by Barry Rubin
When one talks to supporters of President Barack Obama, one quickly learns that his actual policies and their relative success or failure are of no importance for many of them. Some have defected, many more are worried (even if they won’t admit it publicly) but might overcome their doubts and vote for him again.
The significant factor shaping their views is one of self-image. That’s why evidence and events have relatively little influence on them unless — which may be precisely what happens in America between now and November 2012 — these things become too big to ignore. “Too big to ignore!” Perhaps that should be a counter-slogan against “Too big to fail.”
To support Obama makes them smart, sophisticated, anti-racist, modern, members of an intellectual and social elite standing against the yahoos with the pitchforks out in the provinces. From the defenders of the downtrodden, the left has transformed itself into the well-financed aristocracy sneering at the peasantry.
That’s why the theme of portraying the opposition as greedy, rich, fat-cat, corporate chieftains and simultaneously hillbilly, gun-toting, religious fanatic racists who think Obama is a Muslim-born in Kenya and want to reinstitute slavery is so incredibly effective in shoring up its base of support.
Even the simplest points of fact — that the Tea Party is a group of people opposed to big government, high taxes, tight regulation, and large deficits — barely appear amidst the propaganda aimed at discrediting any opposition as illegitimate.
If you can persuade people that anyone is insane if they want to cut economically unproductive government spending and not raise taxes at a time of massive depression and growing deficits, then you have a pretty good propaganda machine.
The hardcore Obama supporter is not watching unemployment levels, the economy, the mess in Egypt and Libya, or the effectiveness of health care reform. His concern is that if he decides Obama is a terrible president it means he is one of “them.” This is a horror he can never accept. For the Jews among them — which explains their higher membership in this group — these factors are reinforced by the image of becoming the very Nazi Cossack Klu Klux Klan monster that is their worst nightmare.
The left isn’t doing this because it’s on the defensive or desperate. On the contrary, this is its main strategy. How else can you persuade about half the population, liberals and centrists, to support the most left-wing policy in American history? That’s why they need a strategy based on hate, fear, stereotyping, demonetization of the “other,” rejection of diversity, and all those other things that political correctness and multiculturalism supposedly oppose! What’s the response? I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t know, but it might be useful to have it all in one place:
1. Avoid playing into these stereotypes whenever possible. Once you lose your credibility by being too extreme or not being able to present facts, it is very hard to regain it in this atmosphere.
2. Word of mouth. Have the best arguments and point them out to people. Never doubt that no matter how confident many of these people appear to be they are having severe doubts about their policies and ideas working. Be able to argue on the other side’s own terms in order to show hypocrisy (see point in bold above).
3. Provide credible alternative sources of information. You’re reading one of the best ones, PJM, right now.
4. Don’t rant; don’t argue with those who cannot be persuaded; and don’t spend your time attacking people whose differences with you are relatively small. Focus on the large portion of the open-minded. Remember the purpose of communication is not to make yourself feel good but to make people on the other end feel that you’re right.
5. Don’t write off traditional liberals who are somewhere between being horrified and confused by the policies they are supporting. Point out that this is a leftist and not liberal program. This isn’t the platform of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, or even Bill Clinton. It is the worldview of the 1948 Progressive Party and the 1960s’ New Left.
6. The simple truth is — as expressed by such people as Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Harry Reid — that the far left argues that anyone who is an African-American, Hispanic-American, woman, or gay has no right to oppose Obama and his policies. If they do, they are a traitor to their “race” (or whatever) and should be treated with the utmost contempt and shut up as quickly as possible. So much for diversity.
7. Point out how this anti-democratic strategy is destroying America’s tradition of free and open debate, as well as the cherished institutions of universities, schools, and media. On issue after issue — climate change, the budget, revolutionary Islamism, Israel, etc. — the message is that there is only one proper stance and disagreement will not be tolerated. There’s nothing intellectually advanced or sophisticated about such behavior. It is the most reactionary approach possible. The left, disguised as liberals, takes an approach more akin to the Middle Ages or eighteenth-century conservatism than to historic liberalism. If Galileo Galilei said the earth goes around the sun, Al Gore would retort, in the style of a church inquisitor, that the science on that matter has already been permanently settled.
8. The basis of the left’s case is to deny things have changed. On the one hand, they need to fool people into thinking that America is still full of racists and bigots and big corporations still rule the land as they did many long decades ago. On the other hand, they need to fool people into thinking that we are still in the 1950-2000 era in which spending resources are unlimited, schools don’t indoctrinate kids, universities aren’t ideological institutes for producing intolerant left-wing activists, the media is still reasonably fair, and the United States has not yet passed the maximum burden of entitlements whose continued growth will destroy the country.
9. Point out that this isn’t exactly the best time to portray Western Europe as a model for the United States since Europe has cracked up very badly and following the same policies will produce the same result.
10. Direct experience and observation change people who are not blinded by ideology. And clearly Obama’s policies have failed at home and abroad, a point that will be regularly and increasingly obvious over the next 15 months. That should count for something and perhaps people will be ready to listen to why this has happened.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com