ObamaCare: freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it

The Handbook of dirty tricks, Hijacked by the Right

The Left’s Sacred Handbook of dirty tricks, hijacked by the Right

John Hayward writes:  When I put together a roundup of ObamaCare horror stories on Friday, I concluded as follows:

I personally dislike the “human prop” strategy for making political arguments, but that’s how things work these days – political debates must be personalized to become effective. There’s no reason it should be an exclusively liberal strategy. Republicans need to get some of these folks on stage for press conferences and photo ops. The Left is all about abstract costs and humanized benefits – a lot of people get quietly rooked, while a few grateful beneficiaries are hauled onstage at political rallies. ObamaCare’s failure isn’t just about website errors. It has a very human face.

Over at Ace’s place, DrewM is thinking along the same lines, and gives the Republicans some absolutely perfect advice:

No Republican, from Boehner on down to the least likely to win next year challenger in a deep blue district, should appear anywhere across the country without someone who either tried and failed to sign up for ObamaCare or someone who tried and found out their premiums are skyrocketing and/or they can’t keep their doctor.

When these Republicans get asked, “What time is it?” They answer, “This is Mary. She signed up for ObamaCare and her premiums have increased by……”. When they get asked, “Aren’t you worried about defaulting” they answer, “This Jose. Jose tried to sign up but couldn’t because the system doesn’t work and now he’s going to face a penalty from the IRS because the government says he has to buy something but the government can’t sell it to him. And that’s why……”

That’s exactly what they should do.  Note to Republicans: when the reporter interviewing you rolls his or her eyes in exasperation at your latest “This is Mary…” talking point, you’re doing it right.

As a general rule of thumb, Republicans are completely clueless about the importance of repetition, and they’re not very good at following Saul Alinsky‘s “Rules for Radicals” advice about freezing, personalizing, and polarizing a target.  Well, you’d better get familiar with that book, my GOP friends, because you are the radicals now – the people trying to change an immensely powerful, entrenched, and virtually mindless system.  Actually, you’ve been the radicals for quite some time.  One of the reasons you lost in 2012 is that you didn’t run as radicals.

Repetition is important because the twentieth time you say something to the media could be the first time a particular voter hears about it.  There’s a reason Democrats drone on like broken records, even when they’re lying.  Barack Obama’s famous lie about being able to keep your health care plan if you liked it?  He didn’t just say that once.  He repeated it, with minor variations, in speech after speech.  That’s why so many people are recoiling in shock from the discovery that he was lying.  They heard him, and they believed him, because he said it over and over again.

Personalizing an argument is crucial.  Again, there’s a good reason Democrats march human props on stage whenever they make a big announcement.  Abstract arguments tend to lose against personal, immediate anecdotes.  Which is bad, by the way.  Argument by anecdote is illogical – it’s an emotional appeal, not an exercise of reason – and it’s another way of saying that demands based on current situations should trump timeless principles.  That’s how we lost the Constitution over the past century.  But that is how it works, and it drives me nuts to see Republicans behave as if such tactics are somehow beneath them.

After the 2012 campaign was done, former candidate Rick Santorum made an interesting observation about the way Mitt Romney ran his race: he spoke with considerable accuracy about important issues of economic liberty, but he didn’t bring any average folks on stage to testify that these principles benefit everyone.  Romney disdained the populist appeals that he should have used to sell that message to the people Democrats like to refer to as “working Americans” (as if everyone who makes more money than this prized group just lies back and waits for cash to fall in their laps!)  This failure was even more egregious on Romney’s part because he should have had little trouble finding working stiffs from the companies he was involved in to put in a good word for him, or even round up some office workers to testify that Staples made their lives easier, and thank heavens Mitt Romney saved it.

Voters notice when such appeals are missing.  Even if they can’t quite put their finger on why, they find arguments less convincing if “ordinary folks” are not brought forth to assist with making it.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are losing their health insurance plans or paying higher premiums, so a rich pool of human faces for the repeal argument is readily available.  Thanks to its icy sea of crashes and glitches, ObamaCare is already frozen; you just have to personalize and polarize it, Republicans.

The Conversation – JOHN HAYWARD



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