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No, No, No, No!

Someone has to tell Ben Nelson that it's time to start paying some attention to what's going on:

Some Democrats looking for a ray of light in the election argued that [Senator Harry] Reid's amiability might make it harder for the White House to demonize him.

"When the conservative talk show hosts start saying bad things about Harry Reid, it will be like attacking Mr. Rogers," Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, said of Mr. Reid, who shares Mr. Rogers's affection for a cardigan.

This "immunization fallacy" needs to be combatted in all its manifestations. People thought after the 2000 election that it wouldn't be possible to demonize Tom Daschle, the soft-spoken veteran moderate Senator from very red South Dakota, but it was. People thought during the 2004 primary that it wouldn't be possible to demonize John Kerry, the war hero, as weak on national security (Kerry himself repeatedly asserted this), but it was. It's not impossible to demonize anyone, especially when the accuracy of your charges is entirely unrelated to your willingness to make them or to the media's willingness to cover them in a damaging manner. Reid will be subject to a demonization campaign. If Jeb Bush wins the Democratic nomination in 2008, he will be subject to a demonization campaign. The question is what are you going to do about it?

November 14, 2004 | Permalink

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» Reality from TheConsulate.org
From Matt Yglesias, who I'll soon add to the blogroll: Someone has to tell Ben Nelson that it's time to start paying some attention to what's going on: Some Democrats looking for a ray of light in the election argued... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 14, 2004 12:25:31 PM

» Throw the slave moralizers off the ship from Lawyers, Guns and Money
But I know one thing: Democrats who repeat these lazy, incredibly destructive media scripts are the part of the problem we can solve. Purge every one of these assholes from the upper reaches of the party. Now. [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 14, 2004 1:07:59 PM

» Matthew Yglesias: No, No, No, No! from Brendan Nyhan
Matthew Yglesias speaks the truth: Someone has to tell Ben Nelson that it's time to start paying some attention to what's going on: Some Democrats looking for a ray of light in the election argued that [Senator Harry] Reid's amiability [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 14, 2004 10:17:36 PM

Comments

Likewise, in the words of Thomas Jefferson "...there is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive."

(I freely admit to have been looking for a chance to use this quote).

Posted by: Davon | Nov 14, 2004 11:50:58 AM

Amen. Decency is stone cold dead.

Posted by: old grizzly | Nov 14, 2004 11:52:08 AM

I don't know much about Nelson except for the fact that he voted for Bush's 2003 tax cut, one of only two Senate Dems to do so (take a wild guess who the other one was). So I don't think he's worth listening to on much of anything, although the idea he's putting forward in that quote is indeed worthy of being slapped with a reality check.

Posted by: Haggai | Nov 14, 2004 11:58:18 AM

The Democratic Party needs to realize that any Democrat will be demonized as a gay-marrying, America-hating, flag-burning, tax-raising, child-molesting liberal by the GOP.

There's no stopping it. There's no "moving rightward enough", there's no "compromise". It's 100% support, or they bring out the traitor baton.

Since that's the case, we might as well say "Fuck the GOP" and nominate officials who stand for what we want. Compromise is dead. Maybe once the current incarnation of the GOP is soundly defeated and their ideas discredited can compromise and the other ideals of government be resurrected.

For now, though, the Democrats need to realize that politics isn't about the people anymore. It's about destroying all opposition to an agenda.

Posted by: Morat | Nov 14, 2004 12:14:33 PM

I'm a conservative -- not a Reublican -- who voted for Bush, and I suppose it's natural that I should be more aware of the "demonization" that came from the left (Bush=Hitler, Chimpski, "jokes" about assassinating the President,etc.), but I yearn for an end to the "demonization" on both sides.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could speak to one another with a little more civility?

Posted by: Notary | Nov 14, 2004 12:26:54 PM

It certainly didn't stop the radical cleric Rev. Phelps from attacking Mr. Rogers, even at the guy's funeral.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto | Nov 14, 2004 12:37:14 PM

Screw you, notary. :)

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 14, 2004 12:37:57 PM

If Jesus Christ were to run as a Democrat tomorrow, the Republicans would be hitting him for his weak stance on crime.

