May 26, 2011

Framers of the first impression

Would you trust this guy?

Let's face it, as great as we know the Constitution is, there are no new 'episodes'. This isn't Big Bang Theory. The Founding Fathers kicked of a Golden Age in political philosophy that dwarfs most (not all) achievements since. But it's old news to most Americans. There's never a breaking news alert on The Bill Of Rights. There is however, breaking news when Harry Reid speaks. Or Pelosi. Or even Paul Ryan.

For example, in the most recent victory for Democrats in the special election in NY26, a reliable Republican district, the first impressions heard were this was the public's repudiation of Paul Ryan's plan vis-a-vis Medicare.  It resounded strongly enough that some conservative places were worriedly repeating the spin wondering if the GOP has sunk itself.  But there's two problems with that.  The first stems from the previous first impression spin that Paul Ryan wanted to kill grandma.  The Ryan plan doesn't do anything to kill old people, or even affect people in the Medicare system already.  It makes changes to future participants. Secondly, and more importantly in the NY26 case - a former Democrat ran as a Tea Party candidate and siphoned off roughly 9% of the vote, in an election lost by roughly 6% by the Republican.  The spin has taken hold, perhaps inalterably in the minds of some.

We have no Constitution to frame these days, only to refer back to as imperative guiding principles. That's  obviously not as exciting or flashy as a Newt Gingrich foolish quote on Ryan's budget. Especially for the framers of the first impression - the media. First the news media and secondly the entertainment media, get a chance to frame how the public perceives and event or an individual. Combined, they do a large part in framing the impressions of the public. Short of forcing them to sit down and watch the actual clip, there are people you will never convince that Sarah Palin didn't say she could see Russia from her house (that was Tina Fey on SNL FYI).

The point is that the media, with its inherent liberal bias is pre-disposed to make the first impression really count. They want things to stick - positive images for liberals and negative ones for conservatives. Reagan was a sleepy doddering fool. Bill Clinton balanced the budget (don't mention the Republican Congress) and Obama is a genius. On and on it goes.

This isn't news to conservatives. The bias is clear. What is less clear, or has been for many, is the importance of that first impression - especially for those who don't pay much attention to how their country is run. Liberals get it. That's why they have felt so threatened by Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh or any conservative voice who can get that first impression out quickly.   They dislike the blogosphere and Twitter because viewpoints they can't control can get out there and do some impression framing of their own.  The monopoly is gone.

The fall back plan for them is to marginalize those voices; to call them radical, unfairly in most every case (thereby framing the impression of competing voices), to drown them with volume of their own (both in terms of quantity and shrillness), and even to ignore fact that don't suit their own viewpoint (by not reporting those particular facts, even when pertinent).  It should come as no surprise to those of us trying to get that alternate viewpoint out.  Nor should we be surprised when our viewpoint is dismissed by those who have been subject to that first impression elsewhere.  Conservatives get branded as hyper-partisan, but the only time we weren't consider such was when we capitulated to their view point.  And the only reason many conservatives would capitulate was because of those impressions they were being fed.  The tendency to say "okay, you're right in this case" is a slippery slope.  When conservatives learned to distrust the media and saw the media bias, suddenly the country was classified as polarized and angry.  That was just another attempt at orchestrating the first impression.  The message - sit down and shut up.   

For that matter the second impression is often cultivated in schools, where progressive viewpoints have moved from issues like civics into areas like history and art, to more recently areas like history and science.  So in addition to the first impression, liberals are working to reinforce that impression at every turn.  That's a tough reality to face, but it must be faced - and dealt with.

In that light, for any conservative viewpoint, and more specifically any GOP candidate for 2012 elections, there is going to be a hyper-partisan effort to frame those first impression of every candidate, so they can shape the eventual candidate and then shape his or her demise.  The candidates have to be out in front of how that and manage their own first impressions.  They can leave no sound bite as an isolated gotcha clip.  They can't stumble on anything.  In other words, perfection is required.  That's likely the reason people expected to run, like Huckabee, have backed out.  The challenge it seems, is too big for some.

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