Rescuing Liberals from Themselves

Time to play rope-a-dope with the Loony Right.

Liberals have long been their own worst enemy. It’s as if the liberal agenda got frozen in time around 1968, when the Great Society peaked. It’s time to trim the gray hair, put away the tie-dye, and toss out the Birkenstocks. If liberals want to compete in 21st century politics, some serious adjustments are needed. Among them:

1. Put away the kid gloves. Stop being so reasonable and nice. Nobody wants to read your white papers; they don’t even want to read the lines at the top of your petition. Want to compete? Get some sound bites, baby! Repeat them early and often. When attacked, fight back like a snarling tiger. Have you not been paying attention? Politics has been reshaped by figures such as Lee Atwater, Spiro Agnew, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney. Joe Biden actually has the right idea. Don’t tighten his lease; take off his collar.

2. Go on the offensive. Aren’t you tired of defending all your beliefs? Aren’t you sick of being stereotyped by the LR (Loony Right)? Come out like young Ali and throw the first punch. Goad the LR; play rope-a-dope with them. (That shouldn’t be all that intellectually challenging!) Don’t listen to any complaints about “Obamacare;” start screaming about how the LR wants to turn the country over to Big Pharm and Big Insurance. Don’t take the “They’re going to raise taxes” bait; play the class warfare card and accuse the LR of defending robber barons who send jobs overseas and don’t pay their taxes like “normal” Americans. Don’t stop screaming until Romney releases his taxes. And when he does, tell everyone he’s an “elitist” who is “out of touch with ordinary Americans.”

3. Divorce the working class. This is a romance from which the spark vanished decades ago. There isn’t much of a blue-collar working class anymore and what little that does exist consists largely of angry white boys more attracted to the LR than liberals. Sorry, but the days of “Roll the Union On” are gone. Today’s working class is filled with sexists, racists, nativists, and militarists. Move on. It’s a small (and declining) minority that hates you.

4. Don’t defend the undefendable. Liberals have too many “bleeding heart” issues that have no chance to succeed in the short run. It’s time to stop wasting resources and energy on pipedreams and save them for another day. Case in point: illegal immigration. My heart also bleeds for workers and their kids who’ve been in America for decades, but what part of illegal confuses you? We go ‘round and ‘round on this issue, but here’s what I know: the United States is the only nation in the world (okay, maybe Canada too) where this is even a conversation. I lived in New Zealand for a time. I liked it, but I know that if I went back, overstayed my passport and got caught, I’d be detained and deported no matter how long I avoided detection. End of story. This is a losing issue supremo. You want American taxpayers to support illegal immigrants in public schools? To shelter them in public housing? Pay their medical bills? You may be morally correct, but you are politically naïve. I’d personally like to knock down borders so that workers can move with the freedom with which goods move. But this is definitely an issue for another day. What we could have is a serious dialogue about punishing employers and individuals who employ illegals. Reduced job opportunity = reduced illegal immigration.

5. Don’t trash the picture; change the frame.  Every time a liberal opens his or her mouth and utters the word “rights,” a vast number of Americans hear “special privileges.” Their bad? Only partly. It’s fundamental folks. It’s something I try to impress upon undergraduates: How you say something is often as important as what you say. Don’t say the “right of gays to marry,” say, “The government shouldn’t be allowed to tell adults what they can do in their private lives.” Don’t say “abortion rights;” ask, “How would you like some church you don’t attend come into your home and force their views on you?” Don’t tell people you oppose wilderness region oil drilling, say, “We need to develop new resources that free us from foreign suppliers and from the Big Oil Companies (capitalize it, dude!) that gouge us.” Do not say “women’s rights, civil rights, disability rights,” or any other such phrase, say, “I believe everyone should be treated equally and that we need to level the playing field.” (Love that last phrase; it’s been used for decades and everybody thinks it sounds good even though no one has the slightest idea what the hell it means!) When liberals put forth policy initiatives, name them things that sound “American:” the Eagle Opportunity Act, the Personal Freedom Act, the Energy Independence Initiative….

6. Reclaim patriotism. If there’s anything that boils my shorts while I’m still wearing them, it’s loudmouths who hate their government, hide their money offshore, care more about the Chinese economy than their own, plough under American youth in wars that have no bearing on the United States, want to run our lives, and yet still manage to wrap themselves in the flag. See # 2 above. Go on the offensive. Use harsh rhetoric. Call the LR names, like “Tea Party extremists,” “fanatics,” “right-wing anarchists,” “selfish tax dodgers,” “job killers,” “war-mongering budget-busters,” and “freedom haters.” Do to the LR as it did to Clinton and Obama: impugn its patriotism. Don’t let those who represent self-interest pretend that they are patriots. Suggest that if Mitt Romney wants to hide his money in the Cayman Islands, he should follow the example of Eduardo Saverin, renounce his citizenship, and go reside with his cash.

There are other examples I could think of, but these six make a good start.

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