Tea Party Delivers Their Messaging on Reality TV. Is this How Propaganda Starts?

The Bristol Palin story is like that of a modern day Cinderella as she debuts before millions of viewers on prime time television. Her mother, former Governor Sarah Palin and her advisors are completely brilliant. Thank you very much Frank and Company. This is a media doctor’s wet dream. Using Bristol as Cinderella, they have successfully reached into the hearts and minds of everyday folks across the country. Think about it. Is there a better way to seep into the mainstream than reality television? This move is one of the most brilliant tactics of twentieth century political messaging. Sarah Palin becomes the archetype of everyone’s mom, and paradoxically her daughter is the modern day rags to riches and success story. Here was a chubby, single mom lifted out of the obscurity of her receptionist job in a strip mall in godforsaken Alaska. It does not get better!
Consider that after the debacle of former Republican leader Tom Delay on the same show, these spin masters were smart. They knew it probably would not have worked out to use Sarah herself. But who could resist her kid? She’s likeable, and works very hard for herself and her adorable child. Bristol is the single mom personified. They even show the footage of the storefront from which she was plucked. Oh my, this is every girl’s cherished dream sans the out-of-wedlock pregnancy. And momma Palin can just stand back, and watch it unfold. Who could accuse her of manipulation? She was just the proud momma. What better image could there be? Not much and it is working. No wonder her daughter has been voted back each and every week by viewer support – not the judges until one of the final evenings when she showed real talent.
There is something going on here, and we didn’t even see it coming. Oh woe is me; I think we have been duped yet again. Somehow, the American public perceives that the Democrats are unfeeling, out of touch with Middle America, and arrogant. How did this happen? We are Middle America! Yet somehow, Sister Palin has her thumb on the pulse. We need to look carefully at the subliminal messaging that is going on, and wonder how and why we could have missed it. Call it what you may, but Sarah Palin and her movement – the Tea Party and their advisors are running circles around us. We are losing the game of public opinion. So it is not proposed that we put the Vice President’s son, Beau Biden on Survivor; but rather that we look hard and long at the messaging and how it is being delivered. Further, we need to embrace what it will take for us to reach back out and connect. This is the teachable moment. May we reach out and own it.
Note, this article appeared earlier in the Huffington Post, “Bristol Goes Dancing and Has a Tea Party.”

CA’s Budget Problem Is Paragraph 10

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Today’s San Jose Mercury News front page story is about California’s budget problem: that they are still one vote short. But Californians reading the story are not told why one more vote is required, not are they told who it is required from — until the 10th paragraph. The 10th paragraph reads,

The votes were there in the Assembly. But in the Senate, only two Republican senators were prepared to buck party orthodoxy and vote to raise taxes. Three were needed.

Even in this 10th paragraph readers are not informed that every Democrat is voting for the budget.
Before this paragraph, readers are told that “lawmakers” cannot agree and that “the deal still was held hostage by the thinnest of margins.” But there is nothing telling them who or why.
The reason this is such a problem is that the people of California need this information, to help them play their part in the functioning of our state government. The voters need to know who to hold accountable or they will not make their wishes known through calls to their Assemblymember’s or Senator’s office. And they can’t make informed decisions at election time.
This is typical of stories about the budget impasse — across the state the major newspapers, radio and TV stations are not giving the voters the information they need in order to participate in their government. The result is that the state is becoming ungovernable — and going broke.
So let’s be clear about what is happening here. California’s elected Republicans have all signed a “no-new-taxes” pledge with Grover Norquist’s organization. (He’s the guy who says the plan is to make government small enough to “drown in a bathtub.”) So now they see the budget crisis as an opportunity to force mass layoffs of state employees and reductions in support for people who need things like state-supplied oxygen tanks. They call that “reducing government.” And even with all the budget cuts that the Democrats have all voted for, they still will not vote to pass a budget. They want more, and then more, and then they want the state government to go away.
This is ideology. They repeat an ideological mantra that will ruin the state. And they say this is their goal — to get rid of government. They say government is bad. They say government spending is bad. They say taxes are bad. They say corporations are good. Ideology.
California can not continue to fund our schools, universities, roads, public safety, firefighters, health services, services to the poor, blind and elderly, provide funding for local government, etc. without additional revenues. Do the Mat (George Skelton, LA Times):

It’s Republican dogma in the Capitol that to vote for a tax increase is “career-ending.” Even if true — and there’s evidence both ways — so what?
These are folks, after all, who sermonize against making politics a career, publicly pretend to worship term limits and preach the virtues of private enterprise. You’d think they’d be eager to return to the private sector. Yet, they’re afraid to risk losing out on their next political job.

