LET'S STIFLE THE HAPPY TALK
By Ernest Partridge
The Crisis Papers
February 12, 2008
--The man that once did sell the lion’s skin/While the beast lived, was killed with hunting him. --Shakespeare, King Henry V [Act IV, Scene iii]
Happy days are here again!
The GOP is in disarray. The factions of this improbable alliance of religious fundamentalists, neo-con war hawks, and market absolutists have discovered, with the emergence of their presumptive nominee, John McCain, that they have little in common. James Dobson, leader of the fundamentalist “Focus on the Family,” has announced that rather than vote for McCain, he will not vote at all. Ann Coulter says that she might even support Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, the Democratic base remains solid as party loyalists tell pollsters that they would be quite happy with either Clinton or Obama. And in the primaries so far, seventy percent more Democrats have voted than Republicans. Moreover, the Democratic party is enjoying a substantial funding advantage over the Republicans. Among liberal pundits and talk show hosts, there is a sense of inevitable Democratic triumph in the coming election.
All this optimism is built upon a foundation of demonstrably false assumptions, revealed in the rhetoric of the campaign -- assumptions of which Democratic party officials and Democratic voters might be readily disabused if they bothered to soberly reflect upon the most recent presidential elections and upon evidence that is plainly before them.
However, because these Democrats and progressives apparently prefer their blissful ignorance, they will likely be smiling all the way to a crushing disappointment in November.
These are the fatal assumptions:
--Those who wish to vote for the Democratic candidate will be able to do so.
--The votes cast for the Democratic candidate will all be counted, and counted correctly.
--Media coverage of the campaigns will be transparent and unbiased.
--When informed of the issues, the people will vote according to their convictions and interests.
--The Republicans will play by the rules and will gracefully accept the people’s decision.
These assumptions were false in 2000 and 2004, and demonstrably so. And they are false today. Yet the Democrats and their supporters by and large conduct their campaigns in the unsupported belief that this time the contest will be open and fair.
Even though the falsehood of these assumptions has been obvious and unequivocal, the failure to face and deal with them cost the Democrats the past two presidential elections. Unless the party wakes up and acts decisively, it might well cost the Democrats the next election. For, as Dr. Phil correctly instructs us, “you can not change what you do not acknowledge.”
It’s no secret: the GOP is engaged in a massive effort to keep traditionally Democratic voters from the polls. Under the guise of preventing unqualified felons from voting in Florida in 2000, tens of thousands of qualified voters were barred from voting -- enough to deprive Al Gore of a margin of victory sufficiently large that even the felonious five Supremes could not overturn it. More recently, eight U.S. attorneys were fired by Alberto Gonzales for insufficient diligence in keeping Democrats from the voting booths, leaving one to wonder just what the remaining eighty-eight have been up to. There have been widespread reports during the current primaries of voters discovering that they have been “de-registered.” Greg Palast has charged that several million Democratic votes might be lost in the next election to GOP “caging” efforts: organized, if illegal, mailings to likely Democratic households, designed to remove qualified voters from registration rolls.
There is abundant evidence that the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen. I haven’t the space here to review that evidence, but for those still unconvinced, see Mark Crispin Miller’s Fooled Again, which lists numerous additional publications that make the case. (My essays about election fraud may be found here). Suffice to say that most of the votes cast in the two previous presidential elections, and to be cast in the next, are entered into DRE (direct recording electronic) machines, which are manufactured and programmed by private companies with strong GOP associations, which utilize secret software, and which have with no independent means of verification. Statistical, anecdotal, and circumstantial evidence of fraud has failed to interest the mainstream corporate media, which has placed an almost total embargo on reporting, much less investigating, this evidence. More astonishing, however, is the lack of concern for this problem shown by the Democratic Party. If the party’s indifference persists, the GOP will be given a virtual invitation to steal the next election. Once again, the Republicans will not need to a majority of ballots to win. Tallies of 45% should suffice, as Diebold’s and ES&S’s black-box voting and compiling machines take care of the rest.
