by Denis G. Campbell
Words matter unless they don’t, in 2010.
On this side of the Pond, Tony Blair glibly slammed Gordon Brown on the BBC this week, whilst releasing his memoir at the moment his Labour Party began its critical leadership vote. Coincidence?
In Arizona’s desert, accidental Governor Jan Brewer refused to answer reporters’ questions about her discredited claim of “headless bodies in the desert,” and so badly blew a prepared gubernatorial debate opening statement that many wondered if this had become the new Republican Tea Party strategy: say nothing for the next two months and pray no one notices. This strategy led to a 20-point lead over a bland Democratic opponent. Coincidence?
That grossly unqualified Governor Brewer, Sharron Angle (Nevada Senate), Rand Paul (Kentucky Senate) and other far-right wing politicos could contend, let alone win, elections is part of an organized, systematic rewriting of history by the right. Mark McKinnon burnishing W’s legacy and the Beckoning were the beginning salvos in what will be a bloody fight.
Words matter in 2010, and the Republicans are dark-arts masters of talking-point discipline. The main rule: No matter the question, pivot, illogically, back to your point. It will infuriate the questioner, but he or she will not have the guts to return to the talking point for fear of losing access, and will let it slide no matter how much rubbish you speak.
Progressives are sitting back, sulking, taking solace in being on the side of “political correctness” and “getting screwed” daily. As a progressive friend said, “Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are my daily oasis. They make sense of it all and make it all better at the end of each day.”
Excuse me, but WTF?
Progressives sulk after every election: win or lose. With so many constituencies to serve, they can’t govern broadly enough to satisfy anyone in their base. Cleaning up messes is not good enough.
Republicans were tossed out in ’06 and ’08. Did they sulk, even for a minute? Nope, they came back swinging. Now they stand poised to take back the House and could also win the Senate – the group that created this mess back at the wheel.
Forget Obama losing his cool; ain’t happening. Progressives need to learn the fighting comes in rounds. The Republicans lost two, had their corner cut man do quick work (rebranding as the Republican Tea Party), tied themselves to illogical anger at phantoms, birth certificates and health care, and came back with withering blows, while progressives said, “You don’t matter; we won; you were knocked out, now go away.”
The Republicans have taken a page from the UK Conservatives’ (Tories’) playbook. The Tories played catch-up for more than a decade before winning the UK Parliamentary elections this spring. How did they do it? They never sulked and they never quit. Since becoming party leader, David Cameron launched weekly, withering televised attacks during Prime Minister’s Question Time against Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown. Each attack was like watching a heavyweight fighter in a tight clench, pounding slowly and determinedly away.
Since Gordon Brown walked away, Labour has joined the Witness Protection Programme. Members are invisible, leaderless, irrelevant and rudderless, and the Tories have struck (with their BFFs, the “Liberal” Democrats) and are dismantling social programs with lightning speed.
Want to know what “Morning in America” will look like come January 1? Keep sulking, progressives.
The right’s strategy is clear: Attack anything “intellectual,” and there’s no need to merely dance and stretch the truth anymore. You can now put out whatever you choose, because FOX (and the UK’s SKY – same parent) has the bigger audience of Kool-Aid drinkers who have been systematically trained since 1994 to stick their fingers in their ears, look you in the eye and say, “You don’t know what I know!” all the while sticking out their tongues at you and singing loudly, “I’m not listening; I’m not listening; I’m not listening,” while laughing their way to huge wins.
They know the left will resort to cracking intellectually snarky jokes, deride the right and lose! Yes, we are all sick and tired of their intellectual dishonesty, but this is a knife fight, and progressives are bringing typewriter ribbons.
Glibness is nice, but what will the left do to fight back from inside the ring, directly inside that clench?
Bald-faced lies – such as Missisippi Governor Haley Barbour, who graduated high school in 1964, claiming he went to an “integrated” school, although schools were not integrated there until 1970 – will continue to go unchecked by news organizations too scared to do their jobs, because their corporate masters fear an economic backlash.
The Phoenix CBS affiliate station is losing boatloads of cash because Jan Brewer refuses to advertise on it, blatantly punishing the station for not following her line. The station is now the darling of progressives, but come January, don’t be surprised – especially if Jan Brewer wins – if it, too, toes the line, and the offending reporter finds himself reading hog price openings on the morning farm report in Iowa.
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were never the best of buddies under any situation, but this week on the BBC, Tony let loose on Gordon for recent election losses and his overall dour nature, saying, “The relationship was very, very difficult.”
It was classic PMQs-speak Blair: make the inflammatory point, bob, weave, counter with wan supportive statements (especially when you know your opponent has no more questions or has disappeared) and score with the headline you know everyone will jump on. Nothing pushes book sales through the roof faster than the hint of an insider fight.
Tony Blair ensured success for himself and the publisher. Why? We’re talking about him again.
The weakest links – Jan Brewer, Rand Paul and Sharron Angle – are, sadly, learning. Say nothing. Speak only to friendly media in pre-scripted, controlled, friendly events, and pray nothing bad happens between now and November 2.
Just ignore the man behind the curtains! W’s image-burnishing memoir launches in a few weeks. Coincidence?
Denis G Campbell is the author of 6 books including 'Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,' 'The Vagina Wars' & 'Egypt Unsh@ckled.' He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly 'World View with Denis Campbell' segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
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