Monday, May 02, 2005

Learn to say 'ain't' ...

Well, here we go, with me stepping way outside my pay grade on political thought. All of the essays on this subject will be rough. Many of them will contradict each other. Quite a bit of it will seem manipulative and morally bankrupt. Very work-in-progress. Only way to learn and grow, I guess.

I've been in conversation with some other bloggers, and was working on a longer series of articles, when Ezra Klein gave me the perfect in on the subject -- a link to Thomas Franks article in the New York Review of Books called What's the Matter with Liberals?

Franks discusses something that everyone EXCEPT those people in charge of electing Democratic presidents seemed to understand -- when your party has perceived weaknesses, don't run the guy who's the stereotype of that weakness. Or, as my friend Mark Waid said: "Why the fuck do we keep nominating Frazier Crane?"

My bigger point, leaving all the fancy policy stuff to the wonks who delight in them, is that the art of politics is convincing people to connect with you. When you have an idea, and the other guy has an idea -- if you don't connect in some primal way with the listeners your idea is never even going to get considered, no matter how much better it is on a rational level. In theory, "We're sending guys to fight in Iraq without body armor or properly equipped Humvees and then cutting taxes on rich folk" is literally the worst idea I could come up with to play in a mill town, unless that sentence ended with "... and then, your sons kiss each other." And yet the RR (Radical Right) gets a pass on this. Why? because as soon as guys like John Kerry (and God bless 'em, Al Franken and Janeane Garofolo) open their mouths, all the audience hears is "snobby snob snob think you're so smart!"

Now who the hell am I to even think I have something to contribute here? Well, let's say the candidate's job is to walk into a room of complete strangers and get them to like him. Connect with him. Wow, the few rare politicians who can do that, they're worth their weight in gold.

I did that for twelve years. So did hundreds of other people you've never heard of. We're stand-ups, and that's the ENTRY-LEVEL for the job.

A good stand-up can walk into a room, a bar with no stage and a shit mic, in the deep goddam South or Montana or Portland or Austin or Boston, and not only tell jokes with differing political opinions than the crowd, can get them to laugh. With all due respect to our brother performers in theater, etc., we can walk into a room of any size from 20 to 2000 complete strangers with no shared background and not just evoke emotion ... we can evoke a specific strong emotion every 15 seconds. For an HOUR. A good stand-up can make fun of your relationship with your wife, make fun of your job, make fun of your politics, all in front of a thousand strangers, and afterward that same person will go up and invite the stand-up to a barbecue.

In short -- every club audience is a swing state.

I think I speak for a lot of professional comics when I say there's nothing more frustrating than watching your candidate up on stage or on TV flail around without the basic rhetorical skills needed to score a 5 minute opening set at the Improv. Never mind the more advanced skills of the road comic. But because the vast amount of speaking a candidate does is either a.) to sedate, formal fundraising audiences or b.) rallies filled with the base, the flaws in presentation are hidden. The flaws in the greater theory of candidate communication are never exposed.

For starters, let's talk image. When I first started out on the road, I was a skinny guy with a big nose, a Boston accent and a Physics degree telling jokes in bars out West. I was hitting a wall of resistance in a lot of rooms. One night in Rawlins, Wyoming, the headliner -- a sweet road comic named "Boats" Johnson -- took me aside.

"You're a good joke writer. I mean, damn, there's some smart stuff in there."
"Thanks. But, uh..."
"They don't like you much." Boats handed me a beer. "Second show. Longneck. Always a longneck. Bring it on stage. Sip from it every now and then."
"I don't really drink on stage --"
"Fine. Fill it with water. Don't bring attention to it, just sip from it."
I shrugged. "Anything else?"
"Yeah. Learn to say 'ain't'. Don't change the jokes. Just learn to say 'ain't' every now and then."

The shows went, much, much better after that. I told the same gun control jokes, the same pro-gay marriage bits, the same making-fun of the culture wars jokes. But now I was killing.

There are two lessons to be taken from "Learn to say 'ain't'." First, the fundamental dynamic in all crowd interaction is us vs. them. Period. It's sad. Oh well. Get over it and win.

Now, the fine line here is that, the audience also always knows when you're being dishonest. That's worth hitting again. When you are on stage, the audience's collective mind can tell when you're not being yourself. And even more importantly, they can tell when you're lying to be one of "us". (Like Kerry hunting, or Dukakis in the tank). Changing yourself to fit the audience would be the wrong lesson to take from "Learn to say 'ain't.'" No, the lesson Boats was teaching me was that there's no problem with relaxing a bit and showing that you're not one of "them." He was teaching me that connection is a half-way game -- just extend out a little, and the audience will come the rest of the way. They will extend the boundary of "us" if you advance toward it. That was the genius of "compassionate conservatism."

People will relax and trust you when you're not trying to dazzle them with brainpower. It's okay to be the smartest guy in the room, but that shouldn't be the point of it. This is a liberal weakness, because they often seem to operate on the dual fuels of statistics and sputtering. They foolishly believe that the smartest, most morally equitable, most well-reasoned argument is the right one.

Well, of course it's the right one. It's just not necessarily the one that's going to WIN. And when they point, justifiably, at their idea which is backed up by all the data, all the statistics, and say "But, but this is the only logical solution", the implication is "... by not arriving at this yourself, you are stupid." And once somebody thinks you called them stupid, you've lost them forever. "What's the matter with Kansas?" Nothing, you supercilious fuck, what's the matter with you? Guess who I'm voting for every time you lecture me that you're on my side, and I just have to see that? Yeah, the other guy. Bye now. (this is tied into another rule of stand-up -- "You can never convince anyone of anything", which we'll deal with later)

"Us" is a very amorphous concept. Look how the conservative factions hang together. Catholics and evangelicals? Whaaaaa? You can slide into "Us" without compromising your values or positions. But that means making sure you define "Them" a.) clearly and b.) outside your target audience.

Am I endorsing Clintonist "triangulation"? Hell no. The job here is not to find a moderate position everyone can agree on, because then, frankly, you'll smell like an opportunist and the audience will turn on you (and you'll lose your base). No, the trick (and the RR has done this very sweetly) is to triangulate the audience away from your opponent's position, and by default towards your own.

The second lesson coincides with an interesting study mentioned in Freakonomics. Levitt discovered that in political races where the same opponents ran against each other multiple times, but spent vastly different sums of money from race to race -- the money didn't matter. The races shifted, on average, maybe a percentage point in each direction. Once the electorate has determined your identity, and whether you're "us" or "them", that's it.

This leads to an even more interesting idea. As a comic, these people have never seen you before, and you can control their perception of you in the first five minutes of them meeting you -- which will be the sum total of their perception. But this means that in politics, there are people out there who have already been in the spotlight so long, or who have so well-determined their cultural identities, that no matter how qualified, no matter how sincere, no matter how goddam perfect for the job they are ... they just won't be President in the current cultural atmosphere. It doesn't matter how wildly unfair that is. They can never, ever slide into "us." Kerry was so, so far outside of "us" that, frankly it was a testimony to how badly Bush has screwed up that he even got THAT close. Oh, and sorry, Hilary, I'm talking to you. (oddly, if she weren't burdened with her First Lady Identity, her Senate Identity might pull it off.) On the other hand, I'm also talking to Frist and Santorum.

I feel a digression coming on. I'll split that off in another post called --

(NOTE: some feedback and comments also here)

(EDIT: 2/22/06 -- hey, seeing as this has recently warmed up, a small update post here.)

136 comments:

Steve Peterson said...

Just wanted to say I'm completely with you on this. When I was in the army I learned a similar lesson:

When you want to say something's the smart thing to do say "it's just common sense." If you started talking about smart this and smart that you're immediately an outsider, and someone to distrust, or trying to be tricksy with your smartness. But everyone pays attention to common sense -- it's just common sense to use common sense. Moreover, the sergeants knew they weren't college-smart, but they did have common sense. Your ideal rhetoric here is then to cast the opposing view as being a brainy, ivory tower theory and your own view as just being common sense.

On a side note, Freakonomics is pretty damn cool. Did you find out about it on Slate?

