February 24, 2011

Conservatives are getting gamed - again.

Conservatives are getting gamed. Democrats are once again proving that strategically, they are outsmarting us because we are busy focusing on the fine print instead of the big picture.  It doesn't mean Democrats, liberals, progressives, unions and special interests are right.  It doesn't even mean that they are necessarily being effective. What it does mean is that they are playing the game to win in 2012, while conservatives are focused on doing what we think is right for the economy and for America, right now.  Conservatives often forget that doing what is right for America requires political victory too.  Democrats know that to enact their agenda, they have to score political gains and that is what we are witnessing them attempting to do in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Why conservatives and even those in the Republican party can't see the bigger picture is astounding.

What is going on in Wisconsin is not a singular battle for Democrats. Governor Scott Walker is likely not going to back down from this Mexican standoff on budget legislation that aims to balance the state budget and re-balance power by reducing the influence of unions in the collective bargaining process.  It's something that has to be done and he knows it.  And while the effort to do so had a clobbering effect on Chris Christie in New Jersey, his approval ratings have recovered.  The Wisconsin battle likely won't follow the same lines and is going to be a springboard for more Democrat attacks on Republicans.  It only makes sense.

Here's why.

Back when the anti-Obamacare town halls were kicking into gear and the Tea Party idea was germinating into a movement, Democrats and the President held firm in pressing forward with their legislative agenda.  They believed, as President Clinton said, that President Obama's popularity would shoot up after the health care bill was signed into law. President Clinton later admitted he was wrong and he explained why on Meet The Press (via Politico);
"I was wrong about that for two reasons," Clinton said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "First of all, the benefits of the bill are spread out of three or four years. It takes a long time to implement. And secondly, there has been an enormous and highly effective attack on it."
That is key.  They learned from it.  It explains the entire Democrat approach to 2012. Democrats know that change, any change, faces significant resistance in a country so large and diverse and with a government set up with checks and balances that make it hard to enact change.  Resistance this time, they figure will be on their side.  They have learned from the Tea Parties and from the losses in November that there is a way for them to win not only the presidency in 2012 but in Congress and the Senate too.

A highly effective attack

The Democrats see this Wisconsin battle as a starting point for their own progressive Tea Party movement.  They'll come up with some clever name for the movement or even call themselves the real Tea Party movement, but that's not important.  What is important is that the liberal outrage spreads, and it already appears to have started.  Thanks in part to an effective ground game, Democrats have spread the word among hard core astroturfers like the SEIU and Code Pink, not just in Wisconsin but the civil service worker unrest has spread to other states too.  Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan are the starting point for Democrats to create their own set of liberal and progressivist unrest.  What an opportunity for them.

During the health care debate, Democrats closed ranks and held firm on their belief that the polls would rebound for them.  The only ones to step out of line were those looking for concessions (kickbacks/pork) to help them in their own re-election bids.  What the Democrats are counting on Republicans to do, is the same thing Obama, Reid and Pelosi did - hold firm believing they are doing the right thing and that any poll drops would be temporary. In the case of the Democrats, they were wrong -  it didn't work. Now they are betting on the fact that the popularity declines similarly, will not be temporary for the Republicans.  They may be wrong, but they may be right to paraphrase Billy Joel.  The polls could drop for the GOP and they could stay sunk.  All it needs they figure, is a little psuh.

What is required to tie a weight around the poll numbers for Republicans, is a highly effective attack.  That's why the get-out-the-protesters effort has been trucking in out-of-state groups.That's why this local budget issue has been put into the national spotlight by the mainstream media.  Being liberal they understand that it is in the best interest of the Democrats to show day after day the supposedly majority outrage over these necessary cutbacks because it hurts Republicans.  They don't need to be part of the strategy, their political leanings will ensure they play their role opportunistically.

The Democrats are drawing the line in the sand in order to promote this bitter partisan fight and they are counting on Republicans not to back down.  They are counting on the fiscal arm of the conservative base to ensure that governors in these cash strapped states hold firm. Again, it's a learning from the Obamacare battles of 2009 and 2010.  The far left was frothing at the mouth for a single payer (government run) health care bill.  That discord caused problems for them, but they understand that the same discord might be created on the right.  The hope is that the hard line conservatives will alienate moderates and push them towards Democrats or at least away from Republicans.

But they are going to do much more than just those things, even going so far as to prank call the governor.  They will paint these legislative attempts as Draconian because their own efforts to stimulate the economy have failed and the Republicans can't be seen as being successful.  They will send lawmakers out of state to delay the vote as much to highlight the battle as to stand up for principle.  They will promote this as the top news story to divert attention from the continued ineffectual non-efforts of President Obama to do anything worth noting in the Middle East.  They will promote this as the top news story as a possible lead-in to the federal government budget standoff and possible federal government shutdown that is looming.  That way they can paint it as the Republicans' fault and not the Democrats', just as Bill Clinton was able to do to Newt Gingrich in the 1990's.

The President has tried to create a distraction from the Middle East by changing his stance on the Defense of Marriage Act in order to do three things (i) shore up some of his base (ii) create a distraction from an area where he is surely earning poor grades to something else entirely and (iii) buy time and space for these state battles to ferment and lead into the federal budget battles to come.

The liberals' anticipated outcome

The plan for Democrats for 2012 is pretty simple.  Cast the Republicans as heartless, cast them as ineffective, and cast them as being against the common people. The goal is to win back the lost independent voters, depress GOP turnout and ensure that the Obama turnout of 2008 is repeated in 2012 .  It's all predicated on a bad image for the GOP and a good image for the President.  It relies on the rebound effect experienced by Governor Christie in New Jersey not being replicated in other states.  Democrats hope that Governor Christie's rebounded popularity in New Jersey is personal and not based on his cost cutting measures becoming accepted (unlike Obamacare not gaining acceptance).

It's also predicated on far too much new happening between the health care debate and the next election.  That way the President's mantra of not wanting to re-litigate the past his past (re-litigating anyone else's, especially Bush's is perfectly acceptable) will stick.  The election won't be over health care it will be over heartless, ineffective, anti-people Republicans rather than a referendum on the President.

That's the plan.  That doesn't mean that Republicans should back down from this fight.  Saving the country from an economic implosion is more important than elections. BUT, there is no reason Republicans can't do both.  The right focuses on the issues while the left focuses on winning by leveraging everything from the press, to unions to distractions.  The real way for America to win is for conservatives to focus on a battle plan as well as solutions to the country's problems.

The important first step is to realize when conservatives are getting gamed.  For instance, now.  Once you see it some countermeasures can be taken.  Where the @$!# are the Tea Parties now?  I mentioned months ago that Tea Party activity should not have stopped with the election of 2010.  It's going to be slowed because of that but a Tea Party reaction across all of the affected states is imperative as a first step, and federally as a second step.  I have some other thoughts on counter-strategy but I'll same them for another post.  

Meanwhile, let me know what you think - am I off base?  If so, why and if not, what do you think should be done?

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