Posted by gustav at 09:01AM, Saturday, November 01st, 2003
Footsoldiers in the Culture War, here are your weapons
As a followup to my last big article, I'd like to do two things: come at my whole argument from a slightly different angle, and start aggregating memes I think progressive Democrats need to disseminate.
First, the abstract.I think the single most influential and important change we must make to the Democratic party in order to regain control of the three branches of government is to be a party of strong people and firm beliefs. For too long, we've been perceived as whiners. We've tried to be "better" -- to have more integrity -- than the Republicans, to be willing to concede, to talk about issues and base our arguments in logic, rather than to pound in brief, repeated talking points, without getting into the arguments for them. All this has gotten us is fewer and fewer seats in Congress. We need an image change. And the best way to do that is to coordinate a set of brief talking points to get us there, that our politicians can use as weapons in the 21st-Century culture war.
I urge you to at least skim the rest of this, for reasons I'll explain at the end.
In order to win the center, and the red states, we need to stop pandering to them, stop relinquishing strong positions in hopes of compromise, and start supporting our base, spreading our progressive ideals and the liberal values they reflect. To people who claim that this doesn't work, who claim that supporting our base is too divisive, we must say: Look at the GOP. It worked for them. They're as divisive as can be, with many of their policies reflecting flat-out fascist notions in their decision-makers, but they control Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court. God forbid we did the same. But we haven't even tried. When's the last time we had a Democratic presidential nominee who was proud to say "I support Affirmative Action," or "I support gay marriage?" If we want to return to power, we must stop trying to imitate Republicans only in pressing conservative legislation, while differentiating ourselves only by acting meek and timid when promoting our own agenda.
Everything Democrats do from now on must come from a position of strength, and reinforce our new image of people proud to defend Progressivism in moral terms, and to frame the contrast with our Republican opposition in moral terms, as well. In order for the electorate in middle America to perceive us as different, we must demonstrate our difference on issues, by repeating our central memes loudly and frequently. We must be less concerned with logical frameworks and self-consistency, and more concerned with emotion. We must saturate the airwaves with our new memes, and embrace those in the media capable of disseminating them. People like Jon Stewart and Michael Moore are painted as divisive -- but they're proud of what they stand for, and what they say gets heard and repeated by everyone in the echo chamber. It puts Republicans on the defensive, where we need them to be. That's what we want -- yet many Democrats shun them. We musn't.
What people like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher avoid are lengthy intellectual discussions of issues. John Kerry sticks in the craw of some backwards Southerners because he assumes, incorrectly, that if he just explains all the facts, people will choose their position based on the issues. Meanwhile, they feel like he's patronizing them, lecturing them. They don't want to hear why he voted for an appropriations bill, but then voted against it when it changed -- which is why Rove brings that up in the debates. They want to hear an emotionally-compelling sound bite that makes Kerry sound like the winner -- and they want to hear him attacking his opposition, to demonstrate that he's tough. This is why he lost. He should have had a set of attack phrases that he uttered regularly, very briefly articulating policy differences in value-laden language, which were echoed amongst every left-wing talking head, disseminated and popularized and explained. If he'd had those, he could have attacked Bush with ten different points in a couple sentences, leaving the poor idiot even more dazed than he was. He'd have been using Rove's tactics, and he would have won.
While projecting a strong, positive, and, most importantly, winning image of ourselves on the National level, we need to target specifically regional issues regionally. Gun rights don't fly in Massachusetts, and gay rights don't fly in Missouri (which isn't to say that it's not worth going there and asking why Republicans hate gays, in the context of hate as the antithesis of Christ's teachings. This is where the framing comes in.) Being strong, being a winner, flies in both states. Issues like environmentalism can be targeted for both, too. And, of course, the economy works with all demographics but the monopolistic nepotistic multi-millionaire Republican Elite thugs like Bill Gates, who are never going to vote for us, anyway.