Ian said...

This was just fucking incredible. Kudos.

Erik said...

Have you read the interview with Brian Schwitzer on Salon? He's the Democratic governor of Montana, and he had this to say at the opening of the interview about Democrats:

"You know who the most successful Democrats have been through history?" he asks. "Democrats who've led with their hearts, not their heads. Harry Truman, he led with his heart. Jack Kennedy led with his heart. Bill Clinton, well, he led with his heart, but it dropped about 2 feet lower in his anatomy later on.

"We are the folks who represent the families. Talk like you care. Act like you care. When you're talking about issues that touch families, it's OK to make it look like you care. It's OK to have policies that demonstrate that you'll make their lives better -- and talk about it in a way that they understand. Too many Democrats -- the policy's just fine, but they can't talk about it in a way that anybody else understands."


The interview is pretty good. (Here)

bendavid said...

Where the fuck did that come from, man? That was smart and heartfelt. You need to take this passion and class and use it to make an Ex Machina TV series. West Wing meets Joss Whedon.

James Moran said...

Holy shit. The Democrats need to hire you immediately - you've not only realised what their fatal flaw is, you know how to fix it. Fantastic post.

Timmy Mac said...

I didn't think it was possible, but you just made me proud to be a comic again.

Seriously. Un-fucking-believably on the nose.

Gryn said...

Finally someone who gets it!

Now if we can only get Jon Stewart to run...

Anonymous said...

I think the comparison to stand up is a great one, but I have one complaint. To me the Yale legacy, ultra-spoiled Bush trying to come off as a regular guy is such Bullshit it makes me want to hit him in the face with a shovel whenever I see or hear him. I find his mannerisms completely phony and irritating. Yet it works for him. I don't think the Republicans are necessarily better at this. They had Reagan, we had Clinton. Call it a tie in the charm department. Bush is not actually charming. They are winning now because they control the media. They are able to define both themeselves and their opponents.

prorata said...

Just commenting on what Anon said

They are winning now because they control the media. They are able to define both themeselves and their opponents.

This is spot on and until liberals finally win back some media of our own, we will NEVER win elections, no matter how funny or authentic or "One of Us" our candidates are. Remember that most voters never got a chance to see Kerry face-to-face without talking heads and journalists immediately framing his words and appearances. If the lens that you're looking at the world through is warped, your view of the candidate is going to be warped too, no matter how real/funny/personable he is in reality.

Tim said...

You have nailed the key to communications completely, so much so that I just got through raving about this piece on my own blog.

Anonymous said...

I am in awe. Very eye opening post - and a hell of a lot more useful than Lakoff's book on framing.

Rogers said...

You know, you can only ride the "they control the media" horse for so long. First off, it's not useful -- it'll take decades to win that battle, and you want to write off every election between then and now? Second, I would argue that the times you saw Kerry, he played directly into every stereotype, AND failed to engage, primarily because of some of the reasons up top.

Of course, that's strategy, 'innit? Always trying to win the last war. new rule. No more "If CLinton did that..." and "The Republicans's unfair advantage is X". Deal with it. Those are the rules of battle on the ground. Get ahead o fthe battle, don't keep lagging behind complaining how deep the mud is.

prorata said...

I agree with you that we need to field more media-friendly/less stereotypical candidates, but ignoring the fact that our candidates will -never- get a fair shake until more liberal voices are reflected in the MSM isn't going to get us anywhere. We've got to do both. Remember "The Scream" Dean. (Have you ever seen Dean speak in person, btw? Smart, yet down-to-earth and personable. Much less liberal than the media painted him as. Yet his candidacy -never got- a chance because the media -never gave- him a chance. The only way we can overcome the bias is by running someone with Clinton's media skills - and candidates with that kind of savvy are a rare bird indeed.)

Rogers said...

In theory, those media skills should be the DLC's job. Expecting individual candidates to be experts may be beyond reason. Along with the little fund-raising dudes who head out to each candidate, a little media strike-force team should also be assigned.

Rogers said...

Also, I personally can't DO anything about the media, or contribute to that discussion in a meaningful way. I think I do have a handle on this stuff. Think of me as a weapons specialist in the war. Don't ask me to plan an amphibious assualt, or figure out how to cut supply lines. But I certainly as shit know how to put sand filters on the chopper intakes, if you catch my meaning.

Lawman said...

Dear Mr. Rogers,

Your "right on" words to we adults remind me of Fred Rogers' timely "counselings" with kids. Any relation?

As the creator of the comic strip had Pogo speak: "we have found the enemy and he is us."

Openly working to reconcile our own contradictions is "performance art," and, moreover, is LIFE (well lived) in my opinion.

Thanks for your creative additions.

Phyl said...

Thank you SOOOOO much for this! I get kind of silent in my own blog because it starts seeming so overwhelming. But this really cuts to the heart of things. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Typical feel-good bullshit. Politicians have a lot to learn from comedians, but you have a lot to learn about politics.

Picture your worst moment on stage - your absolute worst most offensive stupidest moment - blasted out on TV again and again and again and again. And that's your introduction to most people. That's what politicians deal with every fucking day, along with begging for gobs of money from whiny donors, handling an office full of political operators, and putting forward an agenda with no support from any policy-making or idea generating bodies. And the fact that you bring up Dukakis in the tank, which is exactly that moment, means you have zero fucking clue about politics.

If winning were this easy, don't you think Democrats would have figured it out? There are thousands of candidates out there. You think that perhaps one of them would have taken this kind of advice to heart. Oh but they haven't. It's not because they are all dumb, it's because of structural factors that cause people who do exactly what you're suggesting to lose.

I am so sick and tired of the Democratic base whining about how Democrats should do something differently. They do what they have to do to survive, just like you do.

Here's my suggestion. Support candidates in primaries that you think exhibit the kind of stage presence you like. That or run for office. And fer godsakes, quit this whiny self-righteous attitude. It's your fucking party too.

Schadelmann said...

"Boats" Johnson?? I remember him from when I used to go to Comedy Clubs with my friend Ray James....Johnson had one of my favorite jokes, the one about being a teacher and a parent saying to him "are you saying my kid's stupid becuase he can't read?" and he responds "no, I'm saying he's fucking Einstein because he can't read."

Your point is VERY well taken and something I too have been harping on for years. Kerry and Gore were bland, dull people chosen because they weren't "offensive." Whatever. They also LOST!

Rogers said...

Anonymous, is politics HARD? I had NO IDEA.

(And I'm the whiny one?)

You're so angry, so very, very angry. You're right -- if only I knew so much more about politics, and knew I had no place and no worth to contribute. I'm hardly self-righteous -- and the fact you're reading self-righteousness into this -- means you're feeling criticized here. Not my intent. Before. Now, I have no problem telling you to fuck off, it's my blog. But before, we were cool. And then you had to go and ruin it.

I'm not saying what I'm discussing is going to get people elected. I'm not selling anything. I'm certainly not saying I'm the smartest guy in the room. I'm merely pointing out that there are complex issues regarding positioning, rhetoric and image and that many -- particularly progressive -- people have no idea they're sabotaging themselves at step one when attempting to get their message across. My hands-on approach is an attempt to demystify the process and put it in practical terms. I have no agenda -- not even personal ego -- other than trying to crack open this set of analytical tools and see if they work.

As to why I don't think there are thousands of candidates doing this... well, my point is most precisely that -- people don't know how to do this. It's certainly not that they're dumb. I know many geniuses who just aren't quite able to master getting their ideas across in a concise and pleasant manner. It's Because speaking in front of groups and convincing them tolike you is not a normal behaviour.

It is, however, a required behaviour for progressing a cause. Doing so convincingly is not codified in any way, and to a great degree it's instinctive. I'm only attempting to put into words, to create structure, so people can
discuss something they sort of sense at the edge of their consciousness. And perhaps see where they're weak at it

Point final: Progressives keep losing. You go ahead and rage that we need to shut up and just "vote harder" all you want. That does not seem to be working. Evidence does not bear you out. I constantly see progressives on television getting their asses wiped across the screen because they don't know how to talk about their issues in relatable ways. I'm not imagining that. I see it. I talk to strangers for a living. This is my world, sparky, and I see other people doing it poorly. Sorry if saying "I think there's a problem, I believe I have a job skill that can help, let me try to explain and contribute the best way I can" pisses you off. If there were a humbler way to put it, I'd try. On the other hand, ref, above comment, "my blog" re fucking off.

