Apparently, Frank Luntz is in agony. He’s eating strange food, doesn’t sleep much, and he’s become profoundly depressed. He no longer trusts the American people, doubts they can ever be persuaded.
In case you don’t know who Luntz is (and this might not help either, unless you’re not a political geek like me), he’s the guy who does focus groups for Sean Hannity. He leads the group, guides discussions among them, and concludes nearly every session with something along the lines of “People are looking for leaders who reach across the aisle, who can put aside partisan differences, and work together to get things done.”
Of course, this is crap. Conservatives want conservatives who are good at beating lefties, lefties want lefties who are good at beating conservatives, and “independents” want a winner.
Nobody in any of his focus groups ever says this, however. They mouth platitudes, the partisans go in for the kill, and the mealy-mouthed independents vote for the exact opposite of what they say they’ll vote for.
Case in point: They voted for the single most partisan member of the Senate (Obama) over the guy who did that funky thing with his arm when he said “I can reach across the aisle” in just about every speech he made (McCain). They reelected a president that’s been more overtly partisan and insulting of his opposition than any president in living memory in favor of a bland, inoffensive guy who refused to play dirty like Harry “I heard a rumor about Mitt Romney’s tax returns” Reid.
(Actually, independents voted for Romney, but not nearly enough to win. Perhaps this means somebody should fire up the base, instead.)
The bland platitude that Luntz ends his speeches with (reaching across the aisle!) is quite similar to another bland platitude that other beta males fall for all the time, that being “I’m looking for a nice guy who will buy me flowers and talk about his feelings.” The “strategist” who takes “independents” at their word won’t do any better than the poor dude who gets his dating advice from women.
“Independents” (save those who are too purist for any political parties, a view with which I sympathize) typically don’t really believe anything. They’re the types who’ll vote for some idiot because “he seems to care about people like me” or because they’d like to grab a beer with him. Also, our society is feminized, so even lots of men think like women. “Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do” is what we learn in the manosphere, but Luntz (who’s job it is to “listen to what they say”) keeps listening to what they say but can’t help but notice it has no relationship whatsoever with what they do.
So, like lots of betas who don’t “get it” and give up on women, Luntz “just gave up”, himself.
Luntz correctly blames Obama for our current state of hyper-partisanship:
The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president’s message of class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution. It was a message Luntz believed to be profoundly wrong, but one so powerful he had no slogans, no arguments with which to beat it back.
I agree that such rhetoric is profoundly poisonous, and I concede that it’s difficult to overcome. Especially when Republican strategy consists of “wisdom” like that of Karl Rove:
“If you say [Obama’s] a socialist, they’ll go to defend him. If you call him a ‘far out left-winger,’ they’ll say, ‘no, no, he’s not.’” The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him—by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he’s actually done. “If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you.”
The upshot is that if people like somebody, you shouldn’t be too mean to them. Of course, not ever being mean to somebody is a great way to ensure people like them, for it shows that you’re afraid of them. It makes you look weak.
People may say that they’ll prefer the respectful dude over the guy who insults his opponent at every turn, and those of us who think actually may, but idiots who can’t name a single Supreme Court justice don’t think a hell of a lot, they feel. When they see Bob declare that Phil wants poor people to starve, and Phil responds with “Bob’s a great guy, but he probably shouldn’t say that”, they feel like Bob’s really in charge and Phil is a pussy.
Democrats go for the throat. Republicans respond by whining that Democrats shouldn’t go for the throat. Under such circumstances, the only way to win is to sometimes keep them from choking you. It’s like trying to win a boxing match by just blocking the other guy’s punches (without any hope of a Muhammed Ali rope-a-dope; they’ll never get tired) .
I’m not saying to just go out and scream “socialist” all the damn time and look like a moron, but politics is about power, and power requires at least a modicum of fear. A politician who isn’t afraid of offending his enemies (who’ll be offended no matter what he does) commands respect; a politician who doesn’t want to rock the boat doesn’t.
Yes, you want to be seen as reasonable (which most “independents” think about Obama), you want to seem like you care, but notice the dichotomy between the parties. Democrats vilify their opponents at every turn, and damn near every SWPL thinks they’re the party with the big heart. Republicans endlessly pander for the sympathy vote and are perpetually seen as the wrong kind of assholes. If voters think you’re strong, they’ll appreciate whatever crumbs you throw their way. If they think you’re weak, anything you do will be seen as pandering. Weakness merely surrenders your frame, entirely.
I support a certain degree if respectfulness in political campaigns, but respecting those who despise you will get you nowhere. Among the times to get a little bit nasty is after being accused of despising women/blacks/etc. Maybe Democrats wouldn’t attack so ferociously if they knew that instead of “taking the high road” that Republicans would actually attack them back.
And by attack, I mean something that hurts.
Yes, be persuasive, find common ground, sometimes be soft, but do it from a position of strength. It’s the difference between a badass Alpha bringing home flowers and the AFC husband doing the same.
Of course, there are multiple reasons that the GOP won’t do this. First, there’s the chumpish, wimpy attitude of Luntz and company who refuse to get dirty, even when it’s appropriate. Second, we’ve got way too much of this crap going on, and far too many establishment types simply like the power and don’t want to rock the boat (I’m not quite as far along as Galt in his views on the major parties, but I’m getting there).
Third, for a party that claims to support free markets, there’s a hierarchy and institutional resistance to change in the GOP that’s far more inflexible than what I observed in the Army. If you haven’t gotten the right internships, kissed the right asses, and played their game, it’s almost impossible to break in. No matter how many elections you lose as a consultant, you’ll either keep your job or get a better one. The private sector that they ostensibly respect relies on accountability, for the Washington establishment it’s all about who your friends are. I worked for a state GOP that got it’s ass destroyed, and everybody who designed their “strategy” either kept their job or got promoted (of course, all the newbies who tried telling them that they might want to try something different got laid off).
(This may be by design. After all, the TEA Party and Occupy have more in common with each other than either would like to admit*.)
So will Luntz wake up and recognize that although he may be great at messaging, he’s sending the wrong message? Would he ever listen to the wise advice of an anonymous chump like me?
If you’ve got a friend who refuses to listen when you tell him not to text some girl for times within an hour to find out what she’s up to, you understand the resistance that needs to be overcome. You may have been the same way yourself.
It doesn’t happen very often, for we get very wedded to our beliefs, they become a part of our identity. It’s painful to change.
And when the people telling you that you should change wouldn’t fit in with your powerful friends, that makes it doubly hard.
Will Luntz take the rhetorical Red Pill? (from the looks of the article, it seems like he could stand to take the sexual one, too) I doubt it.
But miracles have happened, and Luntz is going through a crisis, which means he might actually be somewhat open to different ways of thinking. So, if anybody knows the guy, tell him all he has to do is stick me in room with a handful of Democrats, watch what I do, and I’ll let him get some of the credit for destroying the Democratic Party.
* There are substantial differences, primarily regarding the policies they advocate. However, both groups recognize the problems with crony capitalism. It’s just that if we did what Occupy wants (wanted? do they still exist?), the problems they correctly identify would only get worse.)