April 14, 2010

Conservatives: Now Is The Time To Start Playing Offense!

One of the greatest tricks the Democrats have in their arsenal, an offshoot of Alinsky Tactics, is to keep conservatives playing the political game defensively.  Whether it's trying to malign conservative intentions via baseless attacks of racism, sexism etc., or trying to move the political center ever leftward, conservatism is always under attack. The left is always trying to push it backward, trying to keep conservatism playing defense.  Why has America been transformed, over decades - not just on Obama's watch, from a powerhouse of liberty, and self-reliance into a country that is debt-riddled, apologist, and a growing nanny-state? While still wealthy in resources and talent, why is America seemingly in an accelerating decline in terms of prestige and power?  It's because those values, those freedoms, that energy and desire and right to try to succeed as embodied in the Protestant Work Ethic, have been slowly leeched away as progressives kept piling on with just one more thing.  Guess what - that list of one more things, will NEVER stop.  What's the solution?  Start playing offense.

ABA - Always Be Advancing.  It works for the left, why not for the right. Notice it doesn't say attacking, it says advancing.  That means be on offense, it doesn't mean attacking.  The left attacks.  They ridicule, they accuse. They ascribe motivations to those they accuse without any proof or basis in fact. "Conservatives don't like health care reform because they are racists!"

That's bitter and it's unhealthy.  It's unhealthy for the accuser, for the accused and really, it's poisonous to the country.  It's not conducive to constructive debate.  It clouds the air with anger and hyper-partisan rhetoric that is seemingly ever-harder to retreat from. Everyone ends up entrenched in ideologies and all the while, the center keeps moving left.  I'm almost relieved that President Obama came along and pointed out through his actions where the leftward march is headed.  The ultimate goal is much clearer to ordinary Americans now, and it has stirred them to act.

That's a start. Conservatives are no longer sitting back and meekly absorbing every punch the left throws. Conservatives have woken up and started protesting.  In other words, we've mobilized.  But that's not the same as playing offense.  It means we've gotten sick of being pushed ever backwards.  But playing on offense, to use a football metaphor, means at every opportunity we are making every effort to move the ball towards the goal. The goal, is to have an America that always acts as a crucible for innovation and opportunity and exists as a beacon of liberty and justice for all.  Not special justice, not quotas - equal justice.

I'm not sure that encapsulates all of the goal for conservatism, but it's a good start.  It's always a good idea to state the goal before trying to achieve it.  Let's assume we've stated the goal.

Now we need to move towards it. We've got to start getting our opponents to back up. And once we get started, we need to keep doing it. Relentlessly. Stopping to consolidate our gains when we are overextended is okay. But it must be done judiciously, strategically and quickly. Let's face it, we've got a long way to go to get America back to where it was before liberal progressives started tinkering with what worked.  They've tinkered so much it has nearly stopped working. And it will if we even let it stay where they've moved the ball. We are pretty close to making a goal line stand at this point, so offense is about the only way to dig out of this hole. The point is, there is plenty of room to go on offense and plenty of time to stay on offense for a long while.

Think of the list of things that need to get fixed;

  • health care
  • social security
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • deficit spending
  • tax reform
  • tort reform
  • labor laws
  • immigration
  • 1st Amendment rights
  • 2nd Amendment rights
  • 10th Amendment rights
  • Supreme court appointments
  • business friendly environments
  • energy independence
  •  ...

You get the picture? The list is practically a never ending one. Nor should it ever end. This ideological battle will never go away.

Enough of the motivational speech stuff. Conservatives are already energized, you don't need me goading you into action.  By now you are probably wondering what makes sense for the next steps.  How do we start going on offense?  There are two different levels to deal with - strategic and tactical.

Tactically, you have to keep pushing or you will be pushed. If you can't push any further you have to look like you are still pushing so your opponent thinks you still are. It demoralizes and causes confusion for the opponent. Conservatives have not been demoralized but for years we haven't exactly been an enthusiastic bunch.  Playing defense does that to you, and it's clear it's worked on us.  So let's take the imperial evidence the left has provided us and turn that tactic on them.