This, of course, is exactly why no progress is made (see the discussion of Sling and the Stone in the follow-up post) on evolving our tools. First instinct is to circle your ideological wagons. I have no wagons to circle, and reason is my tool.

This is how science works. Discuss. Suggest. Debate, discard. Examine the evidence, make some predictions, offer trials and theories. Nothing advances unless we try everything. A year from now, I may say right here on this blog "You know what, I'm an idiot." But somebody else may have figured something out based on a hare-brained idea I had.

I may be wrong here. But telling me to shut the fuck up and support my candidate is, unless I'm mistaken, probably the opposite of the democratic process. And that sense of entitlement probably also shows that, whatever you do in the electoral process, you need to take a long, loooooong vacation.

Oh, and it's not "my party." Democrats just happen to be the progressives in this nation. But, there you go -- in America, everybody has to choose sides. Well, fine. I choose reason and doubt.

Carlos said...

Well, most presidential candidates had been elected several times to different public offices during their career and their demeanor and "lack of rethorical skills" has made them no harm. Kerry may be a snob but he did beat all the other candidates in the primaries, didn't he? It wasn't so obvious that he was unelectable back then. My guess is that he can do a pretty good job getting people to like him. The only problem is that the other side did a BETTER job of getting people to dislike him!!!
Politics is different from stand up comedy in that it's competitive. Not only you are not alone in that stage, the other guy is insulting you in a loud voice while you try to tell your jokes.
A lot of the "image" problems you talk about are real but some are induced by the opposition. Learning to attack your opponents in that way can be as useful as better stand up skills.

Abby said...

Steve Peterson,

How funny that you mentioned "common sense." I'm not terribly representative, but whenever someone says "it's just common sense," I'm immediately suspicious that they're overlooking something important.

Rogers said...

Again Carlos, precisely my point, and this is exactly the type of discussion we should be having to pick apart and hone these ideas. Thank you for your input.

First, the Iowa caucus is an incredibly artificial process, resembling regular voting in almost no way, unless in your state, in November, reps from the candidate come to your home and gathered a bunch of your friends in the kitchen. Physically.

But you're quite correct. There's plainly a baseline of ability in what we're discussing for any working candidate.

My argument is that when the other guy beats you into the "us" club, you become much, much easier to be pushed into "them." We'll never be able to stop the efforts at getting the voters to dislike our candidate. What we may be able to do is innoculate them with some tools to blunt the effect, or even get into the "us" perception first.

Part of this is also setting up a base for a discussion of how to craft ideas so that they promulgate more effectively once introduced. A more effective "delivery system" for both a.) ideas and b.) candidate perception. Again, this is not about "selling" ideas, or folling the voter. It's about showing that your intent is sincere, and concurrent with the voters' interests.

As to the stand-up thing ... well, it's probably my blind spot, but I'll keep hitting on how, however easier you think stand-up is than politics, it's not. At least from the very primitive power dynamic I'm discussing. (and I cannot reinforce enough how limited the scope of my ideas are). Whenever you see a comic up there, looking like he's having a good time, I assure you -- those strangers in the seats will in a second, in a SINGLE FALSE BEAT, turn on him like a stranger they discovered breaking into their child's bedroom at 3 am.

Aaron said...

Perhaps the best way to understand how the stand up comedian analogy works in attack-oriented political campaigns is to imagine a group such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as hecklers. How does the stand up deal with a heckler? You deride them and hold their interruption up to the harsh light of mockery. Kerry decided to tell the hecklers that they were being really, really unfair and asked Bush to condemn the attacks. This same principal can apply to attacks from other campaigns.

Anonymous said...

John, great post.

And it's substantially been said before, but not in this way (i.e. the 'us vs. them' thing), which is a great contribution.

It's the same as the wishes for D's to nominate "regular people", extroverts, non intellectuals, non coastal types.

The blogger Digby has often compellingly talked about how we need to put on a better "show."

I'm optimistic because other than Hillary and Kerry (neither of whom will be the nominee, IMO), all the big contenders for the D nom in '08 are more social, non intellectual types.

Rogers said...

Nice, Aaron, niiiiice.

Big Daddy said...

LOL!!!

You liberal freaks still don't get it.

I'm an ivy league educated Born Again Christian who's passion is politics.

Reading this (and countless other) blog snippets on what the democrats ought to do everyday (which are then followed by the yahoo chorus of liberal kook clones saying "Yeah, man...that's the ticket!" reminds me of a bunch of geeks sitting around trying to figure out how to score hotties.

NONE OF YOU has a clue, but if one of the more analytical in the bunch posits a reasonsable sounding theory based on verifiable albeit limited experiences, you all start getting hard-ons thinking - "Yeah, I know how to pull bitches now...I'm gonna get laid by models the rest of my life!"

LOL!

What you guys don't get is...no matter how many times you say 'ain't' or try to pretend you like Christians...we see through you.

The ONLY reason Clinton one was because he was a sociopathic poser who sounded more like my Southern Baptist Preacher than...well...my Southern Baptist preacher did.

But that was in 1992. When the liberals controlled all the media.

That game is over for you, girls.

All we had to do was have one cable news station. ONE FREAKING STATION in a universe of NYTimesLATimesCNNABCNBCPBSCBSAPREUTERS etc...

and we ended your game.

That's one station just playing fair - Fox.

If you think it's gonna get better for you, then you're wet-dreaming again.

Wait until we actually have a totally conservative cable station and more news networks become fair.

So, when a Christian-pretender like the Bill Clinton appears on the political scene this time, Fox, Drudge and the net will tear him apart piece by piece.

I shall remind you that we live in a day when Ann Coulter makes the cover of Time.

(I know she bums out you losers liberals...kinda reminds of you of all the girls who immediately MOVED every time you sat next to them in the high school cafeteria, huh? Perhaps that's why you formed a group called MOVE ON, huh? That and the pie-throwing. Calling Dr. Freud! lol!)

You no longer can BAMBOOZLE people like you did in the Clinton era and we read all you stupid backroom blogging big ideas.

The fact is that PAT ROBERTSON was elected President in 2004. His name is Geo W Bush.

The dream has come true. And that's just with ONE fair and balanced network.

We're not turning back.

Wait until an fair and balanced AP or Reuters emerges.

It ain't gonna be good for you...

Anonymous said...

"Big Daddy" - (An amusing alias to take. Very Freudian.)

For an Ivy League educated man, I'm assuming here, since you seem to feel that using the term 'girls' later in your comment is an insult, you somehow manage to use "who's" ("..who's passion is politics.") when the correct word is "whose".

I'm not going to bother to address your post, as it is a far too obvious troll. But I do suggest that the next time you decide you need to troll a blog that you wish to seem incredibly well educated in, that you type it up in a word processor and use the spell and grammar check before posting.

(Oh, and KFM, your take on things is interesting. I think creating a primary where everyone votes on the same day is a much saner method, but I'm sure NH would be most disgruntled. I believe you're right, though. If they insist on putting forward eggheads, they should at least send them to either an acting school or charm school to learn how to interact with people of all levels of education and classes.)

Big Daddy said...

"I suggest you use the spell and grammar check"

LOL!

First of all, this 'brain surgeon' doesn't realize I already played the Freudian card in my post. Five points off in the originality department, troll.

Secondly, in perfect-Pavlovian fashion, he responds PRECISELY the way this blogger admonishes his fellow liberal headcases not to.

By prickly schoolmarmishly bitching about my use of who's vs whose.

Hey Ms. Manners, there are TONS of grammatical problems with my posts.
That's part of the point, nanotechnologist.

A point you liberals can't even get when it's blogged right in front of you in black and white.

Love,

Big Daddy

Ps With liberal loons like the ones I've encountered in this blog, our hegemony seems safe for at least the next 40 years! lol!