We need to change tactics and realize that it's not worth the energy going after people who aren't going to vote for us on the issues they care about, and stop turning our backs on our GLBT and black and Hispanic and poor base to woo these bigots. Calling for a stop to gay marriage in Massachusetts is never going to get us votes from born-again Southern Baptists who bear a visceral hatred for Clinton. Toning down our rhetoric is the last thing to win votes from people who claim that we hate Christians because we oppose their "right" to discriminate against gays and blacks in housing. Doing so teaches Karl Rove that his strategy works, that they can bully us into silence. If we're silent, if we are no longer opposition, and presidential candidates, as this year, try to out-"I-don't-like-gay-marriage" one another on the stump, we lose. Our base is alienated and demotivated, and the unwashed who sit watching the debates see us unable to clearly articulate moral policy differences, so either don't vote, or vote for the candidate who appears more sure of his stand -- which is always the Republican.
However, we might win those red-state votes by framing the nature of the debate through language, just as Karl Rove has done. If we frame housing rights as freedom for adults to live wherever they like, even if they disagree about issues; if we frame marriage rights as freedom from government interference in personal relations; if we frame gay rights in the South in the context of Christ teaching tolerance even of behavior which he doesn't approve; if we depict intolerance as more against the teachings of Christ than, to cite a Gospel example, prostitution, while projecting an image of moral rectitude and certainty -- then we just might have a crack at the red states.
The first, and most important, step on this road is to find Democratic leadership that understands the power of language, and proudly believes in progressive values. Additionally, people with new ideas about fundraising and organization, or a proven ability to attract and foster youth activism, are ideal. There are a lot of names floating around right now. I think we could do much worse than make Howard Dean the head of the DNC, but I'm not committed to any one person at this point.
Now, the concreteMeanwhile, what we as on-the-ground activists can do is start to promulgate the memes and catch-phrases many of us agree on. This is the most successful of Rove's tactics. We need short, memorable, emotionally-charged phrases that imply our patriotism while impugning that of our opponents, and referencing or short-handing a whole broader set of issues. These let us avoid getting bogged down in logical argument or citing the hypocrisy in our opposition, while still brutally and quickly attacking them. Using emotionally-charged phrases lets us frame the debate in ways that make opposition difficult. Remember, it's hard to argue with something called the "USA Patriot Act." It puts Republicans on the defensive, whick makes it harder for them to find time to attack us. It gives us an effective means of attack that protects us from being labelled as self-satisfied elite lecturers. Also, humor helps to keep these memes memorable and spread them like viruses. Think of Jib-Jab, or Jon Stewart's Crossfire appearance.
To that end, here I present some initial lists. Most of these are general, while a few are targeted at specific demographics. I think both of those are important. Common to all of them, it's the meme itself that we want to promote, not the arguments to support it.
So, read these, and start using the ones you like, or think are powerful. This is supposed to be viral, and we have no central disseminating mechanism as yet -- other than the web. Use them when talking to your colleagues, your friends, your neighbors. Use them with people who agree with you, and people who don't. Just get them out there. Some of these are mine; some have been floating around for a while. I think they're all important.
(For more context on the power of memes, I urge everyone who hasn't yet to read George Lakoff's article.)
Memes I'm sure of:
- Why do Republicans hate gays? The Federal Marriage Amendment is the only argument you need for this; "Why do Bush et al think my marriage is any of their business? That's government interference in private, personal affairs. Why do they want to put limits on rights into the Constitution? What's to say they'll stop there, if they win this one? Are you in an interracial marriage? You could be next." With this one, we're getting two for the price of one: pointing out intolerance, and instilling fear of the breakdown of the Constitution. If Democrats cease being afraid of gay marriage, and start pointing out that opponents who back the FMA, etc., are bigots, we will have a big point of policy difference for all those young people who watch and say "Well, they're both the same." God forbid we motivate some young people to the polls or to make contributions with this issue alone.
- Progressivism is all about Morals. "The minimum wage is a moral issue. Health care for our poor children and our elderly mothers is a moral issue." (So is health care for all, but it's important for us to target emotion-laden words like "children" and "mothers.") "Privacy is a moral issue -- freedom from the Government spying on you is a moral issue. Freedom of information is a moral issue -- Government must be open and accountable to protect citizens, or it gets out of control. Freedom from government interference in things like marriage is a moral issue -- if we don't stop them interfering with gays, who's to say you're not next?"
