How to Win the Next Election By Not Feeding the Mainstream Media What It Wants

When confronted by members of the national corporate media, people seem to be flattered by the fact that someone is asking them for their opinions. There’s an element of ego-stroking, even for the most upper-level politicians, when a well-known reporter or commentator considers them important enough to ask them a question.

What this means is that some people feel they must answer questions in a media world that’s looking for fifteen-second sound bites, a 24/7 corporate cable-news driven media that is looking for controversy, especially anything that will fit their current meme: “the Democrats are in disarray.”

(I’m not talking about the thoughtful, dedicated, low-paid, usually local reporters that work hard to get their stories right and with some nuance.)

What surprises me is how some of the top national Democratic personalities fall for this and cooperatively stir the pot. I’m not sure why leaders do this so regularly, but am convinced that in doing so they’re isolating many who would otherwise work for, and get out to vote for, Democrats, splitting the vote further, and making it easier for the current presidential office holder to win a second term.

There must be some highly-paid and highly regarded, old-boy consultants encouraging Democrats to do this in spite of the fact that it hasn’t brought the kind of consistent success in presidential elections that a party with the best middle-class policies should have. And in 2016 it brought us the current mess.

We can’t change the minds or win over the 20-30% who are authoritative personalities and religious addicts. They need an egotistic dictator for president no matter how those media pundits continue to act wise by repeating that Democrats must appeal to them. Trying to do that turns off a base that is more likely to vote if enthused.

So, not that anyone listens to me – I am refusing to get into the destructive online candidate criticism game at this point -, here are just some principles that will control the national media and ultimately bring out the wide spectrum of people that make up potential Democratic voters.

Ominously, from what I’m reading, this is already counter to what Democratic leaders, and some of the rest of us, are doing.

Don’t answer questions about what you’re going to do unless you’re a presidential candidate talking about policy proposals you plan to implement when you’re in office.

Whether it’s impeachment or investigations, keep the opposing party and the media guessing. They don’t need to know, but answering these questions diverts the discussion to where the media loves it - the debate itself and the disagreements, rather than focusing on the crimes and offenses of a current administration.

All questions should be answered with “Everything is on the table.” Message discipline is important here.

This can be repeated without explanation. And, actually, it should be the truth because the issues are complex so we don’t know what will develop.

Never put down another member or a branch of your party publicly.

Ronald Reagan popularized an “Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It's a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.”

It’s good advice today as well. As a Party leader, don’t publicly make any statements that put down the leftists or centrists in the Party.

Every elected official has a constituency. By criticizing that person, you’re dissing all who voted for them and probably losing influence over them forever.

This means don’t give advice to the Party that it’s going too far to the left. That’s not taken as constructive or valuable just because one of the Party bigwigs says it. To believe that you saying it is going to change those others is hubris.

Such putting down others is instead taken as something meant to stifle free thinking, something that tries to get everyone to fall in line behind some great leader. It only impresses those who already agree as well as those who are authoritative personalities – most of whom are stuck in the other Party.

Refer instead to the “exciting variety of opinions in the big tent of Democrats who encourage free and creative thinking.” Talk about the “wide field of talent” available for the primaries while the other Party is moribund and stuck.

Allow the primary process to go forward. To try to manipulate it with putdowns manifests fear that the majority doesn’t actually agree with you. That’s playing the Republicans own shameful game of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement.

Speak as if you believe in what you’re doing and as if you can do it.

Everyone knows that things come up that mean our plans must be adjusted. But in this day and age, people want forceful leadership not ifs, ands, and buts.

Impress us with bold ideas that express your values. Talk as if you really believe in them.

That’s what will convince us that you do believe in them.

Everyone remembers the phrase “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” but few can recite an equivalent from the other side. Was it because liberal ideas were so loaded with qualifications?

Or was “Hate Is Not a Family Value” scared out of us because some right-winger responded: “Are you accusing me of hate?” And we couldn’t take someone disliking us?

Sometimes doing things incrementally will have to be done, but don’t let us think that your incremental change is all you’ve got. If you really mean it to be incremental, let us know where you go after that.

Assume that what you hear online and in social media is meant to divide potential Democratic voters - even if the story is true.

We know that foreign influences are not only spreading falsehoods and interpreted stories to targeted folks on social media but that they’re also targeting Democrats with reputable stories to affect those demographics of social media.

Spreading these stories, even if true, might feel just and righteous, but doing so aids in their divide and conquer strategies and separates us from those we want to influence. Few candidates’ followers are going to be changed, especially if they already know whom we support.

Promote your own candidate or candidates, if you have made a decision, but remember that the goal of the other party and its foreign bots is for us to pass along negative stories about the others. Analyses have shown that negative campaigning does not gain support for your candidate but only discourages others from voting at all.

And sometimes all of us (even our leaders) need to remember: the best thing to say is nothing.

© 2019 Robert N. Minor

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org


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