Another item not reported is that the Republicans demanded a huge tax cut for large corporations — the very kind that are killing off California’s smaller independent, job-creating businesses.
And they still won’t vote for the budget. And the public still doesn’t have a chance to learn what is going on here.
Click through to Speak Out California

The Press Is Fogging The Reason For The Budget Stalemate

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Friday morning’s San Francisco Chronicle story, Legislature’s approval rating at a record low, illustrates why California’s budget impasse continues. From the article,

“Democrats and the minority Republicans have hunkered down, with neither side willing to make the compromises needed to put together a budget plan that can garner the required two-thirds support.”

The budget problem is that reporting like this keeps the public from understanding what is happening in Sacramento.
Here is what is happening with the budget:

  • The Democrats have offered plan after plan, accepting deep budget cuts, some borrowing and offering various ways to raise revenue.
  • The Governor has offered a plan, with deep budget cuts, borrowing, and a temporarysales tax increase.
  • The Republicans have refused to compromise, refusing any budget that raises any revenue at all, not even asking the extremely wealthy to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us have to pay.

It is just that simple. The Republicans have been blocking the budget and they are getting away with it because the press refuses to report that the Republicans are blocking the budget. If the press reported this simple fact public pressure would build and the Republicans would have to yield.
Update – A comment on the possible budget “compromise”: It just kicks the can down the road by delaying dealing with our problems. It doesn’t fix anything, and cuts essential services from the people who need government most. In fact it just makes it much, much harder to solve the problem in the next budget because it steals revenue from next year.
Click through to Speak Out California

More War

Congress passes new Iraq war funds,

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved $161.8 billion in new funds to continue fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year, without timetables for withdrawing combat troops.
. . . The Senate’s 92-6 vote to pass the war-funding bill marked a victory for Bush, who has vigorously opposed any move by Congress to impose timetables for ending the Iraq war, now in its sixth year.
. . .The new money for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan puts the war tab since late 2001 at more than $800 billion, with most of that money going to Iraq.

It made me think of this:

Governor Howard Dean, M.D., Address to California State Democratic Convention, Sacramento, California, March 15, 2003
What I want to know, what I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President’s unilateral intervention in Iraq? [cheers].
What I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States? [cheers].
[. . .] What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren’t standing up for us joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in having health insurance for every man, woman and child in America? [cheers, chants "Dean"].
[. . .] As Paul Wellstone said . . . I’m Howard Dean, and I’m here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. [cheers].

Good Lord, Democrats, Don’t You See What’s Coming?

The other day in What I Expect In 2008 I wrote that, with Iraq out of the news, one of the things the Republicans are going to do in 2008 is make the public think that Democrats are big spenders, and are even worse than Republicans on wasting money through earmarks and pork. (click through to read why Iraq will be out of the news)

This cost the Republicans in the last election and they learned from that. What did they learn? That the public votes against politicians who are accused of spending and pork. What are they doing about it? Accusing the Dems of spending and pork, of course!

The public lives in a controlled “information environment.” Conservatives begin working well in advance of elections to exert pressure on that environment and prime the public to be receptive later to their issues and candidates. Democrats and progressives, for some reason, do not.
So what is happening in that information environment? Here is just a smattering of what the public was presented with just in the last few days. Never mind the facts, this is what the pubic is hearing. And this is a year before the election. The drumbeat is only going to grow, and grow, and grow, until there is no other story. Good LORD, Democrats, why don’t you see what is coming? Why aren’t Democrats and progressives out there NOW with a counter-narrative, explaining to the public why conservatives and their ideology are bad for America?
Editorial: Jam-packing the pork, Congress defies Bush on goody-bag of a bill,

… a spending bill so stuffed with pork as to make a Polish sausage look like a Slim Jim …

Oink, oink,

…U.S. senators, primarily Democrats, once again reveal their ravenous appetite for unadulterated pork.
The Club for Growth’s latest “rePORK Card” reveals Senate Democrats on average this year scored a dismal 12 percent out of a possible 100 percent in voting down 15 pork-busting amendments.