What the Democrats have to do is punch back - come up with an actual worldview an then pillory the Republicans for failing to meet it. The Republicans, after all, aren't really pushing ideas so much as character assassination.

Posted by: Mike Collins | Nov 14, 2004 12:45:01 PM

Notary, it's faster to type if you drop the extra H and the equals sign and just elide the two words together. Just a friendly tip.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 14, 2004 12:46:07 PM

I totally agree... people need to remember that what actually happens matters much less than how people interpret what actually happens... and there are quite a number of outlets whose sole purpose is to supply people with interpretations favorable to their political agenda. Which, I believe, is represented by what MY so affectionately calls the "Hack Gap"...

Posted by: taak | Nov 14, 2004 12:49:26 PM

Add Max Cleland to your list. And they are also working hard on Leahy.

Posted by: jdw | Nov 14, 2004 12:51:06 PM

Democrats have been stomped on by Rightwing radio hosts and media for over 30 years, non-stop. Before Carter was inaugurated, a constant drumbeat of demonizing Carter had begun... it was OLD before Carter was even INAUGURATED. And the Republicans haven't stopped the hate and attacks since. The Republicans started it, and have never stopped. Even when a Democrat who is so moderate that he could be a Republican (Carter, Clinton) he gets attacked NONSTOP with the wackiest lies that the American public laps up simply because they are entertaining and play on peoples' worst instincts, which is a winning combo. Even Zell Miller was demonized by Republicans when he was the Democrat governor of Georgia. ZELL MILLER. Did you hear me? They even demonized ZELL MILLER!!!! Need I say more?

Posted by: Hephaestion | Nov 14, 2004 1:06:34 PM

Another important fallacy is the backfire myth... the idea that a particular, vile piece of propaganda is going to "backfire" and reduce support for the body propagating it... This is "true" in the sense that it makes the person saying it feel better about the vile piece of propaganda, but is not true in the sense of being supported by evidential reasoning. It will backfire so long as you make it backfire, not by some innate property of the appeal itself. Sitting back and waiting for all these unfair attacks to backfire is suicidal. But that hasn't stopped them from trying.

Posted by: taak | Nov 14, 2004 1:24:55 PM

bob mcmanus -- I take it that "Screw you" is your way of expressing disagreement. It's how we used to do it on the playground when I was a kid.
Some of us have gone on to a more substantive style.
Or, perhaps "Screw you" is your idea of civility?

Posted by: Notary | Nov 14, 2004 1:31:31 PM

Notary,

Democrats have tried civility. Look where it got us. So, indeed, screw you and all of your ilk. 48% of us are pissed off. We just have to find 3% more. And we will.

So, again, affectionately, screw you.

Posted by: John Casey | Nov 14, 2004 1:35:48 PM

What the Democrats have to do is punch back - come up with an actual worldview an then pillory the Republicans for failing to meet it.

Why don't we start by framing truth-telling as a "moral value" and pillory the Republicans for failing to live up to it?

As long as they continue to get away with lies, nothing else we put forward is going to do any good.

Posted by: Swift Loris | Nov 14, 2004 1:47:24 PM

Mike Collins -- If Jesus Christ should run for office -- for either party -- and if he should offer 'turning the other cheek' as a program for dealing with crime, I for one would certainly denounce this "weak stance".
It was Republicans who, for many years pushed the idea that criminals were more to be punished that pitied.
Eventually and begrudgingly -- the Democrats came to accept that Republican notion. And -- Lo and behold! -- with more criminals in jail, the crime rate has fallen sharply.

I agree with you that Democrats ought to "come up with an actual worldview." It's hard to hold a serious discussion with people who don't have one.

Posted by: Notary | Nov 14, 2004 1:48:34 PM

...but I yearn for an end to the "demonization" on both sides.

(emphasis mine)

What always undermines the sincerity of appeals like this is that while they can reel off a laundry list of supposed incivilities of the left and are supposedly disturbed by bad behavior on both sides, they never, ever, cite a single example of conservative vitriol.