Aaron said...

I really don't think it's the existence of a rightist (or in your view, accurate) media source that prevents liberals from winning elections.

Regardless of what news outlets voters have access to, a skillful politician can utilize the battleground to his advantage. The Republicans just have a better infrastructure to deal with the media environment.

Think of the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth and the thousands of conservative organizations that lend experts for interviews, justify conservative policy through think tanks, and systematically train leaders to ascend the ranks of political office. The left simply does not match that level of organization.

Right now, liberals are trying to build that infrastructure, though haphazardly at best, often through the rough medium of the Internet.

Ironically, Kerry was nominated for his so-called electability, stemming from his Vietnam service. Faced with rational arguments they could not rebut, Republicans coordinated attacks on Kerry's service record and his Senate votes to portray him as an out of touch, dishonest, exaggerating liberal. This is, coincedentally, the same strategy successfully employed against McGovern, Dukakis and Gore.

Bill Clinton was able to acheive victory because he was nominated on force of personality rather than a skewed primary campaign.

It is often said that being the President is like wearing many hats or playing a role. Bill Clinton was a great actor and, as such, he lived his life in two separate public and private worlds. He was a fraud and had pathological obsessions. That is what made him great.

As George Carlin said, we loved Clinton because he was full of shit, we knew he was full of shit and he knew that we knew he was full of shit.

This same supposed sickness is present in other great leaders, especially Nixon But that's because genius is touched by madness. Anyone that great at any profession is pathological. What is ironic is that we frown on such behavior in a President, but accept it in an actual actor.

Kim said...

This is a good discussion. Lots of good points. Though it certainly seems to have made "Big Daddy" angry.
I think the media is a big problem, but I also think that Kerry really DID win the last election, but there was just enough cheating going on to tilt it to bush.
Personally, I rather like the sound of intellectuals, but I see what you mean-- it doesn't play well in Peoria. Some acting instruction and charm school could be good. Bush did it after all -- he is as blue-blooded as Kerry, he was raised in Maine and Connecticut, is rich as blazes, and just bought his "ranch" in Texas right before the election. and he seems to have been truly obnoxious before they drugged him up to make him only stupid.

GaijinBiker said...

Bush may be rich and privileged, but he still manages to pull off a down-home routine. How is that? I think it's because despite his wealth, he really IS a regular guy. In Caddyshack terms, he's Al Czervik and Kerry was Judge Smails. Both were rich, but one of them was a guy you'd like to hang out with, and the other was a pompous ass.

Liberal Chris said...

I agree with your post. But one thought. I keep thinking about the debates. The Kerry I saw in the debates was pretty kick ass. And he was kick-ass in the ways you are talking about. I certainly believed he was being himself. And I thought he connected with people.

I don't think I'm the only one who thought that, since every poll shows that he rather solidly won with the average american.

The problem of course is that the debates were the only time where most of us got to see unfiltered Kerry speaking without pundits or spin.

So I guess my point is this. You seem to be arguing "Dems need this skill that's a lot like stand-up, and they don't have it." I agree that this is the key skill. But in stand-up, as hard as it may be, you don't have an opponent trying very hard to convince people that you lack this skill.

I fear you have been conned a bit by the same brilliant GOP storyline that has conned much of the nation into believing that for whatever mysterious reason, conservatives have this connection with people but Dems just don't. I find that exceedingly unlikely. The main problem is, the GOP is better at convincing people that we don't have those skills. And in the current media environment and especially because they have been pumping that into people's heads for so long, it's very difficult to break through.

Liberal Chris said...

You are leaving out a key element. The GOP is playing defense.

They are trying to convince the nation that we lack precisely this quality that you claim Democrats lack. They are trying to convince the nation that we are elitist snobs, and that we look down on the good Christians, and that we are dishonest panderers with no sincere ideology on anything.

I agree with you that this is the key skill in politics. i agree with you that the nation's belief that Bush has this skill and Kerry didn't basically summarizes the election.

But do you really believe that so many GOP politicians - who after all are the party of big business on the issues - have this innate human touch, while basically no Dems have it? Or is it possible that the real difference is that the GOP has developed a compelling and difficult-to-break storyline about liberal elitism and that they attack all of us with it?

Kerry doesn't get an uninterrupted hour with his audience. It is filtered. He doesn't choose the soundbites and moments to highlight. And the GOP storyline on liberal elitism is well established. Not only do they keep pumping it, but the media has fun with it too.

Now maybe Kerry wasn't ideal. But the GOP will find a way to play defense on this very issue with every Democrat. And what makes the Dem that connects so rare is not that we lack these skills. It's that you have to be absolutely extraordinary at this stuff to get through the distortions and GOP storyline.

Big Daddy said...

Well I appreciate Aaron at least respectfully responding to (some) of my points instead of imperially blowing me off as a troll as the other liberal did.

BTW, do you know what a 'troll' is according to liberals? Anyone who doesn't agree with THEM! lol!

Anyway, there's a macro problem with Aaron's reasoning which I'll get into later.

But first, let's dig in a little bit and break down the multiple-micro fallaciousness...

**********

I really don't think it's the existence of a rightist (or in your view, accurate) media source that prevents liberals from winning elections.

Perhaps not, but I shall remind you that ever since the DrudgeReport (ONE internet site currently run by a SINGLE right-leaning dude) blew up (which was early 1998 during Lewinsky) that the Democrats have faced nothing but defeat after defeat after defeat...

Beginning with the permanent stain attached to Clinton's legacy..impeachment...2000...unprecedented same party House gains in 2002...and all the way to 2004.

Of course, post-2000 (which was when FoxNews really blew up, even though it had been broadcasting since '96) Drudge was aided and abetted by guys like Brit Hume who, on his grapevine segment, routinely broadcasted Matt's juiciest rumors about Democrats.

Face it, that one-two punch alone has been absolutely DEVASTATING to the Dems. Imagine when things get better (or worse from the leftist point of view)

In fact, it already HAS begun to get worse. Dan Rather has been replaced by another Democrat to be sure, but not nearly as much a partisan hack. Good old Tom Brokow (who famously ascribed Gore taking a state in the 2000 election to 'our side getting another one') is replaced by Bryan 'I respect Rush Limbaugh' Williams and ABC News will NEVER be as liberal again with the imminent departure of both Koppel and Jennings.

BOTTOM LINE: The hegemony on news you've had for the last 40-50 years is gone. As gone as the hegemony you had in the House and Senate. NEVER to return again. It hasn't for the last ten years in Congress. What makes you think, with even more conservative voices being heard almost daily and mega-churches growing by leaps and bounds (I live in the bluest of the blue parts of the country - Michigan - with a Democatic Governor, TWO Democratic Senators and a Democratic Mayor of the biggest city in the state and yet, though most of my young life I attended churches of 250-300 members, the two I frequent often now boast memberships of 10,000 and 20,000 respectively. And I live in Ann Arbor!!!) that the Dems are on the rebound? lol!

BTW, it should be no surprise that Michigan's economy is literally going in the tank as we speak. What state economy wouldn't with that kind of party at the helm???


Regardless of what news outlets voters have access to, a skillful politician can utilize the battleground to his advantage.

Not anymore. Not unless he's an Adolph Hitler type or the anti-Christ himself. Is that how far you dems have sunk? Waiting for the anti-Christ to help deceive the masses for you? lol!


The Republicans just have a better infrastructure to deal with the media environment.

Oh really???

Think of the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth and the thousands of conservative organizations that lend experts for interviews, justify conservative policy through think tanks, and systematically train leaders to ascend the ranks of political office. The left simply does not match that level of organization.


I've heard that canard before and I'm not buying it this time either.It's an excuse. The left has Brookings and virtually ALL the print media as well as most broadcast media and they've had ALL broadcast media from 1960-2000.


Right now, liberals are trying to build that infrastructure, though haphazardly at best, often through the rough medium of the Internet.

Negro, puh-leeze. True enough, the left is trying to copy the Republican's form but you'll never have the power. It's kind of like building a car that looks EXACTLY like a Vette. But not including a drivetrain. Looks/feels the same. Can't drive. As proven by move-on this past election. In fact move on is an anathema to the general public and an albatross around your neck. Therefore I say...LIVE ON - MOVE ON !!! lol!!!

