Good Political Strategy Requires a Healthy Skepticism

I’m fairly certain this will make some folks’ heads spin 360 degrees (send video of that, please), but one of the main reasons Fox News is so popular is because they don’t tell the truth. I know, right? Shocking! The thing is, their most faithful followers actually love Fox because they tell people what they want to hear. People with smallish minds have preconceived notions about how things should be, and Fox News makes them feel validated; the lack of truth contained in their opinions is completely irrelevant. Right wingers tend to prefer less information with their bullshit, which should be obvious when you speak with one.

The funny thing about extremists is; they don’t care about truth much at all. But this tendency is not unique to right wing extremists.  The professional left sells us misinformation in much the same way as Fox and it should make you mad. If you’re one of those who falls for someone trying to flatter you into believing something they want you to believe, and you don’t check their facts, you are just as gullible as those poor saps who depend on Fox News for their information.

Consider the following:

    • Eric Cantor was beaten in the Republican primary in a mostly-rural district in an election with about 17 percent turnout. Dave Brat had no visible support, and there is no evidence of a massive economic/Koch conspiracy.
    • Ronald Reagan was not a moderate, even by today’s standards. He just wasn’t crazy.
    • The people still get to decide what happens politically. There is no plutocracy, oligarchy or any other exotic “-ocracy” or “-archy” in the United States — just democracy. If we get more people to turn out to vote, we’ll always win.
    • Edward Snowden took a job with the express purpose of stealing documents, and then conned government workers into giving them their log in and password information to facilitate that.
    • Nothing in any of the Snowden documents to date has revealed any massive domestic spying operation on the part of the NSA.
    • The NDAA bill that many on the left continue to cite as proof President Obama wants to spy on us used language that was exactly the same as the AUMF, passed in 2001. In other words, it changed nothing.
    • The NDAA language was actually far worse before Obama threatened to veto it. Also, the bill passed with a veto-proof majority.
    • Money does not decide elections. It can determine whether or not your candidacy is viable, but the number of votes wins the actual election. Money goes to candidates who are most popular, so the chicken/egg argument applies.
    • Citizens United and other truly horrible laws can only be overturned if you put people in office willing to overturn it.
    • President Obama led the passage of the most significant health insurance reform in history.
    • Only a couple of the universal health care systems in the world are actually single-payer.
    • Democrats in the 111th Congress passed 375 bills that Senate Republicans blocked with the filibuster.
    • Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate for roughly 27 session days in the 111th Congress.
    • In the 111th Congress, only one Blue Dog voted with Democrats less than 80% of the time. No Blue Dog ever cast a deciding vote against an important Democratic bill. None supported a filibuster of a Democratic bill, nor did they ever vote against a cloture motion.
    • While President Obama killed the Keystone XL pipeline for now, he does not have the power to prevent it from moving forward in the future.
    • Without the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian oil is still getting to the Gulf, via trains and tanker trucks, which are already spilling copious amounts of oil and putting a number of small towns in serious danger.
    • The movement to kill the Rush Limbaugh Program will never kill that program. However, the fallout is seriously hurting just about every progressive radio talker out there.

These are all truthful statements. And I’ve mostly had to use them to refute crap that’s been perpetrated by professional left blogs, who repeat this stuff constantly, because they’re trying to make you happy, and tell you what you want to hear so you’ll keep coming back, and they’ll get more ad revenue.

Screw their ad revenue. The progressive movement cannot move forward unless and until we can be counted upon to tell people the truth. There are two things everyone needs to understand. The first is that not all swing voters are “low information.” The second is, too much information” is not always better than “low information.” For some reason, the tech term GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage Out) just popped into my head. When it comes to information, quality is far more important than quality. If you are passing on information that is untrue, you’re not just damaging yourself; you’re damaging the entire movement. Sure, some people will go along with you and think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but others – including many we need on our side – will just write you off as a liar. And worse, they will often just assume lying and fabricating is a “liberal Democrat” trait. It also gives fodder to the right wing, and they don’t need anymore of that.