THE MEDIA PROBLEM
The myth of “liberal media bias” is perpetuated through repetition without the benefit of evidence. In other words, “the Big Lie.” In fact, the media has served as a faithful stenographer of Bush and Cheney lies and GOP propaganda. Recall the unanimous media praise for Colin Powell’s disgraceful presentation before the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 and the fact that for a long time thereafter, a majority of the public believed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, that he was an ally of al Qaeda, and that he was involved in the 9/11 attacks. They could only have acquired these false beliefs through the mainstream media. The corporate media caricatured Al Gore as a serial liar. It transformed John Kerry from an authentic war hero to an unscrupulous self-promoter, while it elevated George Bush from a deserter to a Churchillian “Commander in Chief.” Equally significant is what was missing from the media: Bush’s terrified immobility in that Florida schoolroom on 9/11, Bush’s military record, GOP efforts at disenfranchisement and election fraud, the Downing Street memos, Sibel Edmonds’ accusations, the trial and conviction of Don Siegelman, and much, much, more. At the same time, dissent within the media was dealt with brutally. Witness the fate of Phil Donahue, Bill Maher, Ashleigh Banfield, and Dan Rather. While we can only imagine the post-convention treatment in store for Hillary Clinton or Barack Hussein Obama, we may be confident that it will be brutal. Are the Democrats prepared for this? How do they propose to deal with it?
THE SALIENCE OF "ISSUES"
Once again, the polls show that regarding such issues as fiscal responsibility, economic justice, health care, education, civil liberties, and even national defense, the public is solidly on the side of the Democrats. But the same was true in 1984, when Ronald Reagan trounced Walter Mondale, and again in 2000, when George Bush scored points against Al Gore on something called “likeability.” Once again, the issues are solidly on the side of the Democrats. But they will be seriously mistaken if they believe that this will suffice to deliver the election to them. Republican campaign managers have proven themselves to be masters at “selling the product.” They know how to locate and push the subliminal buttons and to project the winning imagery.
Americans have prided themselves upon the orderly transfer of power that follows the defeat of one party by another in a national election. This time, things could be very different, for the stakes are enormously greater. During the Bush/Cheney regime, the pubic treasury has been looted, corruption has been rampant, public records have been destroyed, acts of Congress have been ignored and violated -- in effect, the Bush/Cheney regime has been less a government than an ongoing crime wave. If a Democrat gains control of the White House, he or she will also control the Justice Department. Those ninety-six Republican U.S. attorneys, who have investigated and indicted seven Democrats to each Republican, will all be replaced by appointees of the new administration. It is possible, though not certain, that suppressed information will be excavated, for example regarding the Plame case and Sibel Edmunds’ accusations. Criminal investigations will proceed, followed by indictments, trials, and convictions. Corporate foxes will be expelled from the regulatory hen-houses, as the federal agencies resume their statutory work of protecting the public from private, corporate greed. In short, the ill-gotten wealth, and the very freedom, of many highly situated individuals may be in jeopardy. The Democratic party and its candidate should expect extraordinary efforts to protect this wealth and legal immunity, which means to prevent a Democratic victory in November. If, in the face of all this, the Democrats anticipate an ordinary contest, fairly fought “by the rules,” they are heading for a spectacular fall.
A WINNING STRATEGY
If the Democrats acknowledge and then reject these “fatal assumptions,” and thus face and deal creatively with the hard realities of the campaign before them, then they may stand a chance of winning. (For much more about a winning Democratic strategy, see my "An Ominous Complacency").
PRESSURE THE MEDIA
Because the U.S. corporate media, unlike *Pravda* and *Izvestia* in the Soviet Union, consists of for-profit enterprises that must answer to their stockholders, they are sensitive to public pressures. And much of that public is at last beginning to realize that the mainstream media is no longer a dependable source of information, or worse, is a dispenser of “official” propaganda. Thus right-wing talk radio is losing its clout and even the New York Times has taken a hit for its ill-advised addition of William Kristol to its OpEd page. If a sizeable portion of citizens vote against media bias by withholding their purchases and subscriptions, the media might be bent toward reform. “Equal time for progressives” is not required. Just a responsible reporting of the facts will nicely suffice. In the meantime, alternative media, the internet in particular, must be supported and utilized.
MONITOR THE ELECTION
Democrats must insist, while there is still time, that DRE machines be replaced with paper ballots. Where DRE’s are locked into place, the Democratic party must support exit polling and poll watching. Finally, to counteract “caging,” the party must encourage voters to check out their registrations before election day, and then after election day the party must demand that all provisional ballots be counted.
DEFINE AND FRAME THE CONTEST
The Democrats must at last wise up and realize that they have been playing by the GOP rules and speaking the GOP language. It is a prescription for failure, for those who make the rules win the game. The Democrats must take control of the language of the campaign. Thus, as once again the Republicans attempt to define the contest as “conservative vs. liberal,” the Democrats must insist that they are the fiscal conservatives, and that, as conservatives, they stand for the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law. Conversely, Bush, Cheney, and their lackeys in Congress are not “conservatives,” they are regressives, who have abolished constitutional guarantees and have endeavored to take the U.S. economy back to the nineteenth century and the robber barons. So the Democrats should call the GOP what it is: “regressive.” Furthermore, there is no “war on terror” -- “terror” is a method, not a national adversary. There is no “Iraq war” -- it is an occupation. “Values” encompass more than beds and bottles, or God, guns and gays. They also include authentic compassion, toleration, economic justice, civil liberties, peacemaking, and honorable dealings with foreign powers. The primary theme of the Democratic campaign, and of the Democratic administration that follows, must be the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law, and a fair distribution of the national wealth.
