Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Insulting Your Way to Victory

If anyone could please find me evidence that direct insults from one political candidate to another was a winning strategy, I'd really like to see it.  Because I keep hearing all this talk from progressives about how we'd be doing better, if only we used harsher insults against Republicans; yet I can't imagine how that's supposed to work and keep seeing evidence to the contrary. 
And what's so boggling is that these people could witness eight years of Bush, and STILL not understand how the game is played.  When did Bush ever insult Democrats?  When did you ever hear him call Gore a loser or suggest that Kerry hated his country?  He didn't.  Because that would be beneath the presidency, and more importantly, would have covered him with as much mud as he was hurling.  Instead, they used surrogates to hurl the tough smears, while Bush stayed above the fray and couldn't be tied to the attacks.

Why?  Because having your candidate hurl insults is a zero-sum game, at best; and you might end up worse off than if you hadn't said anything.  Yes, you should attack your opponent, but it can't come from the candidate himself, or you end up hurting him.  Just ask John McCain, who's job it was to lose the last election while crippling Obama as much as he could. 
And just think to yourself: When Palin smears Obama and Democrats, does it make you want to lie down in defeat?  Or does it make you want to attack right back and make her eat her own words?  Exactly, and that's how it is for the other side.  These people don't want political victories; they want a cage match.  And since Obama isn't giving it to them, they'll look elsewhere for their heroes. 

And that's been their problem since Obama came along: They didn't want a president; they wanted a warrior.  Unfortunately, they ended up with someone who'd rather see results than symbolic victories and epic defeats; and so they'll deny the existence of his actual victories and gnash their teeth that we didn't achieve the impossible.


And that's why every time Alan Grayson says something, progressives come out rejoicing.  At last, they say, a Democrat who's willing to tell the truth.  But of course, he's not REALLY saying anything other Democrats aren't saying.  He's just using harsher rhetoric, solely for the purpose of getting attention for attacking Republicans.  It's like a little kid saying "doodoo" over and over, because he found it got people's attention.  And they'd much rather hear Grayson hurl insults than see the end of rescission and decent health insurance for everyone.   As it turns out, insults are bigger than achievements.

And in this latest issue, Grayson's attacking Republicans for their behavior in the GOP debate last night, which I myself covered previously.  But whereas I used the opportunity to show that Republicans didn't really mean these things, as they're only repeating empty rhetoric that they don't truly believe in, Grayson used it as a chance to attack Republicans for sadism.  Seriously, in Grayson's world, these people are no longer misinformed people who can be educated, but rather monsters who are leading us down the road to ruin.

As he said:
“What you saw tonight is something much more sinister than not having a healthcare plan,” he told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. “It’s sadism, pure and simple. It’s the same impulse that led people in the Coliseum to cheer when the lions ate the Christians. And that seems to be where we are heading — bread and circuses, without the bread. The world that Hobbes wrote about — “the war of all against all.”
What???  Because some Tea Partiers cheered about the idea of hypothetical man dying for lack of healthcare, it means we're heading towards bread and circuses without the bread??  Seriously???

But no, not seriously.  Grayson doesn't REALLY think we're on the percipice of gladiatorism.  He's just using hyperbole to make a point: He doesn't approve of Republicans or their policies.  And that's fine, as I don't either.  But I see little advantage to us using such hyperbole when the Republicans themselves have already done a superior job of disgracing themselves.  The only people who can watch that clip and NOT begin to suspect that Tea Partiers are nuts are the Tea Partiers themselves.  Most everyone else will be on our side.

They Way They Should Be Described
But of course, since some progressives get weak-kneed every time a Democrat insults Republicans, it's inevitable that you'll see comments like this one.
Alan Grayson is the only Democrat that describes the modern day Republican Party the way they should be described.
Really?  Unless we invoke Ancient Rome and the Gladitors, we're not describing them right?   That's like invoking Nazis as a way of scoring points in a healthcare debate.  Oh wait, Grayson did that...repeatedly.  And as expected, those incidents also got certain progressives weak-kneed, as they'll fall for whoever's using the harshest rhetoric that day; just like the Tea Partiers on the other side of the aisle.  And just like the Tea Partiers, victory is a side effect of their strategy; while the main point is to insult the other side.

Look, if the worry is that moderates and true independents will watch that clip and side with the Republicans, then we've already lost and insults won't be enough.  But all this is more evidence that these people aren't necessarily looking to win.

How Not to Smear

Anyway, here's the rebuttal I posted:
Yes, because we can really win this, just as long as we insult Republicans enough. After all, that really worked well for one-time Congressman Grayson, didn't it. Oh wait...

While I definitely had issues with the GOP and Tea Partiers in that debate, I have a hard time seeing how this is the first step towards "bread and circuses, without the bread." I mean, seriously. What the Republicans are doing is bad enough. Do we really need to use extremist hyperbole to get that across? I don't think so and think it's counter-productive.

And Grayson's mistake is that by engaging in this harsh rhetoric, he makes each story about him. No longer are we talking about Republicans, but instead, we're talking about what Grayson said about Republicans and whether or not it was appropriate. That rarely works to our advantage, as it takes so much of the pressure off Republicans and puts it on to us. Similarly, when Joe Wilson yelled that Obama lied, it was no longer about what Obama said, but rather what Wilson said; and the story became about Wilson and whether he meant it or not.  
In contrast, when Rove and his bunch smear you, you hear all about the smear, but very little about who did it. That's what a proper attack is like: When the ball is firmly in your opponent's court to explain everything and you aren't expected to explain anything. But if you have to spend as much of your time defending the attack as your opponent spends defending against it, you've already negated your own attack and you shouldn't have started.

Yeah, insulting Republicans might make you feel better, but it doesn't win elections. Just ask former Congressman Alan Grayson.


LynxSL said...


You're the only one talking about Grayson. Everyone else is still talking about the tea partiers.

The Republicans have a Noise Machine which defends them and amplifies attacks on Democrats.

Democrats have circular firing squads. We're VERY GOOD at that. Our attacks are at once muted and instead turned back against us, BY OUR OWN SIDE.

FINE, you don't like Grayson's attack ( or any other attack apparently), make your own or amplify an attack you can support and ignore Grayson.

Maybe Grayson and I have the wrong strategy. We are, however, on your side. We are attacking your opponent. The ones who are happily attacking our side day and night, with the same type of rhetoric. But we are allowed no counter attack which doesn't follow the rules ( which the opponents have no issue ignoring).

Please get REAL.

Doctor Biobrain said...

LynxSL - I wrote one post. Chill out. One post about Grayson. And a search of my blog shows that I only wrote about him one other time, almost two years ago when he was in office. Beyond that, the majority of my stuff attacks Republicans and other idiots, so I fail to see what the problem is.

Besides, it's not like Grayson's supporters have any problem targeting Obama with their own firing squad, so perhaps that's where you should be focusing, as Obama's a more vulnerable target for us than Grayson.

Please get real.