One reason voter turnout has been way down for most of the last 40 years is because voters tend to stay home when they’re fed a constant diet of crap, and that has been the case for a while. They don’t watch Fox News, but they also don’t immerse themselves in everything the “news channels” produce, either. Just like most voters, they depend on other people for their information, which makes everything we “regular people” say enormously important. That doesn’t make “news junkies” smarter, and it doesn’t make them “dumber.” They hate the right wing as much as we do, and while they’re looking for someone to vote for, they’re also looking for a reason to vote. Right wing Republicans are hoping they won’t find that reason, so they won’t show up at the polls. When they were constantly reminded that “Obama’s a disappointment” and that “Democrats are weak” and “Democrats suck” by both left and right, who would you expect them to vote for?

Like I said, the professional left often likes to push a narrative they know other “progressives” want to hear and buy into, even if that narrative is untrue. Their motivation can be argued, but it’s irrelevant. The problem is, too many other progressives are all too willing to believe their crap and repeat it, and that sets the progressive movement back and helps Republicans win more often hope. They may think their Tweets, Facebook posts, Tumblrs, diaries or blog posts or comments don’t matter, but they do; everything contributes to the overall meme, and it feeds the GOP’s strategy, which is to depress turnout.

How do we solve this problem? That’s easy. Become more skeptical. (And no, skepticism has nothing to do with cynicism.)

We should always be skeptical of everything we read, hear or see, even when it comes from someone other progressives tell us we should trust. I don’t know about you, but by back goes up whenever someone even implies, “trust me.” And I’m not just talking about “facts” that seem a little smelly; I’m talking about everything. When someone says a bill is bad because of something they don’t like, read the bill. I can’t believe I’d have to type that out loud, but repeating what someone tells you a bill says is a recipe for trouble. I’d say there’s a better than two-to-one chance you’ll be wrong. You can read what others say about it, but be sure to check it yourself. You should also consider all sides of an issue, and consider all possible consequences of any action taken by any politician. For that matter, look at all possible consequences of an action a fellow progressive recommends. For example, if we kill Keystone XL, you should also understand that the oil will still get to its destination, but it’ll go via truck and train. If you’re one of those “single-payer or bust” people, you should know that most successful health insurance systems are not single-payer. If you cite the NDAA for your loss of freedom, it might be helpful to know that, if it was to be repealed tomorrow, nothing would change, because the AUMF is still in force, and contains the same language. .

Professional lefties love to frame things in stark black and white terms, because it makes things seem easy. Unfortunately, while politics is simple, issues are not. Skeptics understand that nothing is either all good or all bad. When someone suggests only two sides to an issue, your BS detector should go off immediately and you should investigate thoroughly. When someone tells you a politician like Obama is a “disappointment,” don’t just repeat it; look at his entire record and evaluate it for yourself. There’s a list of 245 accomplishments on this blog, and they’re all cited. People will find out you’re not telling the truth.

In addition, you should understand the difference between fact and opinion, and always value facts to a greater degree than opinion. For example;

When evaluating any issue or any candidate, understand that most voters really don’t care about individual issues. They generally listen for the overall meme and look for someone they think is capable of handling the job. They understand current issues better than you think, because they live them, but they also understand that no one knows what issues will occur in the future, so an overall sense of competence is more important to swing voters than anything they say about most issues.

The above paragraph is an opinion. Hopefully, that was obvious.

In 2010, one possible solution to the logjam in Congress would be fewer Republicans. This is true because Democrats passed 375 bills, many of them very progressive in nature, and Republicans in the Senate blocked them with a filibuster.

The above paragraph is also an opinion, although it is supported by facts. Since the paragraph basically predicts the future, it can’t be anything but opinion.

Barack Obama is a Democrat, and the first African American President of the United States.

The above is a fact. That should be obvious, but with some things I read from progressives at times, I’m not 100% sure everyone knows. Opinions can be backed by facts, but they are not actual fact. Beware of anyone who tries to claim his or her opinions are fact.

