Hillary made a statement the other day that can be interpreted different ways. Some people are trying to claim that she said she is staying in the race in case Obama is assassinated. Others say she was just saying that the Democratic primaries often extend until June.
I’m not going to get into the argument about this here, except to remind everyone that in 1972 the Nixon campaign pioneered the strategy of disrupting Democratic primary races. I think it should be clear that much of the conflict in this year’s primary is being pushed by the right through the Drudge report, Washington Times, Fox News, etc. but for some reason in this election many Democrats seem willing to pick it up and run with it. This is a mistake.
Here’s the thing. The Republicans and Bush cronies have a lot of money and the incentive that many will be going to jail (and/or The Hague) if there is an honest accounting of the Bush years. The corrupt crony machine stands to lose billions and billions of dollars. They have the conservative infrastructure’s message machine of think tanks, information outlets, etc. They have the corporate media and the power of the entire American corporate structure that is siphoning so much of our money away to a top few. And they have a public conditioned to reflexively support conservatives after decades of unanswered right-wing, and pro-corporate propaganda. This combination is going to be hard to overcome. So it is going to take Obama supporters and Hillary supporters both voting for the Democratic nominee–whoever that is–to beat the Republicans in November.
To that end I want to write about how each “side” in the primaries could better approach the other, whether you believe they are right or wrong. Especially if you believe they are wrong.
Decide whether you want to beat the Republicans, or just score points against the “other side” in this primary battle. From what I can see many of the activists in this campaign are vastly more invested in beating the “other side” than they are in beating the Republicans in the fall. And they clearly have little interest in rallying the supporters of the other primary candidate to their cause.
The Commonweal Institute recently held a “salon” on cognitive dissonance, put on by Fellow Mary Ratcliff, who blogs at The Left Coaster and Pacific Views. Part of the discussion was about the psychological effect of holding contradictory beliefs and how to get people to leave behind beliefs that are harmful. Without going into depth here, when people know they have done something bad (or believed something that is wrong), they can can go through a process to justify to themselves what they have done, and thereby be driven very deeply in a bad direction in their thinking. The justification can be reinforced if the person encounters resistance.
For example, when a kid is being recruited by the Moonies (or bad boyfriend), a parent saying the kid is being “stupid” can drive the kid directly into the Moonie camp (or bad boyfriend’s arms) because the kid is reacting to being called stupid instead of thinking through the logic of becoming a Moonie (or pregnant).
Or maybe a Bush-supporter can justify in his or her mind that invading Iraq was an OK thing to do by deciding all Muslims are evil — and can become very fixed in those beliefs. You see that happening lately with a certain segment of conservatives.
In any part of the process, if this person is criticized it very strongly tends to force the person to cling MORE strongly to the wrong beliefs, and reinforce the justifications that are going on in the thinking. This happens especially strongly if the criticism itself is refutable.
So in this case, whether you believe Hillary’s “RFK assassination statement” was saying that primaries have often lasted until June or calling for Obama’s assassination, criticizing Hillary and supporters can have the effect of driving them deeply against Obama. Iif Obama is the nominee–as it looks like he will be–he is going to need those Hillary supporters. Not stepping up to her defense in this instance–and thereby reaching out to her supporters and letting them know that we are all on the same side–is a mistake that could cost him the election.
For background, this is from the salon invite, with some good sources:
Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me: Cognitive Dissonance in Politics and Personal Life
A salon conversation led by Commonweal Institute Fellow Mary Ratcliff
As background for this salon, you may want to read this explanation of cognitive dissonance and a few examples of how it can impact everything from your weight to major social conflicts: http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/cognitive_dissonance/
Wikipedia on cognitive dissonance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
Book: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
Go read up.