Amazing, isn't it? It's as if they really don't believe the right has ever been uncivil.

Oh, wait.

Posted by: jbm | Nov 14, 2004 1:54:19 PM

I continue to be amazed at how hard it is for the Dem leadership to understand that this is war. Pelosi and Obama were making bipartisan noises on one of the Sunday shows a few weeks ago, and Liberal Oasis gave them a well-deserved smackdown over it. A lot of the rank-and-file get it; I think that was the motive behind a lot of the support for Dean--he gets it. But the leadership keeps believing we're back in the pre-90's era, when both parties accepted each other's existence and did a lot of horse trading. That era was over when Clinton was elected, and it's not coming back for the forseeable future. For evidence, look at 1994, Starr, the impeachment, 2000, 2002 and 2004. The Republicans are out to eliminate the progressive movement and the Democratic party as meaningful forces for at least a generation. It's WAY past time for the leadership to understand this, and adjust their strategy accordingly. It may take a complete housecleaning before this can happen.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Nov 14, 2004 2:15:42 PM

Moreover, conflating blog comments with multi-million dollar media campaigns is a bit silly. One side has members that make hyperbolic internet posts (actually both sides do this) and another has a leadership that runs well-funded media campaigns to do the same thing. So, both sides "demonize" since 0 parts of each side do it to a 0 degree. Further, we can conclude there is no sense in moderating oneself since people who think this way won't be able to see the difference.

Posted by: taak | Nov 14, 2004 2:21:10 PM

The same guy who oh so sincerely wrote this:
Wouldn't it be nice if we could speak to one another with a little more civility?

Is the same guy who said this:
It was Republicans who, for many years pushed the idea that criminals were more to be punished that pitied. Eventually and begrudgingly -- the Democrats came to accept that Republican notion..

And:
...Democrats ought to "come up with an actual worldview." It's hard to hold a serious discussion with people who don't have one.

Is it any wonder that one's first reaction is to paraphrase Dick Cheney's lovely civil comment to Pat Leahy?

Posted by: R. Porrofatto | Nov 14, 2004 2:26:09 PM

Tom Daschle was indistinguishable from a doormat, and the Rethugs demonized him. Appeasement doesn't work. If the DLC-style Dems can't (or won't) understand this simple fact of life, then they need to get out of the way for the people who do. Fuck this not-fighting-back shit.

Posted by: John D. | Nov 14, 2004 2:31:24 PM

It's amazing. They find these "acceptable" leaders who weren't targets before, and make them targets. The GOP will take Reid down, too, the same way they did Daschle. They never seem to realize that the closest you can get to bullet-proof is to be a real Democrat in a real Democratic state.

Posted by: Avedon | Nov 14, 2004 2:37:25 PM

Hey, Notary, perhaps you might have been better off asking for civility from your conservabuddies when they were busily smearing and lying and calling Democrats terrorist-lovin' baby-killers? Clean up your own pond first.

Posted by: ahem | Nov 14, 2004 2:45:17 PM

I am frequently irritated and angered by the ineptitude of some in my party. Rarely am I just thoroughly disgusted. But these miserably weak Nelson comments are the very bottom.

What does it take to make these guys fight back? How long before these abject submissives realize that curling up into an ever tighter ball is no way to end the barrage of kicks and punches?

Cardigans? We are being attacked by wolves, so their strategy is to don actual sheep suits, and hope that when the attacks come the public will think the Republicans are too mean and *feel sorry for us*!? How can they expect the public to trust Democrats to defend the poor, the unemployed, American workers and farmers, the nation's security and children if they are unwilling even to fight to defend themselves?

By the way, outside the family rooms of moms of young kids, Mr. Rogers was himself a frequent butt of popular scorn and lampoonery. Being a sweetheart like Fred Rogers is no guarantee against attack.

I think Reid may be a decent choice, for other reasons. I like the fact that the Democrats are looking to the West, and there are few choices for us out there. But the fact that he is a kindly gentleman is no selling point in my book.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Nov 14, 2004 2:46:04 PM

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