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What I Expect In 2008

The election is a year away and the Republicans are working hard to set the stage and prime the public for their campaign themes. Here are my predictions for the 2008 election environment the Republicans will try to set up.
1) Iraq will not be in the news, and the Dems will be blamed for any failures. If there is failure the “stabbed in the back” narrative will be perfected. If things are calm, the Democrats will be blamed for trying to get us out prematurely.
And, above all, even if nothing changes, never forget that on Oct. 26, just before the 1972 election, all the headlines read “Peace is at hand!

NYT10.27.72PeaceIsAtHand.jpg

2) Immigration: Republicans assuredly have polling and testing that show this as a strong issue. This week’s elections saw them testing messages to find out what works. Don’t think this was beaten back, it was only field-tested. They’re going to use this to divide us and drive wedges between us and split groups apart — it’s what they do.
3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress — Republicans are filibustering everything, and Bush is vetoing the rest. Every single bill. The media is already running with a “Dems won’t compromise’ and “Dems can’t get anything done” narrative and Congress is at a record low approval. You bet we’ll be hearing this – they are hard at work developing it. Unless the Democrats start making a lot of noise about this and sustain it -and get the media to report the facts – the Republicans will get away with it.

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San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll Results

San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll vote count (see the Live Blogging the San Mateo Country Presidential Straw Poll post):
Edwards 221
Kucinich 180
Obama 171
Hillary 128
Gore (write in) 23
Richardson 21
Biden 8
Dodd 4
Gravel 4
There are more details at the San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll website.

Live Blogging the San Mateo Country Presidential Straw Poll

I am at the San Mateo County Expo Center, where they are conducting a Presidential Straw Poll today.
This is a large room and it is packed. It looks lime at least a thousand people have turned out. (Later – just heard someone say 1600.)
Along one wall are tables set up by the local Democratic clubs and the campaigns. There are Hillary, Obama, Edwards and Kuchinich tables, and there is a strong Kucinich contingent here. I haven’t seen a Dodd or Biden table or sign or supporters, but I have seen people with Richardson signs. And, of course Draft Gore signs.
I am here with Mary Ratcliff of The Left Coaster and Pacific Views. If I am lucky Mary will let me use her camera because I loaned mine to someone who has not returned it. (hint)
The first speaker is now talking and the sound system is terrible. I’m way in the back at a press table, and there are a lot of talking people between me and the speakers. “…taking back our country … San Mateo County … and I thank you for being here… we WILL have a Democratic president in 2009 …”
— Pictures after the flip —

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MoveOn Vote Has Seriously Damaged Election Efforts

The House and Senate – with significant Democratic support – recently voted to condemn MoveOn. This “brands” MoveOn as a radical, extremist, unpatriotic, unAmerican organization. And it does the same to MoveOn’s members. So from now on any Democrat receiving an endorsement, money, volunteers or other support from MoveOn or any other segment of the Democratic base is open to attack.
Here are examples – just from today – of what any Democratic politician should expect from now on. This will turn into a drumbeat.
Baltimore Sun: MoveOn dust-up hits Bean race,

In an ongoing attempt to bludgeon Democrats with MoveOn.org’s controversial “General Betray US” ad in the New York Times, Republicans seized on a Politico.com report today that pegged 44 congressional Democrats — including Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) — as having voted to condemn the MoveOn ad even though they accepted the group’s campaign cash.
Bean voted for a House resolution condemning the ad, which accused the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, of “cooking the books for the White House” on the war. One of Bean’s prospective GOP opponents, businessman Steve Greenberg, called the vote “blatant hypocrisy” in a press release today, because Bean has taken more than $80,000 from MoveOn and its members over her congressional career.

