“Meme” is the word that is currently being used to describe the spread of an idea or concept so that it works its way into the fabric of a culture in a way that is similar to the spread of genetic material like a virus. There is no need for a meme to be based in any way on fact, logic or reason.
In politics, the Democrats have been remarkable successful in infecting the American electorate with their preferred memes. For example, the generally accepted (among the uninformed and main stream media) that conservatives are racist, homophobic, allies of the rich and powerful on Wall Street, are pro war and are enemies of the middle class, particularly union workers, while being callously indifferent to the plight of the poor and aged.
The fact that it was a Republican that issued the Emancipation Proclamation is ignored. The fact that it was a solidly Democrat south that created and sustained Jim Crow is not acknowledged. The idea that Wall Street gives at least as much money to the Democrats as to the Republicans in an effort to buy influence is a subject to be avoided. The fact that World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam were all initiated under Democrat presidents seems to have slipped through the cracks of the Democrats’ message machine.
The most common way to spread these beliefs is the current practice of the repeating over and over the idea that one wants to be implanted. Of course with today’s technology, this spread of the virus is no longer limited to speech. A picture is worth a thousand words and the images being on television and the internet are able to reinforce the political talking points of the Democrats, so their distortions and lies that are set out as simply statements of fact.
The unappreciated splendor of the political meme is that its beauty that is created without having to resort to fact, logic or reason. All a political meme needs is to sound good to certain targeted audiences of voters. Or it has to sound absolutely horrible to such voters.
Witness the meme that the Democrats created to attack Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal regarding the restructuring of Medicare. An elderly woman in a wheelchair gets thrown off a cliff. Now that’s a vivid image! It contains no facts, logic or reason, but it scores extremely well on the “horrible” scale.
Likewise the idea that we should remove any and all tax deductions for those people who have somehow been fortunate enough, or productive enough, to afford a private jet. Yes, the old tried and true “tax the rich” meme always has appeal. The fact that a very similar revenue enhancement measure was applied to luxury boats in the 1990’s, and led to the loss of about 25,000 jobs in this country is uniformly ignored. Ignoring documented history is often a help in crafting a meme aimed at attacking your opponents, but such a ploy is risky, since it is relatively easy to rebut. But it sure sounds good to folks who don’t own their own jet planes or luxury yachts.
Any thinking person is aware by now that runaway entitlement spending constitutes the largest impediment to fiscal sanity that we currently face. Yet the former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, staked out the talking point that Democrats are adamantly opposed to any change in Social Security or Medicare, thereby inferring that Republicans are willing to toss granny under the bus.
This is another skillfully crafted message, which will probably become known as the Pelosi-Sleight-of-Hand-Gambit. By saying that something is absolutely unacceptable, and that you plan to man the barricades, fight off the barbarians that are trying to institute this horrible idea, while knowing that, as the minority, there isn’t a chance of affecting the outcome in any way, allows the gone-but-sadly-not-forgotten-former-Speaker to paint herself as morally superior at absolutely no political cost to her, her party or her President.
She can then use the same talking point to whine to the electorate that if her party were still in the majority, this horrible thing (whatever it might be on that particular day) would never have been allowed to happen, so everyone who agrees that this thing, whatever is the horror du jour, is truly horrible, should elect Democrats. Neat, huh?
The recurring theme which becomes apparent is the use of imagery that does its best to frighten the electorate. Long gone are the days of “two-chickens-in-every-pot” rhetoric, since even the least attentive voter is aware that we just don’t have the money to support fanciful spending programs that need constant replenishment from the Treasury. So if Democrats are no longer able to offer the voters something-for-nothing, they have to claim that you are doing something to avoid the disaster that will inevitably follow if the Republicans win the election.
And this has been a recurring strategy for the Democrats since at least the election of 1964 which pitted Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater. Those who are old enough might remember the ads that were run on television which superimposed the image of a nuclear detonation over the image of a little girl picking petals off a flower. It was horrible imagery, without any basis in fact, logic or reason. But the meme that Goldwater was salivating over the thought of starting a nuclear war became accepted truth for a majority.
And Lyndon Johnson won.
Republicans have a terrible weakness in the area of messaging, and this is a handicap that they must overcome to succeed in 2012. Ronald Reagan danced the messaging waltz with great effect when he asked one simple question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
It was short, easily understood and following the time tested pattern of promising to avoid an impending horror if the other candidate was to be elected.
The biggest advantage that the Democrats have at this juncture in the campaign is that Obama has the support of the main stream media. Obama’s talking points are dutifully reported by the MSM as fact. When repeated daily, these talking points insert themselves into the collective consciousness of the nation and begin to take on the patina of truth.
Don’t believe it? Ask Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister for Adolph Hitler, who said two things:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”
So how can a working coalition of Republicans, conservatives, libertarians and Tea Partiers counter the Democrats onslaught of repeated and unanswered claims that threaten horrors if Obama is not re-elected?
Perhaps there is a possible answer in the headquarters of the Republican National Committee.
Let the RNC develop their own talking points, and offer them freely to every Republican candidate. If every candidate, regardless of how smart he or she thinks they are, uses them, with modifications to conform to their personal style, then there would be uniformity in response to Obama’s use of talking points to prevent, or at least minimize, Dr. Goebbels’ techniques for creating memes that become so deeply embedded that they cannot be counted. If the dozen or so candidates all address different issues, then the response to Democrats talking points will be so diffuse as to be valueless. Unless the Republicans are willing to submerge their own egos in this one area, Obama will have all the time he needs to hammer home his version of reality (or what normal people would refer to as fantasy) completely unopposed. It is unlikely, to say the least, that the main stream media will call him on any talking point, no matter how ludicrous. They will repeat them over and over again, and there will be no uniform Republican response of sufficient gravitas to counter them. So a united front and a common message in terms of response to Democrats distortions and lies are essential.
In addition, the RNC should develop talking points of an attack mode, and put Democrats on the defensive. As the Johnson/Goldwater campaign illustrated, logic, reason and facts don’t seem to outweigh fear. Obama and the Democrats are masters of fear-based campaigning. Witness if you will the rhetoric concerning any plans to modify, no matter how slightly, our current Medicare situation. It’s even referred to in some areas of the media as “Medi-scare.”
If this seems distasteful as a tactic, it should be remembered that John McCain ran a very “honorable” election campaign.
And, in losing, he gave us four years of Barack Obama. Can the nation survive another four years of Barack Obama? Will Republicans allow that to happen again because they are unwilling to brawl on his level? We can only hope that they are willing to get their knuckles bruised and take the gloves off.