advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Friday, September 12, 2008

On Closing the Deal, Or, Preaching Beyond The Choir

With roughly 50 days to go, we find ourselves more or less tied in the Presidential election, if the national polls are to be believed.

We have succeeded in motivating our base, and Republicans have, as of today, done the same.

What we are not doing very well is bridging that gap and effectively spreading the discussion to the other side...which is the point of today’s conversation.

Where can our conservative friends be found?
What do we need to know about the culture to be found there?
What should we say when we get there?

Your friendly fake consultant has been on a mission...and I have some answers.

First, about the “mission”: for the past several months I have been posting and commenting at the Pat Buchanan website. This follows up on a similar mission I undertook in 2006 and 2007 to post and comment at RedState.

It has been an educational experience, indeed...but also a hopeful one.

Right off the bat, let’s talk about the culture. As you might expect, the tone and tenor of the discussion is far different than what you see on many progressive sites...although there are Conservatives (and Maryscott O’Connor) who will remind us that we are not always as high-minded as we wish we were.

As an example, the Buchanan supporters, among other things, are particularly distressed about the impact of World Zionism and the International Jewish Conspiracy that has created Neo-Cons who...

Well, the point is that you will have to deal with this stuff.

My advice: for the most part, you are not going to be successful with frontal attacks on the local belief system. If you want to move minds in this environment, look for the areas of agreement...and look to the disconnect between what the candidates say and the reality of what is happening daily—and down the road.

Another piece of advice: show respect, even in the face of provocative language.

I can tell you it works for fact, today, hardly anyone calls me a deluded bleeding-heart liberal—and that’s progress.

In this same vein, try to avoid personal attacks in these conversations. These are citizens who we are trying to speak to as people—and we are trying to show them that the Republican Party is acting against the best interests of all of us.

Which leads to my next point: the primary goal here is to reduce the personal identification of these voters as Republicans—and remind them of their own Conservative associations, which diverge considerably from the Bush/McCain/Rove Republican orthodoxy.

Another thing about Conservative culture that should be understood is that John McCain is not exactly as huge a hero figure as you might imagine. Remember the Neo-Con Jewish Conspiracy stuff? Many Conservatives see McCain as an extension of The Conspiracy...and many are just as upset about the Neo-Con vision and the Iraq foolishness as we are.

Evidence of this is found in the Sarah Palin selection, which was clearly intended to “lock those voters in” with someone who could be sold as “one of your own”.

(For those not aware, Conservatives are upset because they feel underappreciated by Republican “management”, who never seem to appoint “True Conservatives”, Antonin Scalia notwithstanding...and evidence of that is found in the size and enthusiasm of campaign crowds before and after the Palin selection.)

Beyond that, it’s a good idea to bring solutions to the discussion. Obviously, you won’t do that every time you speak, but on balance, you should be promoting workable ideas against unworkable ideas. People I talk to on the site seem to recognize (most of the time) that I’m not there to destroy the Nation, or crush anybody’s hopes or dreams by imposing Godless Communism upon them—instead they are beginning to acknowledge that we and they are both trying to make our country work better...even if we are trying to do it in different ways.

So let’s tie all this together by walking through a conversation from a visit to the No Quarter website. The topic under discussion was Obama’s use of the “lipstick” metaphor...and feelings have been running high. I came in after these this comment...

“Clearly the Obamabots are scared. Hence they’re going on offense and making an all out assault in the blogosphere in a desparate attempt to dig up a few bleating sheep they can bring back into the fold.”

...and this...

“Full panic/meltdown mode, for our late-night amusement.”

To which I offered this rejoinder:

“obama supporters are scared?

i think it’s more that the republican party leadership is scared.

they don’t seem to want you to be talking about your kids’ futures in a world of tax cuts and deficit spending...they don’t seem to want to talk to you about how they will end the waste of lives and money that has accompanied this war...and they most assuredly don’t want to acknowledge that talking about these pigs and madrassas and islam is intended to keep you from talking about issues that affect your wallet.

we went down this road in 2000 and 2004...and to quote ronald reagan: “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

that’s the biggest thing mccain’s managers don’t want you talking about...and that’s the one thing they are really and truly scared of.

the past eight years have cost you and your children more or less $5 trillion dollars in new national debt...which, like it or not, you and i and your children will be paying for–in the form of taxes–for decades to come.

not to mention the change in the value of our homes and all the new tax obligations that will accompany the fannie mae/freddie mac mess.

and yet with all that money america better off now than it was four years ago?”