Ironically, Kerry was nominated for his so-called electability, stemming from his Vietnam service. Faced with rational arguments they could not rebut, Republicans coordinated attacks on Kerry's service record and his Senate votes to portray him as an out of touch, dishonest, exaggerating liberal. This is, coincedentally, the same strategy successfully employed against McGovern, Dukakis and Gore.

Dream on my little liberal friend. Kerry's VNam record was attacked by OTHER VNam vets who hated his guts. Spin all you want but, at the end of the day, people didn't know what to believe but they sure as hell knew that Kerry PISSED OFF a ton of Nam vets and that was enough to give them pause. Attacking Bush on his National Guard was too little too lame. It didn't do the least bit to countervale the reality those brave heroic Swift Boat Vets had brought forth.

Bill Clinton was able to acheive victory because he was nominated on force of personality rather than a skewed primary campaign.

I already explained to you the REAL REASON why Clinton won. See my previous posts.

It is often said that being the President is like wearing many hats or playing a role. Bill Clinton was a great actor and, as such, he lived his life in two separate public and private worlds. He was a fraud and had pathological obsessions. That is what made him great.

Read what this liberal kook said again "He was a fraud and had pathological obsessions. That is what made him great."

This is why I JUST LOVE LIBERALS. Is that a money quote for my next republican direct-mail fundraiser or what??? LOL!!

You guys make it too easy!!!



As George Carlin said, we loved Clinton because he was full of shit, we knew he was full of shit and he knew that we knew he was full of shit.

Nope. George Carlin's bitter, narcotic-induced tripe notwithstanding, you loved Bill Clinton because he was able to trick Christians into thinking he was one of them. That's not gonna ever happen again.

**********


Now for my macro-analysis.

This poster obviously has drunk the liberal kool-aid. He's regurgitating what he's been repeatedly told by equally as kooky liberal analysts until he actually believes the BS he's spouting.

He is wrong on virtually EVERY... SINGLE... POINT he tried to make. Not even close. Yet, in a breakdown that would make anyone aspiring for even low-grade cognitive dissonance green with envy, avoids all of reality and imagines that, if only the right actor with the right infrastructure came along...we'd be back in power.

To that, I can only say...keep searching my friend...keep searching.

Love,

BIG DADDY

Holdie Lewie said...

BTW, it should be no surprise that Michigan's economy is literally going in the tank as we speak. What state economy wouldn't with that kind of party at the helm??

When Big Daddy blames Democrats for the fact that GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler make shitty cars, it's hard to take seriously anything he says.

Interesting that, later, he compares a shitty Corvette to the Democratic Party. I guess he doesn't think GM can do anything right, either.

shep said...

Holdie Lewie said:

“When Big Daddy blames Democrats for the fact that GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler make shitty cars, it's hard to take seriously anything he says.”

You were taking him seriously? He actually believes he’s a Christian!

shep said...

I think your points about Democrats’ ability to “work the crowd” are indisputable. But, I have to point out, rich, elite, liberal emotionally-distant, horse-faced, Kerry lost only by about 3% of the voting electorate - a few thousand votes, if you look at the Electoral College.

So what if you took away the slanderous RNC direct mail, or the incessant, disgusting lies of Coulter and Limbaugh, or the faux news of Fox News, or the despicable, right-wing funded, libelous Swift Vets? Or, better yet, what if the Dems took a page from the Republican play book? Sound good? Didn't think so - Democrats will never and should never sink to the level of Republican slime.

My guess is that the DNC is already trying hard to take your advice. And right now, the worm is turning on the Republicans who, in their extreme hubris (see “Big [probably tiny] Daddy” above), always overreach. Moderates who voted for Bush are suffering serious buyers-remorse and no longer believe anything Republicans say (witness their success convincing them on Schiavo and Social Security) and are scared sh*tless of the Christian fundamentalist zealots and their incestuous relationship with Republicans. You are witnessing the beginning of the end of the modern Republican movement.

Chris said...

I completely agree that it would help to have candidates with personal charm. Edwards would have been better for that reason. But you also need to have consultants who market the candidate as having personal charm, regardless of whether they actually do.

W, for example, doesn't appear to have much charm, his public speaking are awful, and he's absolutely not a regular blue-collar guy. But Republican consultants knew how to market him that way and fooled a lot of Americans into believing that he was.

In order to do this well, Dems need to hire people who do marketing well (as opposed to Shrum.) They need to have a narrative that people can connect to, as opposed to policy talks. They need to learn to defend themselves against attacks ads immediately -- didn't Clinton already show you how to do this right? They need to do what people actually respond to, rather than what focus groups tell them they like. (i.e. negative ads work, focus groups be damned). And they need to have consistent talking points.

http://tinyurl.com/darbj

Or look at this story -- "In early August, when the Swift Boat story started to pick up steam on the talk shows, Susan Estrich, a California law professor, well-known liberal talking head and onetime campaign manager for Michael Dukakis, had called the Kerry campaign for marching orders. She had been booked on Fox's 'Hannity & Colmes' to talk about the Swift Boat ads. What are the talking points? Estrich asked the Kerry campaign. There are none, she was told" (http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/2004/11/04/newsweek/)

Big Daddy said...

Why I love liberals

By

Big Daddy

Where to start????
Liberals are so gosh darned lovable. They singlehandedly GIVE us all the ammo we need to win election after election.

Here are just but a few examples of hateful yet revealing posts made in just ONE blog (this one) that will help us keep ALL 3 branches in conservative hands until I'm a grandfather at least...

“When Big Daddy blames Democrats for the fact that GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler make shitty cars, it's hard to take seriously anything he says.”

Right, and of course, the big 3 just started making sh***y cars when Jennifer Granholm and Debbie Stabenow were elected.

LOL!

You were taking him seriously? He actually believes he’s a Christian!

How silly of me. I thought you became a believer when you made JESUS YOUR LORD. Little did I know one had to wait for a LIBERAL KOOK to affirm this transformation before it was verifiable.

LOL!



Republicans who, in their extreme hubris (see “Big [probably tiny] Daddy” above), always overreach.

Obessising over my....er..private parts? I knew you liberals were for gay marriage. I guess I didn't realize it extended to turning every political discussion into Hot Gay M4M chat as well!

LOL!

BTW, how exactly do you figure we are the ones overreaching? As far as I can tell, we keep winning elections, even when your toadies GUARANTEE victory like in the 2002 Florida Gubenatorial Election. If that's not an overreach...what is???

Moderates who voted for Bush are suffering serious buyers-remorse and no longer believe anything Republicans say

That's right my liberal brother. And the reason the girl at the coffee shop blew you off was because you were just too good for her.

LOL

(They) are scared sh*tless of the Christian fundamentalist zealots and their incestuous relationship with Republicans. You are witnessing the beginning of the end of the modern Republican movement.

Right and also, I hope you loaded up on GM stock at 50...It's going to the moon!!!

LOL!!!!

But you also need to have consultants who market the candidate as having personal charm, regardless of whether they actually do.

LOL!! This statement speaks for itself. Could you guys possibly be any more clueless???

In early August, when the Swift Boat story started to pick up steam on the talk shows, Susan Estrich, a California law professor, well-known liberal talking head and onetime campaign manager for Michael Dukakis, had called the Kerry campaign for marching orders. She had been booked on Fox's 'Hannity & Colmes' to talk about the Swift Boat ads. What are the talking points? Estrich asked the Kerry campaign. There are none, she was told

That's right, fire back at those Viet Nam war heroes who risked their life for this country with DNC "Talking Points" brewed up in the bowels of Sidney Blumenthals' summer cottage. That'll fool the American people!

Folks...this keeps getting better and better...

Love,

BIG DADDY

Aaron said...

Big Daddy,

Thank you for your thorough response to my post. Now to return the favor.

...I shall remind you that ever since the DrudgeReport (ONE internet site currently run by a SINGLE right-leaning dude) blew up (which was early 1998 during Lewinsky) that the Democrats have faced nothing but defeat after defeat after defeat...

