Some Unsolicited Advice for Barack Obama
Some Unsolicited Advice for Barack Obama
by Ernest Partridge
The Crisis Papers.
Barack H. Obama, Presumptive Nominee, Democratic
FROM: Ernest Partridge, Philosopher at Large, Incorrigible Gadfly.
RE: The Campaign: How to Learn from the Past and Avoid Repeating It.
Congratulations on your long, hard-fought and well-executed (presumptive) victory in the pre-convention campaign!
You will need all that energy, endurance, and strategic intelligence if you are to prevail against John McCain and the Republican Party in November.
And even so, if you regard McCain and the GOP as the extent of your opposition, you will surely lose. For you are up against a hostile corporate media, the United States Department of Justice, and a rigged vote-counting system that is secret, privately owned, and in the pocket of the Republican Party.
Clearly, Al Gore and John Kerry were defeated, not by the voters, but by the corrupted voting machines and compilers and by a hostile media. You will be too, unless you acknowledge and deal with these adversaries directly and decisively. The Democratic Party apparatus, which has hitherto ignored these threats, will be of no use to you unless you counteract the Republican campaign to strike Democrats from the voting rolls, and unless you mobilize the Party against the media and the privatized voting system.
In short: on the merits of your qualifications and those of your opponent, and on the salience of the issues, you should be headed toward an easy victory in November. The public is fed-up with Bush and Cheney, as Bush is the now the most despised President in the history of public opinion polling. The media gloss on the Iraq War and Occupation has worn-off and two-thirds of the voters want us out, now! The vast majority of the population is being devastated by Bushenomics, sees no prospect for relief, and knows full well who is responsible for their plight.
Accordingly, the captive corporate media will steadfastly direct public attention away from the public discontent and the compelling issues and will instead direct that attention toward trivial distractions: lapel pins, retired ministers, “elitism,” and, surreptitiously, race, loyalty, and Islam. They did so in the past, with great success: Willie Horton in 1988, "inventing the internet," serial exaggerations, earth tones in 2000, swift boats, wind surfing, “the French look” in 2004.
Treat such distractions with the bemused contempt that they deserve. Brush them aside, and direct attention back to the issues. You have reason to believe that, at long last, the public is on to the GOP’s “weapons of mass distraction.”
Because your qualifications and the relevant issues will not suffice, due to the added obstacles of a hostile media and election fraud, you must disarm the media, alert the public to the threat to its franchise, and, above all, run up a victory margin so massive that it can not be denied.
The Bush/Cheney Albatross.
George Bush, with his unprecedented 71% disapproval rating, is the millstone that can sink the candidacy of John McCain. Just last week, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 43% of a registered voters “have major concerns that McCain is too closely aligned with the current administration.” John McCain can be expected to do his utmost to cast off this millstone. But his record will betray him, and only serve to undermine the message that he is a “maverick” and a “straight-talker.”
As an astute and spectacularly successful politician, you are surely aware that repetition is the key to successful propaganda. So the figurative and literal Bush-Cheney embrace must be reiterated, endlessly. like the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky rope-line scene, . And because a picture is worth a thousand words, and a repeated picture worth a million, the image on the right should be displayed on TV spots, campaign literature, etc., at every possible opportunity, like the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky rope-line scene and the photo of Willie Horton, until it is imprinted on the mind of every voter.
Dealing with the Corporate Media.
After eight years of shameless shilling for the GOP, the corporate news media have, at last, lost the trust of the American public. And so today, as Tony Dokoupil reports in Newsweek, “less than one person in five believes what he reads in print... and nearly nine of ten Americans believe that journalists are actively biased.” Add to this, the decline in circulation and ad revenues of major newspapers, and network newscasts’ loss of half their audience since 1980, then it becomes abundantly clear that the right-ward political bias of the corporate media is hitting the sponsors, the management and the stockholders where it hurts the most: in the bottom line. Here is a lever that you and the Democratic Party can apply to your advantage: demand authentically “fair and balanced” reporting and analysis, and when you get less than that, complain in the media – especially, the broadcast media, where they simply must give you the “face time” that allows you to speak candidly.
When you and your supporters have that “face time,” always remember to address the voters, not the pundits and reporters. And remember also, that you are not required by law to answer their trivial and distracting questions, or to play their silly “gotcha” games. Instead, show that “bemused contempt,” brush aside the fluff in a brief sentence, and move on to the substantive issues.
When George Stephanopoulos posed that idiotic question, “does Rev. Wright love America as much as you do?” you might have replied:
“In view of the opportunities this country has given me, I doubt that anyone loves America more than I do. But today, few young people can have those opportunities, as the cost of a college education is out of reach. This not only cheats the young people, it sabotages our economy, which relies on an educated work force, leadership in scientific research and technological development....” etc.