What came back was this:

“ ...Four years ago?

You mean when President Obama took the temp job in the U.S. Senate?

So... what’s he done for us?

How has his vaunted leadership helped?

Why didn’t he part the seas of red ink

- instead of voting for virtually every Bushbill that came across his desk?”

Followed by this:

“ do know that Bush is not running for President again don’t you?

uh, you do know that Democrat controlled Congress took impeachment off the table didn’t you?

uh, you do know McCain has a 100% record for not requesting earmarks don’t you?

uh, you do know that Palin has cut spending and championed reform in Alaska don’t you?

Doesn’t sound like more of the same to me.

You Obama supporters never mention that Obama sat in a racist, American hating church for 20 years or is friends with a terrorist. Funny how you leave that part out. He also has no executive experience and neither does Biden. How is that good for our future? You people are the ones who better wake up.”

Now notice, in my reply, how I do not personalize the issue...while still addressing facts:

“we do know democratic members of congress took impeachment off the table, and if you take a quick jaunt to dailykos you’ll quickly discover that it was not appreciated.

you need look no farther than the approval ratings of congress to see that lots of democrats are not at all fond of recent congressional performance.

but that said, take an actual look at the issues.

mccain talks about earmarks as a means to balance the budget...but he also says earmarks equal $20 billion annually.

the deficit is going to crack $450 billion this year, and might hit $500 billion.

all federal spending, except for defense, medicare, social security and interest on the debt is about $300 billion.

so even if all other spending were to be cut to still have a deficit.

on top of that, mccain proposes tax credits for health insurance, further increasing the deficit.

beyond that, he proposes more tax cuts. it is unlikely that reducing the government’s income will reduce the deficit.

all of that suggests that a mccain administration will follow the exact path of continued deficits followed by increased national debt that we have had for the past 8 years.

you may say to me: “obama will tax everyone under $42,000″.

two comments.

first, no he ain’t. as it turns out, it is possible to return the tax rates on the highest income earners to exactly what they were in 1999...and in the process, to pay for tax cuts for most wage earners making under $250,000.

which is obama’s propposal.

secondly, we are, like it or not, going to have to pay off the $5 trillion in new debt we accumulated these past 8 years.

if we do not raise taxes somewhere, somehow...then that burden will be passed to your children and grandchildren.

it appears mccain is finding problems in his own plan and projections. this, from the international herald tribune via yale university:

“...When McCain spoke about his tax plan in April, he cited the faltering economy in saying that it might take two terms to balance the budget, explaining that “economic conditions” are reversed. Since then, he seems to have refined some of his earlier tax cut plans. While his campaign once spoke then of repealing the alternative minimum tax, which is aimed at the wealthy but has increasingly ensnared middle-class taxpayers, his advisers now speak of “phasing out” the plan. And they now say that his proposal to let corporations write off their equipment expenses more quickly would be temporary...”

it seems to me that paying off your debts is the kind of thinking that would seem logical in this conservative if we are not going to pay off the $5 trillion or so in debt we recently have run up with taxes, then how should we pay it off?

that is the kind of question mccain seems unwilling to address; the “outrage of the day” strategy seeming to be more to his preference at the moment.”

Notice how we disconnected the Republican Party Establishment from these voters and Traditional Conservative Values...and you notice how neatly we were able to transition to a discussion of actual issues?

As of this writing there has been no reply, suggesting the weakness of the Republican position is something of a problem for these voters...and that it’s a problem for which they have no response.

This process is far from perfect, however.
Here’s an exchange from the Buchanan site.

First, not me:

“I just watched the national forum on service–did I hear Senator Obama correctly, did he say that it was more difficult for him to get a job as a community organizer than it was for him to get a job on Wall Street? Is that true? is there any evidence he interviewed for banking jobs?”

