In Part One I introduced my premise: GOP uses tactics against Democrats that mirror the behaviors of domestic abusers, creating a warped environment. In Part Two I gave examples of these tactics and in Part Three I described the ineffective response by Democrats. In Part Four I talked about how the media amplifies rather than evaluates GOP abuses, and how Democrats need to recognize this dynamic. In Part Five I covered how Democrats can move from a defensive to an offensive position by reintroducing to the public what decent standards of political behavior should be. Today I will propose additional tactics Democrats can use to that end.
Unite around a core set of Meta-Messages
We need to communicate a set of clear points with a positive conclusion. For example:
- Republicans practice Abusive Politics, harming our country
- Democrats will no longer participate in Abusive Politics
- Democrats believe in Democracy
- Republicans cling to past failures; Democrats look to future successes
- Republicans seek Win/Lose solutions
- Democrats seek Win/Win solutions
Democrats should point out Republican tactics:
- Demonization and Dehumanization
- Harassment by Investigation
- Intimidation and Violence
We can describe Republican initiatives through the lens of political abuse and then offer a contrasting vision using the characteristics of a healthy, functioning democracy:
- Respect for all citizens and celebration of diversity
- Responsible governing; responsible exercise of official powers
- Representative government versus autocracy/theocracy
- Separation of Church and State
- Zero tolerance for political intimidation and violence.
When notable Republicans show disrespect to Democratic leaders or constituencies, Democratic leaders should condemn the behavior widely. When a female senator or congresswoman is harassed by a Republican during committee hearings or debates, the next male Democrat should yield his time to her. Democratic leaders should creatively emphasize they won't tolerate disrespect to themselves or other Democrats.
Call Lies “Lies”
When Republicans lie, say so. Democrats must stress Republicans routinely lie to obfuscate their motives, actions and outcomes.
No More Benefit of the Doubt
Republicans have lost the right to a presumption of good faith.
While many Republicans avoid participating directly (or publicly) in the worst excesses of GOP abuse, they benefit from the abuse enacted by others. They vote for abusive policies (such as Voter Repression measures), and they don’t condemn the abusive tactics used by other Republicans. The apparent “decency” of quietly complicit Republicans plays into the Democratic tendency to “give people the benefit of the doubt” and that has to stop. Democrats must understand the “nice” Republican lawmakers and pundits provide cover for their flame-throwing associates. They also act as a bridge – Democrats reaching out to “nice Republicans” legitimizes Republican positions which are generally not nice at all. The role of the “Nice” Republican is to soften the appearance, versus the reality, of Republican policy objectives.
Democrats can be cordial to their GOP counterparts while comprehending apparently nice people can do atrocious things. Whether operating out of greed, malice or ignorance, when Republicans announce they support something terrible, Democrats should take them literally and react accordingly.
Don’t Make Deals with Liars
Deals made with liars has betrayal baked in. Democrats should make no deals contingent on promises of future actions by Republicans.
Democrats shouldn't support a bad nominee out of fear the next will be worse; they should demand appropriate standards be met. Cooperation with bad options creates the impression of “bipartisanship” which lets Republicans off the hook. Make Republicans own the bad things they do.
Expose the Machine
The Republican machine works often works covertly. Money flows from billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Mercers to innocent-sounding orgs and pacs and think tanks, who develop ideas and arguments that will be used by Rightwing media figures. Sinclair Broadcasting buys up radio and television stations around the country and promotes Christianist politics through local media outlets. Along the way internet bots are unleashed on Facebook and Twitter, promoting conservative ideas and fomenting conflicts on the left. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council, backed by the Kochs and others, and funded by large corporations) writes extreme “business-friendly-anti-regulation” legislation and hands it off to Republican state representatives.
A few days ago (as of this writing in late September) we learned The Republican Governors Association created a false-front “News” site to circulate conservative propaganda. From the Chicago Tribune article: “The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.”
Democrats need to unmask covert activities and groups sponsored by and/or serving Republicans. When appearing in public opposite conservative mouthpieces they should go armed with the credentials of these people, including their employers and the groups and individuals who fund them and when appropriate, provide that information.
Democrats should start publicly identifying ALEC-sponsored legislation and beat the drum that Republican representatives are promoting bills written by a corporate-backed legislation factory. Democrats need to point out ALEC-sponsored talking points. They need to start seriously opposing media consolidation and shining a light on Sinclair-Broadcasting-type-tactics. They should talk about the pernicious danger of media consolidation and develop legislation to combat it.
Most Americans have no idea where political ideas come from. They've never heard of ALEC, but they've heard of voter-fraud because the rightwing-machine, through multiple channels, has told them voter-fraud exists, and consequently their State Senator is sponsoring legislation to require photo-ids. Democrats have gamely countered the meme that voter-fraud is rampant, but they don't explain where the meme started, by whom, and why.
The machine thrives in the shadows. Democrats need to shine light on the machine, expose its parts, its funding, its tactics and its goals.
Next up: Some communication strategies.