Friday, September 4, 2009

Is the outrage over the President's presentation to students just a tempest in a teapot?

We’re all upset by this latest outrage, I’ve been asking myself why the R’s are making such a stink about the President’s address to the students. Then I started thinking about what there is to gain from it. I’ve always been a bit socially awkward and therefore a little slow at getting the psychology of moving people so it took me a while to make the connections.

Having been reading a little history and looking at polling data I now believe that all the froth that’s been stirred up by the far right leadership regarding Obama’s birth certificate, the “death panels” and the presidential “indoctrination” speech to students are all about activating their base for the battles over health care, climate change/energy legislation and the 2010 election. The method is the same racial polarization also known as the “southern strategy” that Nixon and the R’s have used to great success in past elections. They’re using fear, the fear of the other to raise the intensity of their base and so far it’s working. Polling shows that not only is Obama’s approval down with the general public but it’s really down with “likely voters”. Who are likely voters, right now they’re Republicans because they’re activated.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted from the forest by the trees we will spend our time and energy constantly reacting to their efforts rather than putting out our own message. It’s important to get ahead of the wave or we’ll drown in the trough. We need to turn their weapon against them by using their tactics to activate our base. We have to remind our folks that the reason they went out and worked to get Obama elected was to change the status quo and that if they don’t get out and continue to work toward the goals he set forth on the campaign trail their prior efforts will be for naught.

I have no doubt that George Lakoff is correct that Obama’s team bungled the roll out of the health care reform program. I have no doubt that David Sirota is correct that the Democratic Party isn’t going to just get the things we elected them to do done without a progressive movement to push them into it. I have no doubt that Robert Creamer is correct that Obama is aware that if health care reform fails he probably will be a failed president. I have no doubt that many of you, myself included, will feel betrayed if health care reform doesn’t include a public option.

What we, as progressive activists, have to do is use the tools available to activate our base supporters because we know that only then will our legislators vote as we expect them to, only then will our President stick his neck out and demand a public option. The R’s play a deep game and they plan and work for the long haul, we’ve got to do the same thing.

I know that many of you are charged up about this most recent outrage, I’m certain that many less politically aware/interested folks are just as upset. We need to use that outrage to activate our folks. One possibility would be to hold a brief, hour long, rally in front of school board offices in ISD’s where the president’s address won’t be shown. We need petitions and folks writing to the school boards and administrators and writing letters to the editor. A gentleman I know is making DVD’s of the address and planning pizza parties with viewings of the “forbidden” presentation. We have to talk to our neighbors and when we find one that agrees we must urge them to make a call or write a letter.

Each person that we activate in this manner becomes more receptive to being activated again. The goal is not to somehow right the present wrong it’s to activate our base because if we don’t then the R’s have already won. They have succeeded in activating their base and are keeping them activated through repeated ridiculous spectacles. We need to put our heads together and develop a plan to not just counter the R’s but to beat them at their own game. If I were part of the Hispanic community I would certainly be shouting from the rooftops about our Senators voting against Justice Sotomayor. What votes or positions do you think will resonate with your family members, friends and neighbors? Is it appropriate to use party resources such as the Texas VAN in an effort to activate our base? I believe it is and it’s time we use it to phone bank and call Democrats asking for them to call school superintendents, call our Congressmen and write to the President.

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