- Environmentalism is a moral issue. "Preservation of natural resources and shepherding of the land -- for future farmers, for hunters and fishermen -- is a moral issue: we should be able to safely eat the fish we catch recreationally in our states without worrying about mercury poisoning. Our children should have national parks to visit. Lots of religions, including Christianity, teach that we must be good shepherds of the land. Why don't Republicans agree?"
- Grownups can coexist with people without having to agree with them. There's got to be a better way of saying this, but I think it's useful to popularize the notion that Republicans who make laws for behavior of which they disapprove are being immature. This also cuts off Republican argument that we oppose free speech, that we want to force our beliefs on good "Christians," etc. "The American Way of Life is to believe what you want, just don't force it down our throat."
- The tyranny of the majority as a moral issue. This is a phrase Howard Dean didn't invent, but used through his campaigning. It's useful -- and powerful -- shorthand for a Progressive ideal of Government in which the majority doesn't have the right to subjugate minorities and regulate their behavior, if those minorities aren't hurting anyone.
- Why do Republicans hate the American Constitution/the Bill of Rights? We need to hammer home the point that any time a Republican decries "activist judges," who are only acting in the role set out for them in the Constitution; any time they support the invasive parts of the Patriot Act, or introduce legislation allowing unreasonable search and seizure, or legislation that would weaken constitutional protections or remove rights (like the FMA); every time they oppose vote recounts, they're demonstrating that "Republicans oppose the rights and process which make this country great."
- Patriotism means protecting the Constitution. See above.
- Republicans are cruel/Republicans don't care about our elderly mothers/Republicans don't care about disabled vets. This is a very powerful one, and very easy to back up. It undercuts them promoting themselves as "winners," or strong, while it plays on something most people know or admit to. One of the best bumper-stickers I saw this Fall was "Voldemort is a Republican." That's great. I heard some ridiculous apologetic NPR commentary saying how awful this kind of thing was (actually in the context of some Lord of the Rings reference) because it was "an obscure literary reference," but that misses the point. It's funny, and it's targeted, both of which lend to its propagation.
- Republicans talk the talk, but they don't support our troops. "Ask my grandfather, a decades-long Coast Guard veteran, how he thinks Bush supports the troops, as his Medicare and VA benefits dwindle year after year since 2000. Ask the combat troops who've had their combat pay cut under Bush." This is a good one to attack with in the red states, or any place with a military base.
- Voting is a moral, American right. Trot this one out each and every time someone berates us for wanting recounts. "If you're sure you've won, you should be all in favor of recounts -- but if you oppose them, maybe you have something to hide." We need to be able to trust our voting process, and we need to change a lot of things by the next election for that to happen. Hammer away at this one.
- Republicans can't protect America from terrorism. "Why isn't Bush going after loose nukes? Why are we allowing Iran and North Korea to develop nukes of their own? Why didn't he protect us from 9/11? Why was standing policy to shoot down wayward commercial airliners violated that day? Why did he oppose the 9/11 Commission? Why didn't he read the Bin Laden determined to attack memo in August, 2001?" We don't need to get into each of these, but it's a grab-bag of powerful phrases that cut the Republicans in their most powerful marketing attempts. I'm not sure it's beneficial getting into the Bush-Saudi friendship thing (Saudi financial backing being the only concrete link between 9/11 and Iraq insurgency), but maybe that's worth a try, too.
- We believe in progress. "We believe that it's a moral imperative for our children to inherit a better world." "When I was a kid, I remember going on fishing trips with my Dad, where we'd catch trout just after dawn, and have them fried up for breakfast by seven. Why do Republicans believe it's okay to relax pollution laws, so that there's so much mercury in the fish people catch in New Hampshire that it would be dangerous for me to feed them to my son? Will it stop there? How long till we can't eat deer we shoot, too? Why don't they share our values?" Hit the Republicans in the culture-nuts, while instilling fear and talking morals and values. "I guess the Republican Elites think their money will protect their children from the dangerous polluted environment they're leaving behind. I guess they can go other places if the National Parks get raped. Must be nice."
This applies to a bunch of things, but we have to be careful and succinct. Personal anecdotes are perhaps useful: "You know, my Mom grew up in the South under segregation. She couldn't have any black friends as a little kid, and she didn't understand why. Now, in 2004, things are much better -- but the Republicans are using the same arguments against gays that they did against Martin Luther King -- an American hero! Why do Republicans hate progress so much? Why do they hate America?"