Followed by me:

“how about another question?

mccain suggests helping out in places like habitat for humanity...which is run by...guess organizers.

palin (and so many others at the republican convention...giuliani being just one example), on the other hand...seems to enjoy taking shots at community organizing and community organizers.

so the question is: which version of the mccain campaign\’s \”worldview\” should we believe...the one he presented tonight, the one they present every day on the campaign trail...or neither?”

Followed by one of those responses we talked about earlier, from a third party:

“I think that what Obama meant was — it is difficult for a mulatto to get a job in the Stock Market. These jobs are mainly reserved for Jews.

Community organizers are often involved in unsavory and manipulative functions. Obama is accused of using extortion threats on many businesses convincing them to contribute money to various Black causes. This is something that Jesse Jackson and other Black leaders are very adept at doing.”

This exchange actually brings me to another point I’ve been meaning to address: we are not writing between two people. Instead, we are writing for ourselves, the people to whom we respond...and also to the people who will read but not comment.

There will be curious voters who are not yet decided who visit Conservative sites who will read this and feel repelled by this kind of thinking...which can only help us. As we talked about earlier, it’s to no one’s advantage to attack the local belief system directly. Instead, I’m going to hang back, see what other responses appear, and try to again return the discussion to who is making the most sense...and who is looking foolish.

Here is an exchange in which I did not participate that demonstrates the doubts that Conservatives have about Palin:

Pat - even if she supposedly backed you in 96 - she\’s more akin to the Fox News Weekly Standard bunch in terms of her foreign policy.

This woman is JUST as bad as McCain in terms of wanting and pushing for war.

Can we trust her? Or is she Bush-Cheney redux?

...followed by...

“Stop worrying about McCain dying. He is not. He is just getting started.”

...the original poster responds...

“Oh I’m not worried about McCain dying. I’m just concerned about this being the broader foreign policy of his first-term administration.”

...a third person appears...

“Remember Palin will be Parroting McCains policies.”

...the third person adds a comment...

“Wait till she gets going on amnesty. It will make you puke!

Palin is not open borders but McCain is and the V.P. always has to adopt the nominees platform. After a while she will gross you out because she’s McCain’s puppet now. I just hope she doesn’t lose herself in all of the nonsense.”

What we can learn here is that these voters do not trust McCain in the first place, and as Palin begins to lose her “Goddess of All She Surveys” status they become less and less likely to vote for this ticket.

When you hear that Ron Paul and Bob Barr may siphon off McCain voters, it’s these voters you’re hearing about.

This is a superb time to go out and meet a few disenchanted voters of your own...and the more we remind them that the reality does not match the rhetoric, and do it truthfully, the more effective we can be.

So, you might ask, where can these voters be found?

A few suggestions: obviously, there’s the Pat Buchanan site, the aforementioned No Quarter, which seeks to link “anti-anti-Hillary” voters to the Republican movement, RedState, the largest of the Conservative spaces, and Little Green Footballs, which at the moment is quite upset with Charlie Gibson.

A couple more? Well, there’s Pajamas Media...and the Michelle Malkin site, where it turns out McCain is also a disappointment at the moment.

So that’s the story: the time is exactly right to go out and do this work, and there is a potentially receptive audience, but these voters speak in a language to which we have to adapt; and they believe things we don’t.

That said, by showing some respect and allowing a fair amount of insanity to roll off your back...and offering a few solutions that make can begin to show these same voters that McCain is not going to be the right choice for them—or their kids.

If you go and comment one day a week, that’s 7 visits between now and Election Day...and it’s seven chances to preach beyond the choir that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

So go out and preach.
Preach fairly, but preach well...and let’s close this deal.


Crushed said...

I suppose the 'right' has always been somewhat of an unholy alliance.

The idea of believers in the Protocols of Zion marching hand in hand with the blind apologisis of Zionism is an amusing one.

I think if the election could be turned into a clear issue of Neo-cons versus and anti-neo-con alliance, then Obama has it hands down.

I still think he has, anyway.

fake consultant said...

it is odd indeed to see even the buchanan supporters questioning the mccain candidacy--and that is extraordinarily bad news for the party that thought sarah palin would "lock in" the hard right base.