How to Win the Democracy and the Messaging War

One of the most difficult barriers we progressives have in the political wars is the one in which we take out turn in the propaganda war. Now, ver the years, the word “propaganda” has taken on a fairly negative connotation, but it is a necessary element of any democracy. If we are going to move the democratic system in a progressive direction, we have to prove to a majority of voters that we are better at running the government than everyone else.

Unfortunately, because the loudest voices in the progressive movement seem intent on dismissing the importance of propaganda on moving the country in a progressive direction, and because they largely believe that only the presidential races are important, our “movement” hasn’t gone anywhere in a very long time. And really, shouldn’t a progressive “movement” at least try to move at some point?

We have largely ceded the communications wars to the Right Wing of the political spectrum, which is a recipe for disaster for the American people and their dream of competent government.

Think about that a minute. Choose any issue that must be dealt with as soon as possible, like Climate Change. On the one hand, we have the far right, who spend most of their time calling it a hoax and doing nothing about it. No matter how many more intense storms we have these days because the climate has changed, their entire shtick is to choose a time when the same type of storm happened previously and dismiss climate change as a rationale. Unfortunately, that’s what many progressives think we should talk about when it comes to a potentially deadly problem of climate change. Instead of working through the ultimate problem, which is the overuse of fossil fuels and the constant addition of more and more carbon into the atmosphere. Instead of discussing the potential solutions to the problem, we have one side of the debate insisting there is no problem and the other side arguing against that. So, where do the solutions come from? They sure as shit aren’t coming from us.

One of the main reasons the progressive movement is stalled is because we don’t seem to stand for anything except that the far right is wrong. And that is not a political winner. Why would we expect anything else?

I mean, these assholes call themselves “conservative,” despite the reality that there is nothing “conservative” about them. AND (and this is important) WE call them conservatives, without expressing any level of irony. This is a key reason we lose the politics so often. The far right has appropriated the word “conservative,” and they have managed to fool people into believing the term is accurate, and here we are, calling them the same thing. Now, why would anyone ever know they were not conservative at all? We are the natural ideology to bring out the fact that Far Right cranks are the opposite of “conservative,” but when all sides are referring to them using that term, where does the opposition come from?

This is how we got Trump, by the way. We had the far right saying terrible things about Hillary Clinton, and the professional left largely saying the same things, thus denying her and voters the knowledge to know what they should know in making a voting decision. Of course, we all should have known just how bad Donald Trump would be as a ‘public servant,” but the press largely spent the entire 2016 election season ignoring Trump’s negatives.

I’m not sure where this comes from, but a lot of hardcore progressives seem to take it for granted that voters know what we stand for, and that they like us. There’s no reason for that. How in the hell would a majority of voters know what liberals stand for, especially since we rarely talk about it. It’s not as if progressives are omnipresent and Controlling the political narrative. We have essentially ceded radio to the right, and there are very few far left saviors out there willing to put their riches where their mouth is. The loudest and most visible segment of the progressive movement are the professional lefty bloggers, many of whom won’t even invest in a real blog; they seem content with using tech companies’ blogging services. Even those who are rich as hell seem content to simply scream about things through their blogs, with no compunction to spread the liberal/progressive message through their rarely-visited blogs. Sometimes, they might be featured on a low-rated progressive radio show, but those are becoming fewer and farther-between, mainly because white liberals don’t support them. I’d say ironically, but it’s not ironic at all. Liberals love to name drop other liberal celebrities, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t support them as much as they expect to be supported.

If you think that’s harsh, consider that it’s been 17 years since a bunch of morons started Air America and ran it into the ground because they seemed to know little about how radio works, and no one has picked up the slack since they went under. All talk radio is having a hard time, to be sure, primarily because it’s mostly boring as shit, but right wingers are still holding up their end, even with the loss of Rush Limbaugh.

We do need more progressive media, but the fact of the matter is, when someone creates it, we fail to support it. Air America was poorly run and they spent money like drunken sailors, but they could have survived if progressives had supported it. Honestly, it was Clear Channel (now, IHeart Media), of all companies, who kept progressive talk radio as long as it did. Now, there are a few stray radio shows hanging on by a thread, and Rush Limbaugh is gone, but everyone left is struggling to survive, using gimmicks and special shows to make ends meet.

Speaking of Rush Limbaugh, the professional left also put what is left of progressive talk radio through the ringer with its ill-advised “Stop Rush” movement. They eschewed a massive boycott of Limbaugh, in favor of a listing of Limbaugh’s advertisers and a recommendation that each of those advertisers be reminded that liberals boycott – or threaten to, anyway – each advertiser. There were many problems with this, starting with the fact that the “Stop Rush” denizens obviously had no concept of how radio financing works in the 21st Century. They seemed unable to differentiate between local and national sponsors, and they had no clue that most of Limbaugh’s money did not come from advertising, at least directly. Most of the stations, especially those from the largest markets, paid a flat fee for the right to carry Limbaugh. That means, to be successful at cutting his revenues, you would have to drop his overall ratings, which a project of targeting advertisers would not accomplish.

There is only one measure that could help us in the broadcast radio arena, and that would be a return of the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio station licensees to allow all sides of every issue to have a say. It didn’t always work, of course, and it may not work now, but right now, almost all broadcast talk radio is right wing claptrap, so any improvement would be welcome.

Progressive talk is a necessity, but it has to be a lot more than simply repeating far left-wing talking points, and it has to include a lot of listening, so that we actually know how the average voter feels about white liberals. You won’t like the result – most actually can’t stand us because of the way we treat them – but it will still be educational. Just his morning, a white liberal tried to push “Medicare for All” by telling everyone that all other countries had an advantage because they had “socialized medicine,” which was/is completely untrue. In fact, only two nations with universal health insurance have “socialized medicine;” Canada and the UK. The rest use a variation of Obamacare (before Trump). And here’s a funny thing; even Canada and the UK are starting to encourage citizens to buy private insurance, to get the costs down. The concept of “free healthcare” seems to dominate the discussion of “Medicare for All,” but the reality is, current Medicare requires that private insurance be used, to make it affordable now. It makes no sense to think we could cover everyone – tens of millions more people – without help from private insurance.

If we’re to marginalize the current Republican Party, we will have to win the propaganda race, and make sure every voter knows that the GOP is incompetent to run government. However, that’s not going to happen unless and until all progressives get on the same page and make sure we work hard to make it happen.

That means sitting down and shutting up a lot more, but it will also require a lot of support for Democrats and a lot less demonization of people who aren’t “pure.”

Good luck with that.


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