Here are some ways to go on offense from a tactical perspective.
  • In every debate or discussion keep your opponent off balance.  Mix them up with a barrage of facts in random sequence. The idea is to get them them so busy they make mistakes. This keeps them unfocused and doesn't allow them to gain a good footing in the debate to make their own points.  It requires a good command of the facts relevant to the debate.  Unlike the personal attacks a la Alinsky, it also displays a command of the subject matter.
  • Remember it's not about winning the debate on points. It's about winning in the audience's minds. Switching metaphors think of it like boxing. Because the judges are stacked against conservatives, in order to win we need a knockout punch every time. Every debate needs a factual gotcha. Remember in the Democratic primary Hillary Clinton floundering around on drivers licenses for illegal aliens in New York? That was a gotcha moment. For conservatives, without that knockout punch a win will be called a draw and a draw called a loss, and a loss will be called a staggering defeat. This is especially true in head to head debates.   What does this require? A clear understanding of your opponents views or record on an issue so that you can set them up for that ideological trap.
  • When the opponent resorts to talking points you have two choices.  and I have another sports analogy - the tennis player side-to-side scramble.  Get your opponent to respond defensively to charges of them being unable to answer, or being out of touch. This where you can start throwing those seemingly unrelated tangential facts at them. As they chase down each of those vollies, they are bound to make a mistake. That's gets you on offense. By resorting to talking points, you know your opponent is rattled.  The chance to go on offense is obvious. You can goad them into responding by charging they are resorting to talking points. Or you can in tennis vernacular hit an overhead smash at them - focus one area that you have strong knowledge of and hammer it repeatedly - perhaps in different ways. They might end up making a mistake. If they counter charge you are too single-issue focused, don't fall for it. "This is an important part of the discussion, not the only part, but it deserves more than 2 minutes. My opponent is weak on this point and she/he is trying to distract the audience from both its importance and his/her weakness on it. 
  • While it may not be convenient during the debate itself, every mistake must be pointed out  mistake 100 times over.  The left has the media to do it for them, we don't.  So during the debate, don't let a liberal off the hook for a mistake, call it back a couple of times.  Afterwards, when the debate has ended, be sure that other conservatives are quick to hop on and amplify those mistakes to anyone who will listen. That can lead to fights in the media, which brings us to the next point.
  • Fights in the media - philosophical argument (pundit vs pundit) are only good for political addicts. Everyone else who goes for that sort of insider fighting is more interested in the details of Tiger Woods divorce. That is unless you can score an obvious win. If not, resort to talking points yourself. But do it cleverly.  "Look, let's keep this simple and to the issue at hand because that is what the American people want..."
Tactics are well and good, but you don't win wars without strategy.  Short of the next conservative political Sun Tzu arriving any time soon, developing a conservative strategic plan is a pretty imposing undertaking.  I'd love to be part of that long term strategy team.  Meanwhile here are some ways to go on offense from a more strategic perspective.  These ideas are strategic only in terms of the short war - the 2010 mid term elections.
  • Keep Democrats busy fighting battles that aren't related to jobs. The meme that Democrats obviously don't care about the economy is best served by them trying to tackle a new Supreme Court Justice and immigration reform.  If it seems like for Democrats the economy ranks 25th on their order-of-importance sheet, it's because it probably is.  It's also first on voters' minds.  That dichotomy is essential to victory in November
  • Put your best candidates forward - NOW.  According to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air today, Pataki isn't running in New York and Thompson may be out in Wisconsin.  Huge mistake.  DRAFT these guys because they represent the best shot in their potential respective races.  Now is not the time to throw up some also-rans!
  • Keep momentum up.  Every time you see something like a Stupak retirement announcement, you need a conservative positive message to follow it up.  We need a bunch of these 'announcements' ready to go. The day Stupak retires is the day to announce Pataki is going to run. Each Democrat negative is juxtaposed against a Republican positive.  The contrast becomes more stark with each one. This will serve to energize your base and de-energize your opponent's base.
  • Put forward your best ideas.  That seems rather obvious but here's the rub.  They need to be the most appealing ideas, from a voter-tested perspective.  They need to be ones that will not damage existing voter preference for Republicans on issues.  Furthermore, they need to be put forward collectively by GOP candidates.  The Democrats despite all the feints to the right by supposed Blue Dogs, were fairly lockstep on the health care bill. In 1994 the Contract With America helped sell voters on what the agenda would be.  America needs to see what the alternative is, and why it's good.  Party cohesion is mandatory from a voter confidence perspective. Finally, the timing of that best ideas is tricky too.  You have to give voters time to digest it but not give Democrats time to try to pick it apart, as they no doubt will.  My best guess is mid-to late September.   The added benefit is that also happens to be when casual voters start paying more attention to election information and will hear the message.  Those are the voters that will still need to be picked up at that point.
  • Keep pointing out what Democrats did wrong, and what they didn't bother to do. They focused on ramming through unpopular legislation while ignore the needs of Main Street America. I'm sure this last point is already on the agenda.  But it needs to be distilled and the message sent out in a focused manner.  All the while, be prepared to back up that message with the tactics of smart debating mentioned above, and the mention that we have our own wonderful platform (coming or just rolled out).
Well that's my two cents on electioneering this cycle.  With that and a few dollars you can get a Happy Meal from McDonald's for your kid.  That is, until the Obama administration decides those are unhealthy choices and forbids you  from buying them.

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