Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Avoid Demonization and Influence People

One of the more annoying aspects of people who proudly reside on the more fringe areas of our political spectrum is their penchant for insisting that everything is an either/or situation.  Either Republicans win or Democrats win.  Either Republicans attack or they don't attack.  Either we punch Republicans in the face (rhetorically speaking) or they're punching us in the gut (metaphorically).

And the problem is that there's no nuance at all.  But even worse, there's no real ability to strategize.  Their only solution is to plow right ahead with the most obvious course of action, believing that nuance will only encourage the enemy, as it is considered an obvious sign of weakness and compromise.  To act as if you're not about to punch your opponent in the face at any given moment (physically), is to bend over and wait for them to slide a hot one in you (figuratively, I hope).  We must act like Dick Cheney if we want any hope to avoid being his slave.

And this is a really really really dumb attitude to take.  Because it implicitly disallows any sort maneuvering room or reason to plan.  And it also just encourages the other side and helps rally them together.  And so liberals are told to take the boldest, strongest stance possible.  Conservatives see this boldness and immediately use it to justify their boldest, strongest stance.  And both sides use the increasingly heated rhetoric as the cause célèbre for increasing their own heated rhetoric. 

And then we're stuck in a mindless game of chicken which has no winner as neither side will back down.  Both sides insist that to do so would give the other side a huge opening.  And diehards on both sides say "See, I told you they hate us.  We must fight them forever."  And so nothing gets done and we achieve nothing; which only further fuels their belief that they must fight forever.  Needless to say, I prefer a different course of action.

No Point in Listening

And we're seeing that right now with the debate over the stimulus bill.  Obama reached out to Republicans, gave in to many of their demands, removed a mildly controversial provision for funding contraceptives; yet still Republicans oppose it.  And so the fringier elements on our side are now proclaiming defeat and saying things like:
the R's are basically saying 'fuck you', he should turn round and say the same.  No point in listening to the cretins on the other side of the aisle. They're devoid of content.
But that's entirely the wrong way of looking at what happened.  And if you read the messageboard on the link above, you could find all kinds of smart stuff I wrote on the subject, but one of the more important points is on the nature of democracy.  Because these liberals are now making the exact same arguments the Republicans did, which was essentially "We won bitches!  Now we get to do things our way."

But that's not what democracy is about.  Democracy isn't the tyranny of the majority.  Nor is it a dictatorship with term-limits.  The point of democracy is to give citizens an ownership stake in their government, and by allowing them input into how the government works, it empowers them and gives them an interest in making it work.  But...if you treat each election like a short-term dictatorship that allows you to ignore the wishes of the minority, you've just destroyed the entire purpose of democracy.  

Democracy isn't about selecting the right leaders or picking the right policies.  It's about giving a voice to the people.  But that just doesn't work if you plan to ignore the 49% that didn't vote for you.  Again, it was the Republican model to pretend like presidential democracy only happens every four years, and see how that worked out for them.  (Hint: It didn't.)

Fighting for Their Right to Fight

And the more salient point is that Republican leaders would much rather see Obama follow the advice of our hardline progressives.  They don't want their demands met.  They want to be ignored.  And they want the views of their supporters to be ignored.  Because Republicans don't give a damn about stimulus, or contraceptives, or any of this stuff.  They just want a fight.  It's all they understand.  They need a demon.  That's how they gain power, and power is all they're really interested in.  They're not ideologues and would vote for America to be a commie dictatorship; just as long they got to be the dictator.

They're floating aimlessly right now and the best thing for Obama to do for them is to give them some issue to rally the troops with.  And the worst thing for Republicans is if Obama is seen reaching out to them, listening to their demands, including their input, and removing the more controversial elements.  And that will work for us the same reason why democracy works, and if they still choose to vote against a bill they helped craft, then they sidelined themselves and look like idiots.  

Obama needed to give them the first punch, as well as to learn what would satisfy their firmer demands.  And now that he's got that, he looks like the good guy while they look like irrelevant schmucks.  They've got no one to blame but themselves.

Democracy Rules

And of course, this is the same strategy we need to use to fight Muslim terrorism.  Muslim terrorists also want a fight and a demon, so they can convince the majority of Muslims, who are non-extremist, why they need to become extremist.  And that's why they loved Bush and fear Obama: Because Obama will listen to the non-extremists and treat them fairly, while Bush would blow up their homes and invade their countries.

And this is all the same thing.  Conservatives want to stir up hate against Muslims for the same reason Muslim extremists want to stir up hate against Americans.  And far-left progressives want to stir up hate against Republicans for the same reason why far-right reactionaries want to stir up hate against Democrats.  It's all the same thing, being done for the same reason.  They don't exist without a common enemy.  And if they can't win their way, they'd rather not win.  

It's obvious that many of these progressives don't really want a stimulus bill unless it contains a little payback.  And the smartest thing we can do is to ignore these people and focus on the people who want solutions.  While democracy demands that even the side in the minority be heard, that doesn't apply to these jerks who only want to fight.  Sure, we'll hear them out and satisfy their firmer demands.  But once it becomes obvious that their full demands are poison pills intended to poison the well, it's time to thank them for their time and move on.  

They will never be satisfied because they live to be dissatisfied.  I suspect that many of these people will have found things more fun with Bush in the Whitehouse.  Perhaps that's why they opposed Obama from the beginning.

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