Timing does not prove causation. Furthermore, the Lewinsky story was picked up because it was salacious and shocking. A truly liberally biased media wouldn't have picked up the story at all, despite what one little-known internet reporter posted on his website.

BOTTOM LINE: The hegemony on news you've had for the last 40-50 years is gone. As gone as the hegemony you had in the House and Senate. NEVER to return again. It hasn't for the last ten years in Congress. What makes you think, with even more conservative voices being heard almost daily and mega-churches growing by leaps and bounds ...that the Dems are on the rebound? lol!

I wouldn't describe the status of the news industry before Fox and Druge as a left-wing hegemony. The media's bias is towards generating high ratings and circulation. I think the rise of conservative media is the result of ever improving technology and methods of communication. Media are fragmenting and appealing to ever more specific portions of the population. The rise of conservative media is not a sea change in the ideology of news organizations, but rather a natural step in the fragmentation of media outlets. Blogs are the next step. Now internet surfers can choose the media they expose themselves to. It's even refreshing to see a conservative such as yourself surfing a blog with a liberal slant.

Not anymore. Not unless he's an Adolph Hitler type or the anti-Christ himself. Is that how far you dems have sunk? Waiting for the anti-Christ to help deceive the masses for you? lol!

Every politician decieves the masses on some level. No Hitler or Anti-Christ is needed. All Democrats needs is someone who can actually relate or appear to relate to the American people. Kerry and Gore didn't have the common touch that Clinton and Carter exhibited. Reagan and GW Bush have it in spades.


Regarding the conservative infrastructure...I've heard that canard before and I'm not buying it this time either.It's an excuse. The left has Brookings and virtually ALL the print media as well as most broadcast media and they've had ALL broadcast media from 1960-2000.

The Brookins Institute and other liberal organizations cannot be logically equated with the media. While I agree that major media outlets have a slight liberal bias in some cases, they remain, overall, committed to generating ratings rather than pushing ideology. The institutes and think tanks however, show a great disparity in favor of the right.

Negro, puh-leeze. True enough, the left is trying to copy the Republican's form but you'll never have the power. It's kind of like building a car that looks EXACTLY like a Vette. But not including a drivetrain. Looks/feels the same. Can't drive. As proven by move-on this past election. In fact move on is an anathema to the general public and an albatross around your neck. Therefore I say...LIVE ON - MOVE ON !!! lol!!!

This is why I called the medium of the internet "rough." Moveon certainly hurt liberals more than it helped them. By distributing a message of anger, Moveon was literally targetting the converted. Of the 23% of voters who said they were angry about the Bush administration in exit polls, 96% voted for Kerry. The elections of 2006 or 2008 might force Democrats to articulate a core set of values that relates to voters. So far, the left has not come together to do so.

Dream on my little liberal friend. Kerry's VNam record was attacked by OTHER VNam vets who hated his guts. Spin all you want but, at the end of the day, people didn't know what to believe but they sure as hell knew that Kerry PISSED OFF a ton of Nam vets and that was enough to give them pause. Attacking Bush on his National Guard was too little too lame. It didn't do the least bit to countervale the reality those brave heroic Swift Boat Vets had brought forth.

Exactly. Kerry speaking out against the war after his service played into the flip-flopper framing perfectly. Furthermore, the Swift Boat attacks put a question mark on Kerry's service. The Republicans played Kerry's record perfectly.

Read what this liberal kook said again "He was a fraud and had pathological obsessions. That is what made him great."

This is why I JUST LOVE LIBERALS. Is that a money quote for my next republican direct-mail fundraiser or what??? LOL!!


By "great," I meant "successful." Many political leaders are driven by personal demons as are many artists and writers. The same things that made Clinton a dispicable private person made him a dynamic public leader.

This poster obviously has drunk the liberal kool-aid. He's regurgitating what he's been repeatedly told by equally as kooky liberal analysts until he actually believes the BS he's spouting.

He is wrong on virtually EVERY... SINGLE... POINT he tried to make. Not even close. Yet, in a breakdown that would make anyone aspiring for even low-grade cognitive dissonance green with envy, avoids all of reality and imagines that, if only the right actor with the right infrastructure came along...we'd be back in power.


Is this to say you aren't regurgitating typical conservative arguements? We all process and repeat arguements from the communication world around us. I'm not saying the right candidate with the right infrastructure will magically come along. Rather, Democrats are now building their infrastruce, including programs for cultivating and training candidates, and will again attain the same level of salience and competitiveness they had just a few short years ago.

David said...

These arguments, they are tiring. There's no attempt at real communication. There's no honesty. Just the Us's & Them's having at each other.

How did we get so divided? How can we heal the split? I see America going down the tube with this constant backstabbing. It's childish. That's what's wrong with American politics. It's childish. The people have no-one to look up to, no-one to admire, except in the most immature sense. Like Mussolini was admired.

We need someone who has the courage to follow their heart and speak the truth and mean it, not a trickster.

We need someone with real courage and wisdom, who is able to bring that most fundamental necessity in people's lives - peace of mind, happiness, and fulfillment.

I'm sure it will come from somewhere, because it is badly needed, and when it is needed, it is a guarantee that it will come.

shep said...

“Furthermore, the Swift Boat attacks put a question mark on Kerry's service. The Republicans played Kerry's record perfectly.”

Lordy. Republicans SMEARED Kerry’s record perfecly. Don’t you guys get it? Democrats don’t get beat because they don’t have better policies, better candidates or smart honest campaigns. Democrats get beat beacause Republicans, since Atwater, have perfected the art of the smear. Whether fooling the ignorant and disgruntled (those who feel that they’ve gotten it so badly so far they need to be “born again”?) by smearing liberals and Democrats in general or using a bunch of warped, partisan, pissed-off vets (who never even saw the man in action) to invent ugly stories about a decorated war hero, Republicans have essentially lied their way into power.

Sure, Dems need to do all they can to put up candidates that non-partisans can like and fight hard to win but they shouldn’t: 1) second guess themeselves soley because their opponents win by being better liars, 2) sink to their level by emulating their dispicable tactics, or 3) become covetous of Republican true believers who are presently incable of rational thinking when it comes to politics and are irrelevant to Democratic success. The last election and the Congressional elections of 2002 were won narrowly by Republicans among suburban moderates who were shocked witless by 9/11 and who’s patriotism was masterfully exploited in the runup to the Iraq war, as well as terrorism scares, anti-gay legislation, meddling by fundamentalist religious fanatics, and smears of John Kerry and his war service.

Like I said, Republican have spent their credibility among moderates and are about to sent back to the political wilderness where they belong (they used to make a fine opposition party to progressive over-reach). Democrats need to stop worrying about them and keep their eye on the ball: good policies and good candidates that clearly work for the interests of American middle and working class people. Although, a good stand-up comedian/consultant wouldn’t hurt and I said as much watching Kerry campaign in 2004.

shep said...

“I thought you became a believer when you made JESUS YOUR LORD.”

OK, you’re a “Believer”. You become a Christian when you take into your heart and try to live up to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Of course, it’s so much easier to be an assh*le and believe yourself saved because you say you made “JESUS YOUR LORD”. No wonder it’s so popular.

Bo Raxo said...

The starting point/blog/article by Rogers is quite insightful. Which makes it all the more frustrating that practically everyone else ignored the limited scope the author correctly applied and latched on to it as a panacea for why the Democrats are out of the White House and lost control of both houses of Congress.

The first, most obvious, glaring sign of moronitis is swallowing whole the meme of conservative triumphalism. There are some people who treat politics like sports: my team won! Your team lost! Nyah nyah.

A whole lot of very vocal conservatives do this, and amazingly a whole lot of the most vocal people on the left nod and agree: yeah, you boys are really rollin' large. Wow, what a tide, we better figure out what we're doing wrong because those darn Republicans are just steamrolling us.

