Righteous rage and cutting condescension can take you very far in a debate with the intellectual set, the possessors of 3-digit I.Q.s. But politics in America is increasingly a war for the hearts and minds of a dumbed down, headline skimming, “fuck it, they’re all criminals” public who do not read and increasingly do not care about government, politics and civic discourse. Which is why Trump/Nunes/Fox News can throw dreck to the walls 24/7 and potentially win. Yeah, they can win with stupid.
The GOP has been a metastasizing malignancy on the body politic since Nixon, and yet here they are large and in charge of the executive, both houses, the judiciary and the so-called “liberal” media. While flaunting a shocking lack of integrity, they’ve ruthlessly accreted power by creating myths, demonizing enemies, controlling narratives and making the Beltway Media bend over backwards to grant them the respect that integrity should confer.
Democrats say they’re woke. But they’re not. All the anger and commitment since 11/8/16 may not overcome the rigging of the system, both electorally (gerrymandering, voter suppression, Russian interference, cultivated cynicism) and narratively (what story rules the public mind) if they continue to rely on the goodness and integrity of the media and public, and fail to compete for the dominance of message.
Simply, right now Dems or Dem super pacs (MoveOn) or Dem billionaires (Steyer et al.) have to counter the dishonest, stupid, but relentless GOP disinformation campaign trying to muddy the water about Trump and the Russian collusion investigation. Yes, the Nunes memo, and all of their efforts, are laughably lame. But watch as before long both sidesism sets in and the clear advantage the side of justice, integrity, the Constitution and civic norms has, will be frittered away. Or even more apt, swamped, by the tides of mud lapping at the shores of decency.
Somebody better put an ad up that demonstrates who Robert Mueller is, his biography, his lifetime of service, his demonstrated integrity or it’ll all just devolve into “well, I don’t know who to believe, they both have a point!”
I have watched for 40 years as good government has become a joke, unions were turned into corrupt anti-worker enterprises, media integrity questioned to death, and now professionalism and public service are demeaned as untrustworthy, all for the political gain of a cynical political party whose real agenda is not popular, so they just made the other side less popular.
And all the while Democrats have been complicit, by not actively fighting back. They didn’t fight for the honor of their constituencies, as unions got busted. Or as racist drug wars and prison industrial systems destroyed inner cities. Or as money was syphoned out of the middle class and sent up to the 1%. They capitulated, triangulated in that Clintonian manner, to say “we agree with our distinguished opponents on the means of our own destruction.” They claimed that was the smart way to fight back, the Third Way. Co-opt the other sides’ agenda by agreeing on the terms of debate but be more “likable” that ineffable quality that, sadly can be manufactured by the very propaganda system you’re granting credence to!
So Bill Clinton thrived despite the bullshit onslaught. He only had to beat George H.W. Bush, bored watch-looking-at-out-of-touch aristocrat, smarmy Newt Gingrich and harsh prairie scold Bob Dole. But Al Gore got the bums rush from the media who switched sides to that likable scamp, dry drunk, AWOL joke GWB. That sad 2000 campaign got Bush close enough for his brother, Katherine Harris and evil operatives like Roger Stone to rig Florida and the conservative Supremes to give him a bogus victory. That unprecedented decision, the stoppage of vote counting, was the beginning of the Karl Roving of politics
Really that started with Gingrich. A hyper partisanship, combined with the relentless messaging of talk radio and that new news outlet, Fox News, birthed in 1996, but conceived by Roger Ailes in the 60s under Nixon as GOP-TV. Since then it’s been a race to the bottom as Fox, the radio (and internet) demons and the GOP demented our politics so that a narcissistic fake billionaire reality star could get the nomination for bullshitter in chief.
Democrats made noises in 2004 like they figured this out. Even as the guy who woke them up was destroyed by the media for screaming in Iowa. Kerry wasn’t going to out-likable the Texas Teetotaler and his Rasputin.
In 2006 Dems got back the House due to Bush fatigue and then in 2008 the pendulum swing was completed. Completely fed up by war and economic ruin, we swung hard back to a likable pre-rapey Bill Cosby and his delightfully middle class, yet ivy league, black family. President Huxtable would beat McCain, playing the role of crotchety Bob Dole, decisively. McCain’s lasting contribution being the introduction to America of The Harpy of the North – Sarah Palin. Say what you want about underachievers like Dan Quayle and George Bush, the GOP had never dropped trou and so publicly took a dump in the pool like Sarah Palin before. Nixon and Reagan were game playing phonies. Bush a manipulated tool. Palin was a new breed of stupid, hard-ass know-nothing, developed by a generation of talk radio bluster dumbing down every policy debate to the common sense of the simple folk, you know, morons.
Democrats could be forgiven if they thought they had Nixon/Rove/Ailes beat. Well, actually no, they can’t. They mistook the profound mismanagement of Bush and the likability of Obama as their Phoenix rising. They soon abandoned the 50 State strategy that helped win back the House. They turned the shebang over to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Which left them woefully unprepared for the AstroTurf created Tea Party wave. Dems got 2 years to do things for the American people, and they did. And then they paid the price because they never sold those things effectively to anybody outside their base. The stupid rose so high the Dems drowned while Obama sat back in the lifeguard seat and worked on his tan. His lack of effort and the overall party lack of fight brought us right back to pre-Dean.
And that’s where we were until we got truly smacked in the face by America’s descent to the swamps of Trump. We got woke! All sorts of people, especially women shook off the haziness of slumber and thought “what the fuck is this shit? Where did my country go?”
But we’re still fighting as if it’s Marquis if Queensbury rules and the referees aren’t blind and bought. We’re not stacking the deck like they are, fighting for hearts and minds in every way feasible.
Take the recent government shut down as the prime example. We can debate whether Schumer squandered the best opportunity to squeeze concessions out of Trump. What is not debatable is that Dems made no coordinated preparations to win the battle of the airwaves for the public mind. Nobody made any ads that explained the causes for battle, making the case for Trumpublian mismanagement, needing a real budget, protecting Dreamers, funding CHIP and community health centers, Puerto Rico! No one prepared a P.R. campaign to go into battle with. It was like the Bay of Pigs without air cover all over again. Republicans made an ad saying Dems we’re shutting down the government in support of MS13 gang members who machete Americans and American puppies. Bay of Pigs. Schumer then pulled the plug with a partial victory for CHIP.
This political malfeasance is suicide. It’s untenable. If we continue to count on the overreach of morons like Hannity and Nunes we will lose. Or, repeating 2006-2010, not really win, just kind of inch over the finish line and hold a tenuous grip on power for awhile as the other side plots our Dresden-like destruction.
Gotta get smarter than this. It’s not enough to be smarter than Nunes. God knows the public isn’t. Stop respecting them so much that you assume they’ll be with your reasoned arguments. They won’t. They need to be massaged, messaged and manipulated, as Maxwell Smart said, “for good, instead of evil.” Get Smart!