SF Bay Area ABC: Should Politicians Say No To Controversial MoveOn.org Cash?,

Presidential campaign cash is the focus of a new republican attack plan. First they went after a controversial ad from MoveOn.org and now, they are calling on democrats to refuse political contributions from that organization.
…The GOP is targeting those democrats who voted to condemn the ad. In the Bay Area there is only one; 11th district Democrat Jerry McNerney from Pleasanton.
… Jerry McNerney did vote to condemn the MoveOn ad and he has taken more than $50,000 dollars in contributions from MoveOn and will continue to take their money.

Denver Post: MoveOn.org critics accept its donations,

Forty-four congressional Democrats who voted to condemn MoveOn.org for its ad branding Army Gen. David Petraeus “General Betray Us” have accepted more than $3.9 million in contributions from the anti-war group and its members since 2002, reports Politico.com. In Colorado, it’s Sen. Ken Salazar, right, ($318,700), Rep. John Salazar ($102,900), and Rep. Ed Perlmutter ($5,000). In Montana, Sen. John Tester ($350,200).

Wingnutopia: Townhall.com::Hillary Clinton (D.-MoveOn.org) Is A Radical

She is a radical, and one far outside the mainstream of American politics. In the growing recognition of the true nature of her political ideology is the obvious strategy for whoever the GOP nominee is: Throw the light on what she believes and proposes and keep it there.
First, Hillary refused to denounce the MoveOn.org assault on General Petraeus’ patriotism…
… Hillary is not mainstream. She’s not even on the far left bank of the mainstream.
She is way, way out there –a genuine ’60s girl, and the ideas and staff she would bring to the White House would represent a sharp break with all that has gone before in American politics.

MoveOn.org Bullies Crack Down on Critics,

MoveOn.org, the left-wing extremists who bashed the commander of American forces in Iraq as a traitor, should get out of the political kitchen.
… Acceptable speech to MoveOn.org: Likening President Bush to Adolf Hitler, as they did in 2004.

Note that they’re talking about accepting contributions and other help from MoveOn or its members.
The Democrats who voted to condemn MoveOn — their own base — have seriously, seriously damaged their own efforts and the efforts of every other Democrat.

Hillary Clinton: Mission Accomplished.

On January 22, 2007, as Senator Clinton went viral with her announcement that she was, essentially, running for The White House, we noted that her first challenge was to shatter the prism of the right. We wrote,

[T]his simply is a fact of modern politics in America. For the past three decades, the right wing has employed a powerful strategy of “$ell and $mear.” They insist on being the gatekeepers to public opinion and have developed a powerful machine that tells us who to like – and who to hate.
… They $mear Democratic and Progressive heroes, reducing American success stories such as George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis into humiliated historical footnotes. They destroy our leaders. They destroy those that might become our leaders. There is no Democratic or Progressive leader of any note of the last twenty years that has not been attacked.

Essentially, what we meant was:

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America’s Two Party System: The Marketing Party and The Product Party

Co-written with James Boyce, first published at Huffington Post.
We do have a two-party system in America: The Product Party and The Marketing Party. We have one party that spends its energy and its resources creating a product that will improve the lives of its supporters, and then we have a second party, one that invests its energy and its resources managing perception.
One party offers substance but without the sizzle, and one is so incredibly adept at selling that it can charm you into supporting an agenda that helps only those who don’t need it, and actually hurts you and your family.
By mastering the management of perception and with an utter disregard for facts and reality, the Marketing Party’s agenda and vision gets implemented – despite its horrendous consequences for the country, and the world. It has never been worse than it is now. The chasm between their vision, its consequences and the lifestyle and security of the average American is mind-boggling.
Do not underestimate the power of marketing. With enough money, a good campaign and some time, you really can make people think and do almost anything. Exactly why do you think Coke and Pepsi outsell all the other brands – because their sugar water is vastly superior to others? Exactly why do you think one brand of shampoo is “premium” and another is $5 a gallon – is it because they have different ingredients? No, it is because marketing works, especially on a public increasingly trained to respond.

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