Time for a reality check: we are a fifty-fifty nation. In 2000, Gore got more votes nationwide than Bush. If you win in the popular vote and lose in the electoral college, that's not a crushing defeat, that's a strategy that didn't put the right resources in the right places. It came down to Florida, which was in realistic terms tied. A court decided things. Gore was outlawyered, or you can cast it as something more devious, but it wasn't some massive loss at the ballot box. It's as if your team won their conference, made it to the Super Bowl, and lost by one point on a controversial call - would you then declare we need to toss out the playbook, fire the coaches, and find a completely different kind of quaterback?

Of course not.

Then we get to 2004. Kerry got more votes than Gore did, so clearly he appealed to a whole lot of voters. So how did he lose? Look at turnout. It was up, but when you break it down by age, it was up by far the most in people over 60 (up a whopping 17%). And among a group that was already the likliest to vote. Why?

Senior citizens already have the time to vote. If you get one to the polls who didn't previously, it's pretty obvious how that happened: local organization. If Grandma never bothered to vote before, and now suddenly does, it's probably because someone took the time to call her, took care of the paperwork for an absentee ballot, or drove her to the polls on election day. That's the GOP's winning strategy.

Although it's largely ignored, 2004 gave the parties a choice: raise money under strict limits, and you could coordinate these get-out-the-vote efforts with the official campaign. Or you could raise unlimited funds, but then you couldn't coordinate with the party and the candidate's organization.

The GOP picked the former, the Democrats picked the latter. Turned out tighter coordination was more valuable than the extra money.

Tip O'Neill, the kind of practical thinker that is rare indeed, is famous for saying all politics are local. Overstated, but in this case, true. When you have huge coverage of the candidates and the issues, and yet the deciding factor is among people who couldn't make up their minds until the last few weeks of the campaign, you're talking about something other than a candidate being able to connect with people. A month before the election, any vote you could get by a candidate connecting was already committed, and yet it was still neck and neck in early October.

No, it isn't selling soap on a wholesale, nationwide basis. It's selling the process of voting at a retail, county-by-county level. It's not about running against the other guy; the parties have shown enough difference to make registered members fiercely partisan. Kerry wasn't going to siphon off conservative voters any more than Bush would siphon off Democrats.

Instead the key to victory was getting more people to vote for your guy who otherwise and previously wouldn't bother. Doesn't matter if you're running FDR or Millard Fillmore at that point, because you're appealing to people who don't have a great affinity for either candidate, and don't care enough to have made up their minds on the issues. It comes down to some retiree who never had much interest in politics, doesn't bother to vote even in Presidential elections, but can be cajoled in to doing so if it's made really easy, they are asked nicely, and the person asking them makes them feel good about it.

It's all at the retail level in a 50-50 nation. Does this butterfly ballot hurt our guy? Is the number of ballot boxes or the procedures for voting skewing against our demographic? Are the other guys soliciting absentee ballots and trashing the ones that hurt them? Do we know whom to call on election day, and at what time of day? Do our voters know where their polling place is? It's fought on a per-county basis. Certainly Florida in 2000 should have taught us all that lesson.

And in the meantime, confront this bullshit notion that Republicans have somehow come to dominate national politics. 55 Senators is not a tide, it's a thin majority. The House could easily shift back as early as 2006, and is dependant on campaign finance laws and state-by-state battles on redistricting. It's no more a permanent conservative triumph that Clinton had in '93-'95, when the Democrats controlled all elected branches.

When Democrats take a look at 2004, I can't believe so many whine that if only the candidate had charisma, or if only they'd not gotten on the defensive so often, or if only this or if only that. All of which is said without the slightest regard for the specifics of the election results - as if a loss is a loss is a loss, whatever the cause.

Well, morons, when you lose, take at look at exactly how and where and why. An extra 150K votes in Ohio and Kerry would have won. How would you get those?

Not with charisma, or better stump speeches, or poisoning the Swift Boat Vets in their beds.

You do it with organization on the ground. You sign up the folks in that nursing home, and deliver their absentee ballots, while giving them a heartfelt plea for your guy. You call the folks who work at night in the afternoon reminding them to vote. You have phone banks calling your voters and vans picking people up and precinct captains who know, every hour, how many of their voters have gone to the polls compared to the promises they made last week.

You increase the turnout among voters likely to help you, not with the hook of some politician they don't really care about. The hook is from people in their community, their neighborhood, their church. Multiple calls from someone in their community, and a feeling that if they don't vote they will let down somebody they've actually talked to.

Pre Civil War people didn't vote for a Presidential candidate, really. They voted according to their county-level organization. There was patronage, and worse, but in the end people voted for a party because they were enmeshed in that party's organization. The same holds true today.

Really, folks, when a party can run a smirking dolt like George and win, the lesson isn't that you need a candidate who won't bother with all of those pesky ideas. The lesson is that the candidate matters very little. When the dolt gets re-elected despite an unneccesary and disastrous war, the lesson is the issed don't matter, either.

What matters is being part of something. That's why top Republican strategists love the triumphalism, the story that they are overcoming the liberal media and turning things upside down.

Well, get Democrats to feel they are part of something too. Organize phone banks, door to door visits, absentee logistics, election day turnout tactics.

Sure, it's a lot harder than sitting back and demanding a candidate you can really love. A lot less fun, too. But it's worth it - a nation's future is at stake.

LAW said...

Lawman here.

This is my first experience blogging and I'd like to thank Mr. Rogers for providing the venue.

Any relation to Fred Rogers, cuz?

Max Payne fan from Virginia Beach said...

Someone earlier said this post was better than Lakoff's book on reframing. I would strongly disagree. Rogers's post fits well with Lakoff's idea of reframing the debate. Both Rogers and Lakoff would agree that you can change your accent and still make progressive ideology appealing to more Wyoming voters without paying attention to Saudi-owned polls and media. Lakoff never said you had to talk down people who accept people who accept a conservative view, let's say their position on guns. What you can do, however, is engage the audience by connecting a good environment with outdoor sportsmen. As Lakoff would put it, frame the issue in a way that people can accept the truth that without a good environment, something Bush/GOP is working on destroying, outdoor sportsmen are at a great disadvantage. In the process, Democrats need not pander to the right on guns by all of a sudden going goose hunting in a sports outfit or for that matter suddenly saying that they're for unlimited gun rights. It worked in MT and WY from what I hear for the two current Democratic governors.

West Philadelphian said...

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I am somewhat troubled by your friend's analysis, "Why the f--- do we keep nominating Frasier Crane?"

That implies that the majority of voting Americans are too stupid to get the humor associated with a combat-grade intellectual (Niles is the effete one; Frasier actually threw a punch and many punchlines). If that is, bluntly, the case, it's time to pass the marmalade-we're toast.

Having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, and spent my adult life fighting my way across them, I naturally presume myself to bear some resemblance to the norm. Put another way, "us" is the people whose command of all subjects meets or exceeds that of a high school graduate; "them" are the people we see on the Jerry Springer show.

The notion that a candidate who conquered the ivory tower is somehow less desirable is something I can't get my head around...unless-gasp!-we are a confederacy of dunces.

Melkiades said...

Even though I find the initial post very interesting and correct, I doubt very much that it explains why dems keep losing. In my opinion, the reason is more obvious: republicans have mastered the art of terrorizing the population. How many wars have they waiged so far? Without going too far back: war on Nicaragua, where they actually made people believe that an army was about to invade Texas to justify their mass-murdering of a whole country; then the useless and very costly war on drugs, then the war on terror, full of lies and crimes, used only to gain control of oil resources of this planet and to make sure the US population is constantly fearing for their safety.

This constant feeling of danger, this never-ending fear, this omnipresent psychosis is what makes republicans win. Make an analysis of Bush's use of words. He's got a very limited vocabulary, just as his IQ, so it shouldn't be a difficult research (and many have done it). The themes are recurring over one general idea: you are in DANGER and you will DIE if we are not here to SAVE you.

As for Big Daddy's posts, they use very simplistic sophisms, such as ad hominem's, and bring nothing whatsoever to a discussion. They only help me better understand the motives behind conservative's actions.

Melkiades said...

