Political argument, represented in political advertising and public statements, is more than simply persuasive words. By its nature it is biased and partisan, promoting one philosophy over all others.
To be effective, it must be one-sided, uncompromising, certain of itself, and aimed more at the emotions than at the mind. It must also be repetitive and persistent, never giving an inch. Most important, it must be cohesive and focused on a basic idea or two, no more, because details are irrelevant and quickly forgotten by the target audience, the voters. In fact, too much information is confusing and counterproductive. Therefore, it should never be self-critical or self-questioning, because that distracts attention from the message. For the same reason, of course, it must never allow for any “right” to fall on the side of the opposition–the other side is always wrong. Let the enemy present its own case.
Nowhere in here is the need to be technically correct, or even to fill a real need. These methods can sell ice to Eskimos. Consider that there was (and still is, in fact) no great demand for “health care reform” outside of the great Democrat spin machine called the MSM, yet we’ve been talking about it for a year. In fact, we’ve been conditioned to believe that “insurance coverage for pre-exisitng conditions” is real and achievable. It isn’t. It is pure and simple welfare, but the Democrats have convinced many people that such an idea belongs in whatever bill is written to change the current health insurance system.
Still, nothing has been passed, and that illustrates one of the biggest mistakes that can be made in this arena, one that, fortunately, the Democrats have made repeatedly about health care: thinking that the argument is an end in itself, that “getting it right” is important. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The argument, the message, is just a means to the real end, which is to get everyone to agree with you. (I think Saul Alinsky said something like this, too. He probably read the same stuff I did.) You say what works best to garner agreement.
These precepts didn’t originate from my not-so-fertile brain. They were laid down decades ago by a polemicist (not Alinsky) who had compared the effectiveness of this approach to the alternatives. He had seen what worked. (I assume that someone else had figured it out earlier, or at least stumbled upon the effective formula.)
Democrats are well aware of all of this, and more. They follow most of this advice rigorously. When was the last time you heard any of them admit they were wrong and we were right, about anything? Never! At least, not the successful ones. Republicans are another matter. We all too often extend the olive branch, reach across the aisle, give the Devil his due, in public.
Compromise has its place, but it isn’t in public. It’s in those smoke-filled rooms, where secret negotiations can determine what will work for the good of all, without kibitzing from the public. Compromise in public simply makes the compromiser look as if he doesn’t really believe in his original positions or proposals. That may be one reason that Obama is still pushing his disaster of a health-care philosophy–he’s committed to it, he believes in it, and to admit otherwise makes him weaker for future negotiations. I can also add that some reasons it is a disaster are because it is so big their messages about it can’t be cohesive and focused, and Democrats make emotional arguments mixed with intellectual arguments which are incoherent and irrational.
Republicans should keep all this in mind any time they meet Democrats in public. Agree with Democrat ideas of any kind, to any degree, at your peril. It’s your own philosophy of government that you’re undermining. These truths are what Republicans like Newt Gingrich and George H. W. Bush and John McCain ignore when they sit on a couch with Nancy or Bill or any other Donkey.