- Safety only comes with freedom. This is shorthand for an argument demonstrating that totalitarianism doesn't bring safety, that 9/11 didn't happen under Clinton, or pre-Ashcroft, that the Patriot Act hasn't resulted in any terrorist convictions, that free, open societies don't generate massive enmity, and that all of the subjugation of Arabs in Israel hasn't made the West Bank a safe place.
- Health care is a right. "Access to health care is a moral imperative for the greatest country in the world. Why do Republicans oppose that moral imperative?"
- Do you want your job outsourced by a Republican?
- ...The Republican Elite... This is a fragment we need to use any time we can. "Bush's tax cuts are only good for his Republican Elite friends." "Cheney's under the control of the Republican Elite in the energy industry." "Bush, as a member of an old Republican Elite family, doesn't think working Americans have a right to health care." We must reclaim "elite" from Rove's operatives; they know the word is more dangerous in our hands, which is why they co-opted it in the first place.
Memes I think are important, but the wording of which I'm less certain of:
- Tolerance is a Christian virtue. The Christian part, of course, is distasteful to us Atheists/Jews/Agnostics/Muslims/Buddhists, etc. Perhaps that means this is one we use primarily in the South. This plays into the "Grownups can disgree" meme, above.
- Why do Republicans hate blacks/Muslims/Arabs/Jews/Native Americans, etc.? Again, trot out Florida, the riots, the voter suppression; trot out Bush's opposition to Affirmative Action. Let's make sure minorities don't vote for these jerks.
- Do you really think my elderly Grandma can manage a stock portfolio if Social Security is privatized? Get real.
- Republicans lie. We don't want to point to things like the Bush Administration manipulation of jobless rates, or anything that can be painted as semantics. There are easier opportunities. I heard a Republican economist on the radio explaining that higher jobless rates last month *really* meant the economy was getting better. We don't need to get into a deep explanation of why that's wrong; we just say "He's saying black is white. Republicans lie!" Again, although there's tons of material to back any "Republicans lie" allegation up, that's not so much the point as just popularizing the meme itself, saying it promptly each and every time they use Orwellian contradictory language. Make the voting public doubt every word that comes out of their mouths.
- Republicans aren't fiscally conservative. We can point out that spending and deficits have risen under every Republican administration for decades, and fallen under Democrats, but we don't want to confuse the people we're marketing to by citing too many facts and figures. Just repeat the mantra at every opportunity. It could be useful to bring this one to the table every time there's an opportunity to bring up Halliburton and non-competitive military contracts: tie it to, for example, "Why don't Republicans don't believe in capitalism? Why don't they believe in free competition?"
- Republicans are bad for the economy. Another way of stating this is, Are you better off now than you were four years ago? "Has your pay gone up? Have your expenses gone down? Do you feel secure in your job? God, I miss the Clinton economy." Repeat all of these when the opportunity arises, which should be frequently.
- "Republicans hate their actions being exposed because it shows them as liars." Bush's opposition to Freedom of Information Act filings, and his closing of Presidential records, etc., and Cheney's opposition to Energy inquiries all illustrate this. It needs a good tagline though.
- "Republicans don't care about workers. They don't care about your job." This is about Bush's support for his cronies' outsourcing, etc; opposition to minimum-wage hikes; opposition to health care. What's a good five-word summary?
- Why are Republicans anti-religious? Republicans oppose the separation of church and state that's in our Constition to protect religious worship. Frame the first amendment as protecting all religions, while pointing out that "Bush doesn't go to church. Why doesn't so-and-so quote the Gospel rather than Old Testament?" etc. An alternative is "Why aren't Republicans Christian?" Point out that their policy and quotations come out of the Old Testament rather than the Gospels, etc.