TAKE OFF THE GLOVES
This time, the Democrats must, like the Republicans in 2000 and 2004, be tough and relentless in their campaign. But unlike the Republicans, the Democrats must be scrupulously honest. The facts of the past eight years are stark and ugly, so there is no need to embellish them. The themes must be simple and they must be repeated. Two-thirds of the American public want the US out of Iraq, ASAP. Repeat, over and over, McCain’s intention to remain in Iraq for one-hundred years. The public wants no war with Iran. Repeat video clips of McCain singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran.” The GOP wants the public to forget about Bush. Show McCain hugging Bush. Repeat and repeat and repeat, just as, a decade ago, the corporate media repeated, thousands of times over, the video clip of Bill Clinton hugging Monica at the rope line.
PICK A WINNER
A recent Washington Post poll reported that if the election were held today, McCain would defeat Hillary Clinton by three percentage points, but that Obama would defeat McCain by the same three points. Let’s face it: Hillary Clinton is the GOP’s favorite Democrat because she is the most vulnerable. The MSM effectively disposed of the Democrats’ strongest candidate, John Edwards. That leaves the young, energetic, and eloquent Barack Obama. Not my first choice, but nonetheless a good choice. Hillary Clinton seeks a restoration; Barack Obama promises (albeit vaguely) a new direction. The public, I believe, prefers to look forward rather than backward, and Obama, in his campaigning, is establishing a charismatic “connection” with a broad public that is totally out of reach of the bland and tired John McCain.
And finally, raise Hell! The public outrage over the Bush/Cheney criminal regime, the demand to throw the scoundrels out of office and into federal prison, the clamor for substantive political and economic reform, the enthusiastic and unified support behind the Democratic candidate must reach a decibel level that even the corporate media can not ignore -- a glorious and uproarious outpouring of public sentiment that the Republican/corporate establishment dare not and will not frustrate.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, a brutal campaign must follow. If Obama is the nominee, he will be the underdog for each and all of the reasons enumerated above: a rigged elections machinery, a hostile media, and a ruthless opposing party. If he is nominated, expect to hear his middle name, “Hussein,” endlessly. Expect to hear “Osama, I mean Obama.” Expect to be told that he is a secret Muslim, that he attended a madrassa, and numerous additional lies still to be invented.
This is no time for complacency and optimism. From now on, through the Denver convention and all the way to November 4, the Democrats must run hard and run scared, as if they were the underdogs.
Because they are.
--Dr. Ernest Partridge is a researcher, lecturer, consultant in Applied Ethics and Environmental Ethics and the Co-Editor of the progressive political website, The Crisis Papers. His doctoral dissertation from the University of Utah (1976) was titled Rawls and the Duty to Posterity. Dr. Partridge has taught moral philosophy and environmental ethics at the University of California (Santa Barbara, Irvine and Riverside campuses), and most recently was the Hulings Professor of Environmental Ethics at Northland College in Wisconsin. He has published numerous papers dealing with moral philosophy, moral psychology, policy analysis and environmental ethics, and he has presented many papers before the American Philosophical Association and other scholarly societies in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Russia. He is a member of the Board of Editors of The Journal of Environmental Education, and The Open Country (Moscow, Russia). Under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Partridge conducted original research relating to the moral question of the duty to posterity. One product of that research, an anthology titled Responsibilities to Future Generations was published in 1981. In June, 1983, he was awarded an Interdisciplinary Incentive Award from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and, from the summer of 1984 through the summer of 1986, he engaged in research on the ethical aspects of earthquake prediction and seismic safety analysis at the University of Colorado. In 1998-2000, under another grant from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Partridge examined "The Implications of Disequilibrium Ecology for Environmental Ethics and Policy." In recent visits to Russia, Dr. Partridge has participated in scholarly and environmental conferences, and has established productive and ongoing communication and cooperation with international scholars and scientists involved in global environmental issues. A frequent participant in professional conferences in the United States and abroad, Dr. Partridge is available for consultations and public lectures on the topics of Environmental Ethics, Public Policy, and Responsibilities to Future Generations.