Why aren’t liberals winning election after election even though the conservatives are on the wrong side of women’s’ rights, genetically modified foods, gun safety, job creation, destruction of the middle-class, the environment, and countless other common sense issues?
I’ll tell you why; because we liberals absolutely suck at messaging.
Messaging is the mental construct that lets us convey our reality to others with words– and from time to time to create what we take to be reality. And messaging has an enormous bearing on politics … it organizes our thoughts and perceptions into words that should convince, even entice; it shapes the very way we reason. For the most part, our use of messaging is unconscious and involuntary, but oh so important to how and why we act and react to various stimuli.
And like it or not, believe it or not, the left is losing the political argument that is waged in words (and money that buys words) – every year, it concedes more ground to the right, under the mistaken notion that this will bring everything closer to the center, that it’ll accommodate a healthy compromise when in fact, it does just the opposite.
Every damn time progressives capitulate, the more bold it makes the conservatives express their “vision”, and the further to the right the mainstream moves.
Make no mistake, conservatives speak from an authentic, albeit abominable, misguided, position and it appeals to voters need for simplicity. Liberals try to argue using evidence, facts, logic. Liberals think that if you can just demonstrate to voters how their self-interest is served by a socially unbiased position that everyone will vote for them and the debate will be over. In reality, voters don’t vote for bald self-interest; self-interest does not inspire – progressives, of all people, ought to understand this.
Conservatives have learned to keep the message focused on one or two things and then pile-drive the ever-loving shit out of them…with all hands on deck and with everyone focused on the same couple of issues, using the same, or nearly the same, words.
Think: Benghazi. Day after day, week after week, they drill that one damn issue–that has absolutely no facts or logic attached to it–like a woodpecker on crack.
The other issue they pile-drive of course? Obamacare. 45+ times they’ve voted in the House of Representatives on it…knowing full damn well that they were useless votes…except were they? They managed every few weeks to voice their steadfast opposition to it with no alternative plan, no rhyme, no reason…just that they didn’t like it and loads of vague rationalizations for their hatred of it.
And by gawd it works. It takes humongous screw-ups like Todd Akin, now Chris Christie, to even register with at least half of the voting public.
Being on the right side of issues doesn’t mean one got-damn thing if you can’t get elected. And with ALEC pushing the voter-suppression issue in state after state, it’s highly likely the Republicans could not only hold onto the House of Representatives, but gain control of the Senate as well. And that, my friends, will mean we are screwed.
Yet equivalent rightwing positions – that efficiency is everything, that big government is inefficient and therefore inherently bad, that nothing must come between a business and its pursuit of profit, that poverty is a lifestyle choice of the weak, that social breakdown can be ascribed to single mothers and immigrants, that women have no right to decide what they do as the result of rape, incest, or some other heinous crime – have been subject to no diminution, no widespread outcries, and certainly no broadcast press coverage.
To accept, let alone succeed, at any of this, we must accept the importance of the words and simplicity of the messaging as well as being morally, factually, and humanely correct.
If the two ideologies, conservative and progressive, are in stark opposition, each as solidly grounded as the other by their followers, then why is one winning locally but losing nationally?
Progressive linguist George Lakoff says it’s because “Liberals do Everything Wrong”. Paraphrasing, progressives follow the polls … Conservatives go about changing them. Political ground is gained not when you successfully inhabit the middle ground, but when you successfully convince the electorate that your messaging is the common-sense position.
If political belief originates from one of two opposite starting places, and if you have do to disseminate your belief by watering it down; you are losing from the get-go. If backing up your position with facts just weakens it, how can you possibly hope to win over an electorate that largely gets their news in 30-second sound bites?
Suppose your opponent is Todd Akin, the Republican turd in Missouri running against Democrat–though hardly liberal–Claire McCaskill, who opposed abortion even for rape victims, on the basis that “real” victims didn’t normally get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. Liberals reaction was to express incredulity and refute the nut job with science and facts. How reasonable! What needed to be said was that this Akin ass and all those old, white, males like him are cowards who’re interested in male domination, not concerns for the unborn, the women, or even justice. Not one liberal had the courage to say that conservatives simply consider women as nothing more than broodstock.
A classic liberal failure is the idea that by repeating the opposition’s ridiculous lines, you make it look even more absurd, thus making your opponent look weak or out of touch. This is 1980s Coke vs Pepsi type thinking. It might play well with the base, but it won’t win any new votes. Focus on your own product, don’t give your competitor free exposure.
MSNBC’s mostly left-leaning hosts routinely give free air time to the worst of conservatives: Rush Limbaugh among them. I have actually screamed at my television, “mother mary bleeding in grace, what the hell are you doing giving this human turd free air time!?!”
It’s time progressives got out there and said what’s good about themselves, instead of what’s wrong with the other side. If you have a strong position, let it be heard dammit.
If you want to defend women’s right to choose, if you want to stop privatization, if you want to protect the natural world; FINE. SAY IT!
But make your points simply, loudly and often. They are all part of the same worldview and admittedly admirable stances. But that isn’t to say that they are equally important. Pick the one or two that are winnable to get the people you want in office. You can’t have so many sub-groups all striving for lion’s share of the limited press coverage available.
The idiotic Tea Party faithful don’t understand their own moral system much less the other guy’s, they don’t care about what’s at stake, but by gawd they know about messaging. They don’t know metaphors from Adam’s house cat, but they understand how vital emotion is.
They do everything wrong because they’re miseducated. And they’re damn proud of that miseducation. Harvard philosophy reigns supreme, right? Bullshit! Harvard philosophy is killing the liberals’ chances to win elections!
Focus liberals. Focus and keep it simple, or lose everything. If you don’t, you will be correct; you may even be profoundly fair and compassionate; but what good does it do if you continue to lose elections?
You’d better tighten up your focus now my liberal friends or you will have no one to blame but yourselves when we have a president with no support in either chamber of Congress.
Harvey A. Gold