It is not a fact that the NDAA will allow presidents to round up and detain citizens within the United States. It is not a fact that Citizens United will cause the rich to win every election. It is not a fact that President Obama has completely disregarded civil rights in his presidency, or that he refuses to close Guantanamo Bay prison. It is not a fact that Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin. It is not a fact that the Occupy movement gets no media attention, or that the “mainstream media” largely ignores progressives. Unless they present you with a massive study to back them up, all of the above are opinions or perceptions, not facts.

To move the progressive movement forward, we have to stick to the truth. Moderate and centrist voters do listen to us, and they do hear/read what we say. When we repeat something that turns out to be untrue, some will check our facts, even if we don’t. If they find out what we say isn’t true, they won’t believe us when we do tell the truth. And worse, they’ll tell other people, who will also write us off.

Be skeptical of everything you see, hear or read. Don’t be gullible. Question everything that everyone says (yes, that includes me; I’m careful, but I’m not always right). Having a lot of information at your fingertips doesn’t make you smarter. Making sure the information you pass on is as accurate as possible, and considering every possible angle of every issue makes you smarter. One problem I have with the current state of journalism is this preoccupation with being first with a story, rather than being the first to get the story right. If we’re going to spread the progressive message far and wide, we have to be better than that. We have to be curious, inquisitive, and we have to make sure we’re right. The right wing spreads enough crap over the electorate; we have a duty to provide them with actual intellectual nourishment.

Be intelligent. Be skeptical. Be progressive. They should all be synonymous.


Good Political Strategy Requires a Healthy Skepticism — 1 Comment

  1. If you are passing on information that is untrue, you’re not just damaging yourself; you’re damaging the entire movement. Sure, some people will go along with you and think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but others – including many we need on our side – will just write you off as a liar. And worse, they will often just assume lying and fabricating is a “liberal Democrat” trait. It also gives fodder to the right wing, and they don’t need anymore of that.

    This may be the truest thing I have read all year, and the fact that you even have to say it makes me scream with frustration.

    Agricultural policy is near and dear to my heart, for we have lots of long term sustainability issues bearing down on us like a box car full of potatoes. Yet, the “environmental” and “organic” “food” “activists” would have us dissipate our efforts on demanding “radical” actions that do nothing to address the real problems. We could ban Roundup tomorrow and amphibians would still be under stress from loss of habitat. We could ban GMOs tomorrow and monoculture would still be a problem. We could grow forests of milkweed in our suburban sprawl back yards and short sighted management practices would still be depleting the fertility of our soils. But if you try to discuss any of this you get squeals of poutrage and smug denunciations of ‘that guy who shills for Monsanto.’

    In the same vein, I have been dealing with communication security issues since the mid nineties and I initially welcomed the surge of interest in the issue that was sparked by the news of the Snowden document dump. Yet I my offers of expert assistance were spurned by the lefty outrage brigade after I suggested, as you point out above, that there was no evidence of ongoing widespread surveillance by the NSA and that privacy violation by the big data companies was a problem AS WELL AS the NSA/CIA/FBI complex. Convicted by such neoliberal heresies I found myself frozen out of the discussion in the lefty blogosphere: and yet, the facts remain the facts and the end result of the ardent true believerism is that nothing was done and nothing will be done.

    And I will close with one final gripe, about that stupid oligarchy paper – the one that says voting is pointless because the oligarchs always get what they want. Well, I am a scientist and I have written a lot of papers and I have read a lot more. Thus I can attest that a lot of stupid nonsense has made its way into print; even worse, as you observe above, a lot of people repeat stupid rumors about things they haven’t bothered to read so the next thing you know the palpable nonsense has attained that status of Reality. So having read this paper I can remind everyone that it does demonstrate that rich and powerful people have outsized influence on governmental decision makers, and that one voter by himself has one vote, but it also concludes that groups of voters – like unions, especially, and civic organizations – also have an outsized influence. Merely squealing OLIGARCHY does nothing more than discourage people, thereby giving the oligarchs precisely what they want. If you want influence, get off your lazy butt and organize!