- Republicans idolize Hitler. This is touchy. While I don't have a problem with this at all -- since it's hypocritical of them to start practising fascism (a workable definition of fascism is centralization of authority, usually marketed with popularist overtones and marked by xenophobia and nationalism, and coinciding with attempts to silence all critics and dissent; name one of those that Bush hasn't done) while screaming bloody murder whenever anyone calls a spade a spade, and while Republicans like Rush use it all the time when describing people like Hillary Clinton -- the media, acting as Karl Rove's henchmen, are quick to label anyone who promulgates this a lunatic or conspiracist. On the other hand, this may indicate just how much Rove et al fear this meme. And, after all, few would argue that the Nazi party was not to the right of center. How do we popularize this without being depicted as the lunatic fringe? Or is the only problem that we are so scared of it, while pundits on the right freely refer to feminazis and homosexual militant nazis?
- If you back progress, you're always on the winning team. How do we paraphrase this in an emotionally-compelling, morals-inflected way? The idea is that, particularly for those people -- undecided voters, or ones without strong convictions on the issues themselves, but only candidates' belief in them -- who want to feel like they vote for the winner, we show that progress always wins. "Civil Rights won," we say. "Slavery is archaic now. Do you want to be on the backwards, losing team?" "Gay marriage is coming -- it's popping up all over the world. It's the moral thing. For years, we castigated gays for not settling into committed relationships and raising children. Now we're telling them they're not allowed to do that. The bigots are fighting it, but, in the end, they will lose. Which side do you want to be on?" How do we do that?
- Those Republicans sure do project a lot, huh? I'm not sure how effective or quick it is to popularize this one, but it might be worth pointing out in comedy venues like late-night shows or SNL. Have skits -- maybe a regular segment -- where we show a Republican figure attributing some behavior or moral to Democrats, and then quietly practicing the same thing. "Senator So-and-so rants about militant homosexuals, then goes home to his gay lover." Show a clip of Bush ranting about fetuses being sacred, and then show documentation of the abortion he got for his girlfriend in the 70s. Show a clip of some corrupt televangelist bitching about our air of moral superiority, followed by one of the same guy damning all fags to hell. Keep it quick and clear, and, above all, make the people who practise it objects of ridicule. It needs to be funny. If it becomes popular, people start doubting everything that comes out of the RNC, and it highlights the central hypocrisy of contemporary Republicanism.
RNC memes we need to combat:I'm less sure of how to deal with many of these, mostly because we're naturally tempted to repudiate them through careful socratic reasoning and pointing out inconsistencies. That's exactly what we need to avoid, in favor of quick, sharp talking points. If possible, we should avoid repeating their memes, even to counter them -- unless, of course, we can viciously satirize and skewer them:
- "Democrats are anti-free-speech." We tend to point out that grassroots initiatives to boycott, for example, the Sinclair Group are, in fact, free speech exercised in a free country; that's what capitalism and market pressure are all about; that, besides, Republicans have no problem doing this to, for example, NBC for airing "Will and Grace;" and that this is very different from a government entity, e.g. the White House, pressuring media outlets to toe the line or lose access to information. But that's not a sound-bite. What is?
- "Democrats have this irrational visceral hatred of Bush." The temptation here is to point out that he hated us first, that he's a divider, not a uniter, that promoting legislation to ban my marriage isn't exactly loving, etc., and that Rush saying "Hitlery Clinton" isn't exactly loving, either. But this sounds like whining, so we need to re-frame it.
- "Democrats hate Christians." The usual argument is that we don't approve of so-called Christians' "right" to be bigots, so *we* are intolerant. This is one of the most successful of the neocons' memes in the last 15 years or so, coming out of their absurd notion that poltical correctness -- their invention -- is the antithesis of free speech.
- "Safety is worth giving up a little freedom." This is a very dangerous one. I don't think it's worth pointing out that any step towards totalitarianism is an evil one. It is worth saying "If we give up the freedoms and rights that make America the envy of the world, the terrorists have won. You don't want to appear weak, do you?" Also cite "Safety only comes with freedom," above.
- "The blame America first crowd." Another tough one. We might consider countering with "We all love America. So-and-so is a father; he should understand that good parents set limits, and don't let their children do whatever they like. We want America to be the shining beacon of justice that it can be, looked up to by all the world -- and we get angry when Republicans try to tarnish our good image by selling justice sort. They're making America hang out with the wrong crowd -- Saudi Arabia and other totalitarian states. Why do they want to make America look bad in the eyes of the world? Why do they reward naughty behavior? What kind of values are they promoting, telling other countries it's okay to torture and to chop of thieves' hands?" How do we make this more succinct and biting?
