in that area - and the more time that goes by, the more trouble the GOP is going to have.
Plus, the electorate is going to continue to change in favor of progressives. Young people are much more progressive, and as they continue to get older (and vote more), the GOP will find itself in even deeper trouble. That, combined with shifting demographics (Virginia will keep trending blue, for example), adds up to a lot of happy Democrats.
Posted by: Brian Krenz at April 13, 2009 10:32 AM
Political posturing will not assure a Democratic majority for 2 decades.
You cannot be pleased the Administration has chosen to take public funds, tax payer labor, in order to make whole the bondholders and at-risk capital providers of of the banks and insurance companies. Why position yourself as schils for the finance industry and the Geithner BIG BOND HOLDER rescue program? ...A rhetorical question. You have no choice as loyals Dems'.
Fundamentally, my view is that the U.S. economy is on very thin ice, and that by focusing on the bailout of corporate bondholders rather than the restructuring of debt, we are courting the risk of a far deeper downturn. Last year, I didn't think it was conceivable that policy-makers would attempt to address this problem by making lenders whole with public funds. This is an ethical abomination, putting the public in the position of absorbing the losses that should properly be borne by those who provided capital to these institutions. It is not sustainable. What it does it place the public in the position of losing first, but it will not, and cannot prevent the ultimate failure of the debt – for the simple reason that without restructuring, the debt can't be serviced.
It is true that insurers, pension funds, and other entities own part of the debt of these financial institutions, but they certainly do not own all of it, and to the extent that it is in the public interest to use public funds to reimburse the losses of various entities, that can and should be part of the political process. But to broadly immunize every bondholder of these institutions with public funds is repulsive. Even the bondholders of Bear Stearns can expect to get 100% of their principal back, with interest.
In fact they're back to being as crazy and paranoid as they were when Clinton was President.
I agree and the question is, can they get away with it again?
Posted by: Steve J. at April 13, 2009 10:52 PM
Brian Krenz stated above:
"Don't forget that it's the Democrats who understand the internet. The Republicans have a long way to go to catch up in that area - and the more time that goes by, the more trouble the GOP is going to have."
Your dismissal of the post is off-base for many reasons. I recall the nutty nineties as well as does Dave Johnson. he is entirely correct. This stuff works.
To say that the Democrats have any advantage on the internets betrays mindboggling ignorance.
Sure, Democrats/Progressives/Left may have a nice niche and echo chamber of well-reasoned political and media analysis. Perhaps it even dwarfs what the right has in this area.
But you completely underestimate the power of the vast rightwing army of email forwards. Even Vince Foster stuff (discredited by Snopes in 1999) is still making the rounds. It does not matter that they're not true. People believe them.
The Rightwing Forward Regime trumps every piece of the net that Democrats think they control.
It's not even close.
There seems to be quite a bit of generalization going on here. Not all American Rightwing Republicans are conniving and sneaky. For every single crazy there is on the right, there is undoubtably one to match it on the left. Politics makes people crazy. I want to know what is being done to help the situation, not listen to a bunch of right AND left crazies argue about who is more of a nut. I dont care what Beck says, I dont care what Rush says, but I do care what my president is saying, and right now, he isnt saying much that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I know, I know, "But it's only been 10 weeks. . ."
Good overview and great reminder, Dave. Thanks. Linked.
Posted by: Batocchio at April 18, 2009 2:02 PM
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