We all have that friend or relative who is so incredibly serious about everything, it makes us laugh. If you don’t know someone like that, there’s a good chance you're that person within your family or group.
Anyway, this is the person we all love to tweak when we’re in a somewhat aggressive mood, right? I'm not personally mean, but it’s fun sometimes to wind them up by saying something about a subject or issue that you know will make them react, then sit back and let the fur fly. I have one friend who goes absolutely ballistic whenever I say something negative about President Obama, so I say something bad about him whenever I’m in the mood to wind her up. I don’t mean what I’m saying, either; it’s just fun to watch her go off. She gets very animated and goes on about all the good things the president has done, and she doesn’t even notice my reaction until she sees the grin overtaking my face. It's then that she realizes how silly she’s been (I mean, after all, I wrote a pretty big list of the president’s accomplishments), and she smacks me on the back and tells me to stop it.
This could very well be the best analogy to what the far right does to us continuously. Except for one thing: our side never seems to notice their grin, and never realizes we’ve been had.
Do you really think the Republican Party plans to do away with Medicare? Do you really think they want to be the ones who deprive women of their right to not be abused? For that matter, do you really think they care one little bit about same-sex marriage or reproductive rights? If they were so intent on kowtowing to the gun lobby, why are we still doing background checks?
If you think their intent is to do all those horrible things the Republican House is proposing, you need to ask yourself why they didn’t pass these laws when they had a chance between 2001 and 2006, when they had total control of the entire apparatus. They could have done so much untold damage in that time, yet all they've really done is given their rich patrons huge tax cuts, then borrowed and spent like drunken teenagers with a no-limit credit card to pay for unwise tax cuts and for shit we didn’t need.
So, why did they wait until they only had control of the House, but not the Senate or the White House? It’s because they know that nothing outrageous that comes out of the House will ever become law. Medicare can’t be killed, because the Senate will not let that happen, and even if a bill slips through there, the president will veto it within seconds, and there is no way such a bill will override.
Now, if you can’t think of a reason why the Republican Party would propose outrageous bills they know have no chance of passage, then you haven’t been paying attention for the past 40 years.
The main reason they do it is because they know it’ll cause us to react. They know the righteous indignation meter will max out, and we will scream and yell and call them names. And they know this because it's what we always do. For four days now, a large groups of progressives has decided to go after Cory Booker because he said something unwise. Let the Obama campaign handle their people going off the reservation; concentrate on pushing a progressive message.
Okay, so my asshole emits sunshine. Sue me.
Because so many liberals seem to think we have a solemn duty to go ballistic every time someone says the wrong thing, the right wing knows we'll call for the heads of everyone who would even think of proposing something we don't like, so that's what we do. And we never disappoint; we always react exactly as they expect. Karl Rove and Roger Ailes are sitting in their chairs grinning, and we’re so busy being indignant, and massing to fight something with all of our might, that we don’t even notice the grin.
Yes, folks. We are the marionettes, and Republican strategists are the puppeteers.
Let me tell you why this hurts us.
- The right wing voters become energized. They love anything that makes us pissed off, and nothing makes them happier than hurting us. They see wounding liberals as their main purpose in life. Think about it; if you know any right wingers, you have never seen them happier than when they think they have us over a barrel. The more pissed off WE are, the more motivated they are to come out and cram the knife in deeper. When we react to every disgusting thing they propose, right wing voters actually get excited.
- The #1 strategy of the Republican Party in any election is to depress turnout. Nationally, and in most states, Republicans are a significant minority, so they can’t win simply by motivating their own people to come out. They do their best to make people not want to come out and vote at all. When they scream, that has the effect of turning some voters away from the polls. But when we scream their message back at them, we further help them in their main goal. The people who decide elections are not from the left or right, they’re in the middle, and they want to vote for someone who’ll make their lives better.
- The "boy who cried wolf" effect kicked in a long time ago. Let's be real; if we treat everything as a crisis, then there are no crises. When we complain about absolutely everything, our complaints come to mean nothing. And when our indignation is complete on every single issue, indignation becomes meaningless. And that leads us to…
- The most important reason why this hurts us — It keeps our message from getting out there. Once again, I use this example; if you’re sitting in a park, quietly eating lunch, and two people start screaming at each other, are you more likely to listen closely to what each one is saying, and decide which one is right, or do you ignore both of them, move to another bench and turn up your iPod? If you choose the former, you should know; you’re not normal. No one listens to anyone else who screams. Right wingers don’t win, we lose. And we lose precisely because the right wing message floats out there to depress everyone, and e fail to deliver an alternate message. So, when swing voters are left with a choice of a load of right wing crap on one side and nothing on the other, why would we expect them to put on a heavy coat, travel to the precinct and stand in line for an hour to choose.
For the next few weeks, liberals, take some time out to listen to moderate voter, and discover what they care about. I mean just listen. Don’t ask them leading questions or prod them. Just listen. You’ll find that the biggest complaint from most isn’t that the Republicans are anti-woman, anti-gay and pro-corporation. Their main complaint is that government isn’t working right now. They think the system is too polarized, and no longer meets their needs. Yes, we need more jobs. Yes, we need health care. Yes, everyone should have the same rights as everyone else in every arena. But as long as the right wing is yelling at us and we’re yelling back at them, the average voter has little confidence that either side can fix things. And hot cocoa begins to sound better than voting on a cold November morning.
Keep in mind, a system can't be polarized unless two opposite sides both make it that way. If the right wing is screaming, and we calmly ignore them and state our case, the polarization goes away. That's how things used to work. It's only been in the last 40 years or so that we came to think it was imperative that we answer every ridiculous notion the right wing puts out there.
We have to push hope. We have to be the opposite of the right wing in every way. We can't assume they know where we stand on the issues; just tell everyone, and let them tell you whether they've heard it or not. It's so important that we offer a major, palatable altenative to the right wing. Start with positive expressions of liberal/progressive beliefs, like my Progressive Mission Statement, and stop fighting with the rght wing, because it's exactly what they want you to do.
Lose your chains and your strings and play politics to win. It's not ncessary to react to everything they do. In fact, that's exactly why we lose most elections, even though more people are on our side in a democracy.