Democrats Need to Frame the Republicans
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
"Dems seek probe on provision that would've allowed access to tax data" is
the sub-headline of an article in the Houston Chronicle [LINK].
In case you have been sleeping through the aftermath of the "election," you
might have missed the story that the GOP tried to slip through a law that would
allowed Republican Congressional Chairmen to review individual and corporate
tax returns at will. In short, your tax return could be used for political
attacks by the GOP, as they gained partisan access to confidential tax returns.
The Democrats are raising a small ruckus about this, which is good. But it
shouldn't be a modest sense of outrage that they are conveying. The DNC and
Congressional leaders should be conducting a national public relations and
media campaign to denounce the invasion of individual rights and records that
have long been held inviolable.
The fact is that the Democrats might have pulled a few key Western states into
their column if they had nailed the Republicans on their ongoing efforts to
have the government intrude into the private lives of Americans and encroach
upon our rugged individualism.
If you haven't been reading BuzzFlash, this is something called "framing" the
debate, a concept championed by University of California Berkeley Professor
George Lakoff [LINK].
To put it simply, the Republican propaganda machine tends to be brilliant
at framing (think of the "death tax" as used to describe something that almost
exclusively affects the wealthy), led by a pollster named Frank Luntz (who
gave Newt Gingrich his infamous list of evil words to describe Democrats) and
-- of course -- Karl Rove. On the other hand, the Democrats tend to, frankly,
stink at "framing." In fact, they don't generally do it or understand it
We're a bit biased about this. BuzzFlash.com was founded in 2000, in
part, because we were so sick of the Democrats constantly being on the
responding to Republican "frames" as if they were Gospel.
Over time, "framing" starts to influence and shape public thinking, so
if you cede the defining of public policy and cultural issues to the
other side, you've
already lost the debate. Are you beginning to see the trouble the Democratic
leadership got itself into under the influence of the DLC?
We don't intend to make this an editorial on the craven, misguided policy
of the DLC, which is really now the moderate Republican wing of the GOP.
however, with the DLC is it views the electorate as some sort of fixed target
that the GOP has a lock on, when, in reality, the red-state "state of mind" has
been largely shaped by the Republican "framing" strategies, in the absence
of Democratic efforts to positively package issues.
Until the right wing started its multi-pronged think tank, media and "framing" assault
on this country in the '70s, America had been known as a dynamic, evolving
nation. Our consumerism is tied to the "latest" fad or product. Our social
thinking is always in motion. We have, until the invasion of the Republican
religious right, prided ourselves on being contemporary and secular (with
a little bit of hypocritical Puritanism popping up now and then). We were
nation always on the cutting edge.
Indeed, a secular America is a nation ripe for the Democratic Party to lead,
but you can't lead if you are always letting the other side define you.
This is a nation that has at its core a reverence for the rights of individuals
to be free of unnecessary government interference. We now have a Republican
junta that prides itself on invading our bedrooms, our sexual preferences,
our right to fly, our personal records, a woman's body, our liberties, our
indebtedness (think "framing" here), our freedom of speech -- and even our
income taxes. And this list is just for starters.
Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada could be tipped into the Democratic
column with a slight tailwind of "framing." The Republican Party has become
the party of government intrusion into our personal lives. They don't like
that out West.
But voters won't know that the Democrats stand for keeping government out of
our personal lives unless they start taking the Republicans on, instead of
letting their intrusions into our liberties pass after a few days of grumbling.
To lead, you need to take the lead.
To lead, you need to define before you are defined.
We doubt whether this election was won fairly, but we warned John Kerry last
spring that he would have to win by a large margin in order to keep the Bush
Cartel from stealing the election. Jeb was never going to let Kerry win Florida
-- and the Ohio Bush surrogate, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, is sort
of a Clarence Thomas/Katherine Harris/Alan Keyes combo deal. So, Ohio was
risk from the get-go, and Blackwell pulled out all the stops to ensure a
As we noted, in March, we penned a warning to Kerry: "BuzzFlash Message to
John Kerry: It's the Golden Hour of Opportunity, Define Bush or Be Defined
by Him. There is No Option "B." [LINK].
But Kerry got defined first as a "flip-flopper" and then as a Vietnam War
liar. Neither charge was true, of course. But who couldn't see it coming?
Kerry campaign for one.
Here is some of what we said on March 17:
Just remember -- as Bush and Cheney personally attack John
Kerry on the issue of credibility -- that this is the essence of the
Bush Administration political strategy: "If you tell a lie five times,
it becomes the truth."
Political analysts, the ones who really know what they are talking about, not
the multi-millionaire Bush suck-up celebrity shills on television, say that
now is the time that offers a window of golden opportunity for Bush and company
to define Kerry in the mind of the swing voter. Since the "perception" of Kerry's
character is still largely unformed in the minds of many Americans, the goal
of the Bush campaign, at this time, is to -- and we have to gulp hard just
to write this -- portray Kerry as "untrustworthy."
Yes, this is the administration that has made brazen lying banal. And how will
they sway voters? By trying to implant the image in their heads that Kerry
is, well, a liar. It would be a ludicrous farce, if this dishonest GOP technique
weren't so deadly to Democrats who haven't known how to fight back.
Of course, who is BuzzFlash to know more than the millionaire consultants
who hang on to Democratic campaigns like gilded leeches, as they urge
the face of a blistering Republican assault? We're just chopped liver to them, or maybe it's paté.
In the fall, Kerry finally came around in the debates, and in a powerful speech
on Iraq. But it was too late to slam dunk Bush; Kerry had been defined.
If the Democrats don't learn how to frame the Republicans -- instead of trying
to act like them -- they will continue to be framed.
It's a shame, because the heart of America is waiting to be wooed by a suitor
with tenacity, courage and the ability to say the right words.
This country has had enough of "me-too."
It'll know a fighter when it sees him or her.
The media will be working overtime to vanquish any Democratic leader who starts
to burn some rubber, but that's his or her challenge.
If you can make the media stop braying like Republican hound dogs, you can win
the West and leave the old Confederacy to spend its day worshipping shrines to
Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
Democratic leaders who counsel appeasement are just helping the Republicans build
the gallows upon which to hang themselves -- or one could say giving them (the
GOP) the wood to help (the Dems) frame themselves.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL