Advice to Democratic candidates: I
Many years ago (at least 45) I was, briefly, a fan of professional wrestling, not one of my prouder moments, certainly, but I was. Apparently today no one claims it is real, and because of that, they are able to script it better, with all sorts of characters. Back then there were only a few regular types. One I remember was the 'stupid hero.' His job was to go into the ring against the 'new villain' get clobbered, and thus set up -- and sell tickets for -- a big live match between the 'new villain' and the real hero.
There was almost always one scene where the villain, after pulling all sorts of 'rotten stuff' would walk towards the S.H. with his hand out. "Let's shake and stop all this dirty stuff." The audience, having IQs at least high enough to enable them to find the program in the TV guide, or to get to the arena without getting lost, knew what was coming and would yell to the S.H. "No, don't trust him."
But the hero knew he was a 'good guy' and would reach his hand out to shake, and *wham* he'd be kicked in the balls, or hit over the head, or whatever was the villain's pet nasty.
What has this got to do with politics? Well, I've seen a lot of Democrats play the part of the stupid hero over the years I've been watching politics. They play by the rules -- and rightly so -- but they seem to expect that the Republicans will too.
Guys, Republicans lie. They slander. They misquote and misrepresent. They confuse issues so badly that some Fundies are convinced that extending tax cuts appears somewhere in the Bible.
How do you THINK they keep on getting elected? You've seen the polls. You know that the majority of the people are on your side on the issues. The trouble is that you think this is the ONLY thing that matters. It matters, sure, but so does the way people feel about the candidates, and that's where the Republicans know all the tricks. They'll pick one or two controversial issues and try and get you to waffle on them (I'll have more on this in another post) and then paint you as untrustworthy. They'll misquote your record. They'll do anything they can to make the election about YOU.
And you fall for it, too often for the good of the country.
So, my first advice is for anyone who is pretty sure he's going to be running for Congress, and running in a doubtful district -- some of you couldn't lose whatever happened, some of you couldn't win if Jesus, Moses and Mohammad all appeared on your platform and testified for you. But for those running where the vote is going to be as close as 60-40, either way:
Go out and find a Karl Rove type. Get him to plan the nastiest, rottenest, most underhanded campaign imaginable, one that is as totally unfair as he can be -- against YOU. Study that campaign. be ready for anything your opponent can throw against you. Be ready so that the moment a particularly rock-filled mudball comes your way, instead of standing there wiping your face, you can duck, or better, catch it and throw it back.
You can use his charges, lies, and labels against him, not by throwing mud yourself, but by taking the charges and reinterpreting them. To take the most obvious example, you'll be called a liberal. If you are to the right of Rupert Murdoch you'll be called a liberal, but I'm assuming that in fact you ARE one, at least compared to your opponent.
Now for fifty years, at least, the Republicans have tried to make the word a BAD word. The trouble is that Democrats have let them, have even encouraged them. "Liberal! Who, me? Oh, no, I'm not one of those nasty, rotten things. I'm a Progressive, or a Moderate, or 'don't try and stick labels on me'" Meanwhile, people are going to think both that you are a liberal and that you are ashamed of being one.
What is wrong with running an ad that goes something like this:
"My opponent has been running commercials claiming I'm a liberal. I want to thank him for saying it. Somehow he thinks its bad to call some one a liberal, and maybe he's got you thinking it is. So let's look at some of the things liberals have stood for over the decades.
'Liberals produced social security, and when they did, conservatives called it socialistic.
'Liberals called for civil rights for all people, whatever their color. It was conservatives who argued that we should protect states' rights, who said that we shouldn't change a social system that had lasted for many years.
'Liberals fought for the rights of people to form unions. Conservatives called this violation of a worker's right to 'freedom of contract.''
'Liberals fought for freedom of speech for all opinions. Conservatives argued that questioning the government was dangerous and even was near to treason.'
'Liberals called for women to have the right to work at whatever job they wanted to, to be paid equally, to have the same rights as men, to choose whether to have a career outside the home or to stay home with their family. Conservatives worried that if they could choose it would threaten the stability of the home, the stability that could only be maintained, they said, if women only were mothers and housewives.'
'So yes, I'm a liberal. Not on every issue, but on some important ones. Think about it, and maybe, on some of them, you'll find you are liberals too."
(to be continued)