Over the last couple of years I have been carefully studying why the Right seems so much more successful at getting its message through to the masses. I have concentrated primarily on a flawed delivery technique unique to progressives. I often refer to it as the John Kerry Syndrome. You know, take a sentence and turn it into a novel. But, while I'm sure that has played a major role, I'm thinking that maybe I have been missing the real culprit that was right under my nose all along.
Hate sells. And not just hate, but anything that is controversial, exciting, or potentially dangerous. There is a button that exists within all humans that gets pushed whenever the volume gets turned up a notch or two. Think back to when you were younger. Didn't you like your music - rock, new wave, disco, R&B, whatever - nice and loud? And when your parents told you to turn it down, didn’t you really want to turn it louder? Admit it, don't we still sometimes turn it up just to feel like we did when we were kids?
If the music connection doesn't do it for you, try this. How many times have we been stuck in traffic because the whole damn highway had to slow down to look at a fender bender? Regardless of the seriousness of the accident, people just can't resist looking at destruction. I don’t even want to get into burning buildings or plane crashes, but statistics don’t lie. Ratings on cable news channels always spike during times of tragedies. Bad news is always a money maker.
Disaster movies and murder mysteries almost always do better at the box office then their more cerebral counterparts. Want to know which news broadcast is rated number one? It ain't the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, that's for sure. You want excitement and trash talk, you tune into Fox. Even if you aren't conservative, you're bound to hear something controversial and/or provocative.
Face it, Americans have an addiction to anything that elicits a visceral emotion out of them. We are subconsciously drawn to it like a moth is drawn to a flame. We drive fast, take chances we’re not supposed to take, and tend to prefer to live life on the edge or by the seat of our pants. And while that description may not fit every one out there, it fits enough of the country for me to conclude that we are in for the fight of our lives when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of the people.
Just take a look at the blogosphere and you’ll get quite an education as to how much work we have to do. While we certainly hold our own when it comes to on-line blogging, what concerns me is how many people follow conservative sites vs. progressive sites. While this is far from a scientific study, it wouldn’t surprise me to find conservatives leading by a two or three to one ratio. If my own blog is any indication, we are in deep doo doo. While I appreciate the number of followers I do have, they don't begin to approach the numbers more conservative blogs enjoy.
And the comments that are posted on these blogs are indicative of a trend. Progressives don’t seem nearly as motivated or persistent with their posts as do conservatives. It’s as though once a liberal or progressive makes a point, he or she moves on as though the case has been made. Conservatives, on the other hand, consistently drive home the point ad nauseam as if stuck in an endless loop. You want to know why the Right had Obama and the Democrats for lunch during the healthcare debate last year? Relentless persistence, that’s why. Just read a few conservative blogs, or tune into Fox News, or, worse, AM talk radio if you don’t believe me. To quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And then it still ain't over. Conservatives can drive home a point all the way to Beijing and still not be satisfied. It’s like watching the movie “This is Spinal Tap.” The volume is always set to eleven.
So what, you say? Even if we buy your premise, what are you suggesting we do? Behave like them? What’s the point of being a progressive, if you have to act like a conservative? Point taken. I’m not much of a fan of following in the footsteps of those I know are reprehensible. But I am concerned that if we don’t pay enough attention and change some of our old habits – like thinking this fight will be won on sheer merit – we stand to lose not just a few battles, but the whole damn war.
Like it or not, we may have to profoundly alter how we approach the fight, and it is a fight, folks. The fight of our lives, in fact. This incessant preaching to the choir bit has got to go away. I’m a liberal, you’re a liberal, aren’t we smart? Well, if no one knows or, for that matter, cares, then I guess we weren’t that smart after all. Are people drawn to us? Are we exciting to listen to? and, more importantly, Do we have something relevant to say? The answers to all had better be yes or we’re done for.
Fitting how I am writing this piece just a few weeks before the Super Bowl. Just look back at the last 44 games that have been played and see how many Super Bowl runner- ups you can name. For instance did you know that Buffalo holds the record for appearing in the most consecutive Super Bowls – four – in NFL history? You didn’t? That’s probably because they lost all four, three in convincing fashion. History always remembers the winners and tends to disregard the losers.
I don’t want to say that progressive Democrats are the political equivalent of the Buffalo Bills, but then again I am a Giants’ fan. I’m used to being on the winning side and hate like hell being outdone and outplayed, especially when I know my team is better. The only question that remains unanswered is whether all of us – collectively – will hoist the Lombardi trophy together, or whether we will be content to be a footnote in the annals of history.
Whatever we decide we'd better do it quick.