Perhaps we take the phrase back. We should start referring to Republican attempts to subvert the Constitution as "blame America first." "Those blame-America-first Republicans say the Constitution, and the rights and freedoms it guarantees and that make America the great country it is, are getting in the way of prosecuting terrorists. Why do they hate American freedom so much?"
- "Activist Judges." Our tendency is to point out that Republicans have no problem with these when they destroy the Constitution by stopping the counting of votes for no good reason, overturning state rulings which should have precedent in a state's issue, to put their candidate in office; or to point out that Republicans in the 60s used to say "you can't legislate morality," leaving it to the courts; or to point out that almost all civil rights progress has been through the courts, without which we'd still be living in segregated communities; or that the role of the courts in the Federal and most state constitutions is to interpret laws passed by the legislature, striking down those which violate the constitution. Perhaps our best response to this one is "Why do Republicans hate the Constitution?" while aggressively naming any controversial ruling by a Republican judge as "judicial activism," reclaiming the phrase as our own. "God, those reactionary activist judges in Ohio, saying big male elite Republican college students could go intimidate little old black ladies at the polls, they make me sick." "Gosh, that Rehnquist is such an activist judge."
- "People who want to count votes, or investigate 9/11, are conspiracists." Do we just counter these with "Am I a conspiracist for supporting the U.S. Constitution, or am I a patriot?" in the context of vote-counting, and bring up the "Republicans can't protect America, and they don't want us to know why" meme for 9/11?
- "Democrats are liberal elites who don't live in Real America." This is easy, but we need to be consistent and brutal. The counters are: "Plymouth Rock is in Real America." "The 'liberal Northeast' is where American Democracy was born." (We won't mention Virginia for now: remember, sound-bytes are more important than strict accuracy.) "The Shot Heard Round the World wasn't fired in Real America, huh?" "I guess Abraham Lincoln wasn't a real American, either, since Illinois is a blue state." "You're saying Paul Revere wasn't a real American?! Maybe you should lay off the Oxycontin." "The Statue of Liberty isn't in Real America?! I guess you don't think the Liberty Bell is, either. Can I have some of what you're smoking?" "New York City and Boston were Real America before white people lived in Alabama or Alaska." "Chicago was Real America when the Mormons were still openly practicing polygyny in the red state of Utah."
Alternatively, although more risky: "The Founding Fathers were Northeastern Liberal Elites." My favorite, of course, is "Well, then, 9/11 didn't happen in Real America. But I guess, neither did the Republican Convention. I guess the Republicans are just confused about where America is." The other part of countering this is saying "Republican Elite" every time we possibly can. "Only someone from a rich Republican Elite family would dare claim working-class families in New York City and Chicago weren't really living in America." "Only someone from a rich Republican Elite family would say that Northeast cities like Boston and New York weren't Real America, then have his convention in New York City before heading up for a latte-soaked vacation in Maine. God, can you believe these wingnuts?"
- "Liberal urban Democrats, who are slaves to militant homosexuals, want to destroy the institution of marriage." Again, shooting fish in a barrel. Remember wry humor; we must gleefully make fools out of these retards: "Yeah, I hear the militant homosexual lobby up in Saskatchewan is really psyched about Massachusetts." "You know those urban decadents in Ontario. Selling worms at the only bait shack by the side of the highway within 200 miles to fund their amoral lifestyle." "Yeah, gay marriage has really hurt Massachusetts: divorce rates shot so high between May and November 2004, they reelected everyone who voted against a constitutional amendment." "Yeah, I know we all think of militant homosexuals having sex with reindeer whenever we hear 'Scandinavia.' Those Vikings are real urban activists, you know."
- "People who say 'Neo-con' are anti-semitic." This was a new one to me until a few days ago when I saw it on a discussion group. I'm not sure quite what to make of it, but it sure sounds like trademark Rove: change the debate by stigmatizing the words we use to frame it. I think it's important to come up with a counter before this one spreads very far. We're tempted to say "What, exactly, is it about calling Rush Limbaugh a neocon that's anti-semitic?" But, as I've said, logical arguments are what we want to avoid. Maybe have lots of liberal Jews just say "Bullshit. I'm proudly Jewish, but you're just a raving lunatic neocon," and then repeat it in Yiddish. (Joke.)
