Winning Elections by Engaging a Transformed Culture

In between bouts of total grief over the loss of the Republic last Tuesday, I’ve been reading some conservative commentary on why Romney lost. Masochistic, I confess.

As I’ve read, I’ve found myself becoming alarmed and concerned. A lot of the discussion is inside-baseball: if we tweaked this or that, we would’ve won.

The writers and commenters are missing what I think is a vital truth. This election made at least one thing very obvious: no matter how distasteful it is to imagine, 50% of the population no longer responds to rational, logical arguments. They respond to fear, to greed, and to pleasure (WIIFM = What’s In It For Me). In other words, the Dems have been 100% successful at getting votes by appealing solely to the emotions, esp. in people who are totally absorbed by emotion-rich media with emotion-laden advertising, and in those people who can be made to believe the GOP is going to TAKE THEIR STUFF AWAY FROM THEM.

Conservatives needs to make ads and movies that show how creating jobs, saving, planning prudently for the future, and being self-reliant is sexy, attractive, and exciting to the people who need to hear that. The Founding Fathers’ vision must be fleshed-out into emotionally and visually appealing people and stories, and be made very exciting on the small and big screen Including mobile apps! Explosions will help (I’m only half-kidding here). If Hollywood can make a simple walk down the street appear edgy and exciting – as they did every week in Miami Vice years ago – conservative creative types can make traditional values edgy and exciting as well.

While I’m no gamer, I recently watched a trailer for the video game Assassins 3. They’ve placed the game in the Revolutionary War and linked George Washington with this (mythical) mysterious group of assassins who, through their secret brotherhood, have supposedly changed world history over centuries. I don’t know much about the game, but apparently the Assassins help the Patriots defeat the British by, uh, killing lots of them.

Using this as an example: why can’t there be video games of all types, with heroes who are *consciously* linked with traditional American values (not just fighting for them), and are shown in the game as expressing and defending those values and even “winning” because they uphold those values? (Why does the amoral Grand Theft Auto video game have to be the model for attracting young guys?) Think Braveheart.

This strategy won’t likely win the next election, because we’re now in the sad place of having to work, as the Communists have done for 100 years, underground – rebuilding the culture from the ground up, one generation at a time. We have to use every tool we can, work with people with whom we agree only 75% of the time, etc., encourage those who are on the path to our full vision, and above all make clear what the goals are, what the rewards will be, and what the frightening consequences will be for failure.

We need to work with Christians, Jews and other friendly religious groups, ethnic groups of all types, rich and poor, etc. And, unfortunately, since it’s politics, we need not to turn the other cheek when attacked, but respond swiftly, firmly and factually with an equal attack. And we need to keep repeating the truth about our opponents words, stands, records, and not assume anyone knows this stuff.

All of his career in politics, O. has won by getting voters to disqualify his opponent – getting their attention on the other person’s negatives, and offering, himself, only a vague set of ideas (and/or lying unashamedly). We need to begin to show not only the positives of our ideas, but also pound away without mercy on the negatives of the opponent’s ideas, their words, their personal associations. We need to get voters to disqualify, in their own minds, the opponent, because the opponent’s words, ideas, etc. can be linked to real and future outcomes that are described, convincingly, as unpleasant/undesirable.

This reads harsher than I mean it to be – what I’m talking about is to take nothing for granted in the voters’ minds: don’t assume they will understand, rationally, why our ideas and plans are better, or to know who the opposition candidate is. The Dems and their media will be painting as negative a picture as they can about our candidates – they will NOT discuss facts or imagine outcomes based on facts. Like the Dems, we need to TELL THEM – to “form a narrative” that is emotionally gripping. Make an emotional appeal, just as advertisers do, with our facts – both positive and negative facts. And then keep pounding away with the same images and language.

This is what they did this year, with Trayvon and with Sandra Fluke: they told stories, and in those stories they pressed emotional buttons that stoked fear and revulsion toward the alternative to O. With Trayvon it was racial hatred; with Fluke it was the “war on women” and fear of the GOP taking away *free* access to all the “safe” sex one can imagine. Neither of these narratives had anything to do with the truth (which is bad, of course) – but they were amazingly effective.

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