Oh, Mister Rogers, I'd like to ask you if you know of Bill Hicks, the greatest american stand-up of all time. As a stand-up, if you don't, I strongly suggest you get his DVD's on Amazon or elsewhere online. He kicked republican's arses like Big Daddy wouldn't even be able to understand.

Unfortunately, he passed away of cancer in the 90's. As he would say, "Ghandi, shot dead. Luther King, shot dead. Lennon, shot dead. Reagan? WOUNDED. What kind of a world is this???"

That summarizes pretty much my hatred of republicans and conservatives around THE PLANET.

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The Republican Party has in recent years (like, since Nixon) become the HUGEMOST lying liar's Club, so constantly spouting LIES that, Big Daddy, one could say it is the Party of Lies and led by the Father Of Lies. (Look it up). One Orwellian Whopper is that W has won (anything) by a "Mandate". No. No mandate. Yet they throw that word about constantly, as though by saying it they can MAKE it true. THat goes for pretty much ALL of their policies. Just a sort of chanting of lies, to make them true. I digress. My POINT is, I very much doubt, in the light of the news that is coming out recently, that Buchco won EITHER election. It is looking pretty apparant that both the 2000 and the 2004 elections were rigged rigged rigged. The electronic machines are totally hackable, and even at that, show evidence of absolute larceny in their little electronic brains. The Progressives will NEVER NEVER NEVER win an election AGAIN if the voting system is RIGGED. DUH !!! It doesn't matter How many people are driven to the polls, or how personable the candidate is. THIS SHOULD BE EVERY AMERICANS FIRST PRIORITY: A PAPER TRAIL.

BillS said...

Bo Raxo, thanks for your thoughtful post. You're correct about this country being divided quite closely--- a fact that the GOP and Bush have worked extremely effectively to obscure. For a while I had a bumper sticker on my car reading "51% isn't a mandate."

However, I don't think that it's an "either/or" choice between Mr. Roger's initial post and your points. Kerry's candidacy was quite competitive despite the fact that he played so well into the caricatures that Rove (and "anon") love so well.

One lesson Kerry (and especially his gawdawful loser advisor Bob Shrum) failed to learn from Clinton was never, never, never let an attack stand unrebutted. Always counter-attack--- with ridicule if at all possible.

Lastly, anon with all his "lol," bravado and disdain reminds me of true-believer Communists. Before the fall of the USSR they believed whole heartedly in the superiority and ultimate triumph of Marxism-Leninism.

I eagerly look forward to the fall from power of the GOP. If the current Dem leadership is too stuck in the mud to take all the issues that the power drunk Bush/Cheney et al provide then a new generation of Dem firebrands will change the leadership. It'll just take a little longer before we bring forward our own firebrands to end the "1000 Year (GOP) Reich."

If we have to wait then I pray that God truly bless American because we'll need it in the worst way.

Nittacci said...

No matter how folksy a Democratic candidate gets, or how well he connects with average people, it won't mean a thing if the voting machines are rigged by Diebold.

That's game over. Trying to say that the Democratic Party needs to take a long hard look in the mirror is a good way to distract us from the fact that we've been surrounded by concertina-wire. "Blame the victim".

You say we're just slogging in the mud and I agree. But no amount of public-speaking skill is going to change the reality of a crooked game. You can't beat the House, and with it's ownership of the Media, the theofascist Right in this country is the House. Sometimes, you've gotta get a little drastic.

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John:
I think you are an inspired, and inspiring writer. Almost everything you write is smart and funny. Almost everything.

But I disagree with your take on a solution to our political morass. It's not HOW they say what they say, it's WHAT they say. And with Dema-Rubs, time and time again, it's the same ol' shit, wrapped up and tied in ribbons to look like something else, mayhaps, but smelling exactly the same.

If you truly want to analyze, discuss, understand our current plight, look to the Bipartisan rot they've created. That's the real THEM vs US Grand Canyon-sized divide.

You show your blind side most clearly when you say "Democrats are the progressives." Da me un break, sir. There are many names you can call the Dems, but progressive is definitely not one of them. Is it progressive to wage all out war on Ralph Nader (regardless of what you think of his positions, he was the ONLY anti-war candidate, the ONLY universal health care candidate, the ONLY living wage candidate, the ONLY anti-Free Trade unfettered corporate power candidate, the ONLY radical democracy candidate)to attempt to limit debate about the critical issues of the day, to reduce the choices available to America, to subvert one of the bases of our democratic tradition? To divide us into "special interests", and then play one group off against the other? That we can choose from 214 kinds of toothpaste, but just two (one) for political office?

The so-called leading lights of the intellectual lefties, i.e., Chomsky, et.al., who talk anti-war, but walk the same old same old, proved their moral decrepitude by beating decent people over the head with the tired old lesser-of-two-evils shibboleth. A very wise man once told me that when you choose between Satan and Lucifer, you catch Hell either way. And have we ever!

As with the pre-WWI German liberals (in the worst sense of the word) who voted for war appropriations rather than oppose the march to destruction, history has discredited this despicable moral collapse.

Among other reasons, Kerry lost because although the majority of Americans were against the Iraq invasion, he was trying to convince voters that he would wage it better, not that he would bring the boys home. John Edwards recently copped to being against Gore's -- um, I mean Kerry's -- pro-war position, but admitted that he had to follow Kerry's line. What in effect he is saying (as does every Repuba-Dem candidate) is that their allegience is to the Party, and not to America (forget about truth!) One doesn't get to run for dog catcher without hewing to the proper party line, and that party line, INHO, is thoroughly anti-American.

As long as the Repuba-Dems anti-democratic approach to public policy continues, NOTHING, Not One Goddam Thing is ever going to change. Vote harder, you say? I worked along side hundreds of dedicated women and men to get the first independent, the first woman, the first person of color, on the ballot for President in all 50 states. One would think that would be so historic, so newsworthy that everyone would know who she was. Do you? The media is controlled by 6 companies whose allegiance is to the status quo, the almighty dollar. Quell surprise that they are anti-change, and report as news what they say is news. The Pols have crafted, and control, a system that is so stacked in their favor that 92% to 98% of incumbents are guaranteed re-election. The electoral process is so anti-democratic that is virtually impossible for anyone other than the Dems or Repubs to get on the ballot. And as one of the leading democracies, we have the lowest voter participation with over 50% of eligible voters refusing to play with their crooked dice. Are the electronic voting machines an abberation? Or do they go hand-in-glove with gerrymandered voting districts? Ballot access laws so restrictive that it's practically impossible for any but the annoited few to run for office?

So what choice do we have, you may ask? You may even agree that the game stinks, but mutter, get real. It's the only game in town.

I would insist that it's not a game we can possibly win. If you allow your adversary to set the rules of the fight, you've already lost. I would answer that the powerful way to change it is to build independent politics. The best way to analyse your strength is by the response of your opponents. When Jeffords became an independent, the apoplexy of RepubaDems showed how much they fear independence.

There is much more to say about independent politics, which is, in fact, sweeping through America. Throughout our history, independent politics has resulted in women's sufferage, civil rights, the anti-war movement, the 8-hour day, social security, unemployment insurance, labor unions, child labor laws, health and safety laws -- nearly all the "progressive" reforms from which we have benefitted.

We need citzen politicians, not professional revolving door corporate-to-government politicians. We need to insist that the only real "homeland security" is achieved with more democracy, not less. Americans are not apathetic, helpless, hopeless, brain-dead automatons. The most powerful counter-weight to the tipping balance of authoritarianism is democracy, not Democrat-sy.
BEEZEEL

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(it was religeous freaks (closer to RepubliCONs - farther from Democrats and even farther from Liberals) that followed Mr. Jones in drinking the Kool-aid. "Iraq had to do with 9/11"?? "I never met you before tonight Senetor!" "I have no ties with Enron or Haliburton", "They supported the attack on America, I mean, Has built many weapons of mass destruction aimed at the United States, I mean uh, to free Iraq, etc..", "Senator Foley is actually a Democrat since he had sex with a guy!" "They hate us for our freedom!- Now 'that's' "drinking the Kool-aid"!

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An actor friend of mine has often talked about what poor speakers most politicians are. It's not enough to be right.

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