Finally, if you've read this far: which part did you enjoy more? The long, intellectually-argued thesis on what we need to change, or the quick talking points that get us there? Your answer is my argument.
Update Nov 12
Thinking about this some more, I've got a couple more I want to add:
- Why do Republicans hate families? I feel like this is maybe the best way to tackle marriage issues head-on. "What is it that distresses Republicans so much about two people in love committing themselves to one another to start a family? What's so awful about loving couples giving a stable home to foster-children in Florida that it must be kept illegal? Won't somebody think of the children" -- all those poor, parentless children being shuffled around from home to home because there are too few couples to adopt them? If the Republicans complain about how gays aren't good enough to raise kids, we can always attack with the "You say you love your daughter, Mr. Vice President; why don't you think she's good enough to raise a family?" line. "Why don't you love your daughter, Mr. Vice President? Don't you believe in love? We do!"
- Why are Republicans so divisive, so anti-melting-pot? This is one that Bush's handlers tell us Republicans are vulnerable to, by floating the bullshit "uniter not a divider" meme. Let's play up all the divisive crap the RNC spews, and let's start pointing out how cynical are all their efforts to, for instance, mobilize black religious leaders in the South against gay marriage, and, by extension, Democrats. Why do they try to divide Christians and people of other faiths? Why do they ignore the teachings of Christ that oppose war, and greed, and riches, and corruption, and cause this huge rift between "real" Christians and people who actually read the bible, rather than just hearing Falwell's summaries? Why do they tell us that Americans like, for instance, Jack Kennedy, who come from the Northeast or from California aren't in "real America?" Why do they not want gays to be able to show how much they love their country by going and killing some Arabs overseas? This is Obama's meme, and it's worth spreading. Why do they try to rip apart the very notions of disparate people coming together and uniting that, we were taught in school, make America unique? Why do they hate America?
This plays into a bunch of the other memes. I think it's important to highlight the cynicism and pessimism that Republican divisiveness expresses; Republicans are always going on about us being America-haters and whiners, and we can turn that on them. It can also help strengthen this notion that we as the sane, America-loving, "other" must band together and set aside our differences and disagreements to retake America. Can we phrase it in more religious terms for the red states?
- We believe people are great. Why do Republicans think Americans are so evil? Again, we play on our own, superior optimism. "We think all kinds of people can come together and live in peace, and set aside their differences and figure out what values they all share -- love, prosperity, jobs, health, privacy, safety -- and decide what's best for themselves. Why do Republicans think we can't make decisions for ourselves, about who to marry, about what should be allowed and disallowed by state, about who we can sleep with, what we can do with our own bodies? Why do they get to tell us which parts of the bible we treat as important and which we ignore? Why is their interpretation of which sins are most serious better than Christ's? Why do they get to snoop through all our emails and detain us in airports without due process or probable cause? Do they hate everyone who's not rich? Why do they all insist we're so evil, and not treat us like competent adults? We love America, and we love its people -- we think they're great! Why don't they?"
Update Nov 18
- Why are Republicans pro-crime? Why did they pass the "Delay Rule," overturning earlier legislation that prevented Congresspeople from serving in Congressional leadership roles while being indicted? Their party line on this is that they're being targeted by a witch-hunt. Then again, the same could be said, probably with a lot more accuracy, of their own actions back a decade or so, when Delay got the legislation they just overturned passed in the first place -- back when they were using it as a weapon against Democrats. So the question remains: Why do Republicans think it's ethical to turn to leaders who are being indicted?
- Why are Republicans hypocrites? This is probably the most obvious meme, and the one all of us on the left have been saying for years. Fortunately, now that the Republicans are in positions of total power, they've provided us more and more examples of their deep-seated hypocrisy. Lying is bad -- except when it's your party's President, and he's lying to Congress about war, not sex. Ethics violations are bad -- except when it's your party leadership doing the violating. Taxes are bad, and deductions are good -- except when they're deductions for health care costs or state income tax. States' rights -- except when it comes to the gays, or when states' rights would prevent your own candidate unconstitutionally taking office.
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