And when asked about the flag label pin, you might have reflected:
“Our economy is collapsing, hundreds of thousands of our citizens are losing their homes, our Constitution has been shredded, 4,000 of our soldiers are dead in Iraq along with a million innocent Iraqis, and you are asking me about lapel pins? Which, by the way, I notice than no one at this table is wearing...”
The point that you should make, emphatically and repeatedly, is that obsession with lapel pins, “elitism,” and bowling scores betrays an appalling lack of perspective, and that accusation is directed squarely at the media. Throw out that implicit accusation a few times, and they are bound to back off.
“But if you attack the media,” your advisors might warn you, “they will retaliate.” To which I reply, what worse damage can the corporate media do to the Democrats than they have done in the past decade? Be assured that they will continue to use their subtle tricks against the Democrats unless the you and the Party stand your ground and push back. This is no time for the Democrats to succumb to The Stockholm Syndrome. Remember, you have the American public at your back, a vast majority of which rejects Bushenomics, neo-con wars, and the civic delinquency of the mass media.
Over the past few decades, the right wing has invested lavishly in the media to great advantage, so that now there are few liberal and progressive voices remaining in the commercial media, which is dominated by merely six giant media conglomerates. Dissent cost Phil Donahue, Bill Maher and Dan Rather their jobs. Maher is back, but with a diminished cable TV audience. Keith Olbermann remains on the air due to his high ratings and at the sufferance of MSNBC management.
Today, less than six months away from the general election, it is too late for the Democratic Party and its allies to build an alternative commercial media from the ground up.
But it is not too late to support, publicize, and enhance the impact of the few liberal media voices now in place. With the enormous financial resources about to be directed to your campaign, surely some of these can be directed to the desperately underfunded progressive networks, Air America Radio and Nova M Radio. Equally deplorable and short-sighted is the lack of “big bucks” support of the progressive internet, “the American Samizdat”, which is, for many dissenting journalists and scholars, the only available mode of publication.
An influx of cash to these “in place” liberal media outlets would produce immediate dividends for your campaign, and the campaign efforts of Democratic candidates throughout the nation.
Foiling another Election Theft
While the Republican Party and the commercial media are losing the trust of the public, more and more voters are likewise awakening to the fact that their votes may not have been counted in the past few national elections and might not be counted next November. That public awareness is increasing, despite the total blackout on the election fraud issue by the corporate media and also, astonishingly, by the Democratic Party.
If the GOP and its friends in the “vote-counting industry” are not to steal the next Presidential election, as they have the past two, then the public must be alerted.
Federal elections are administered on the state and municipal level, as we were all reminded in 2000 (Florida) and 2004 (Ohio). Accordingly, we need not await, in vain, for Bush’s Justice Department to track down, indict, and prosecute criminal elections fraud. Aggressive state Attorneys General or local District Attorneys are qualified to do the job. As the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, you are in a position to urge Democratic officials in the states and municipalities to proceed aggressively with investigations of election fraud.
While it is too late now to secure convictions, there is time enough before November to issue indictments and to schedule trials. In fact, this much has been accomplished by the new (and embattled) Democratic Secretary of State in Ohio, where there is now abundant evidence that in 2004, massive fraud and manipulation “flipped” the state, and thus the White House, from John Kerry to George Bush. A few indictments of election tampering in states with Democratic administrations, might put the fear of the slammer in the minds of a few would-be election-felons. Still more qualms might arise among potential law-breakers in states with Republican governors likely to be replaced by Democrats in the near future.
In the meantime, throughout the nation, unverifiable, paperless “touch-screen” (DRE) voting machines are irrevocably in place for the next election, as final attempts in the Congress to replace DRE machines in time for the November election was defeated last month by House Republicans at the request of George Bush.
Nonetheless, all is not lost. Individual states can still take steps to protect the votes by decertifying DRE machines. At a sampling of randomly selected and unannounced precincts, voters might cast dual ballots, on the DRE machines and on paper ballots. Tampered and hacked machines would then be readily exposed. With a threat of such exposure in place, along with the subsequent criminal convictions, election fraud would surely be discouraged.
Strictly monitored exit polls might be applied. Exit polls have proven themselves to be “the gold standard” of polling, since they report, not intentions, but actual voting behavior. Throughout the world, and in the United States up to 2000, exit polls have been extraordinarily reliable.
However, the media tell us, since 2000, exit polling has gone haywire, and for no apparent reason. Proof? They have consistently under-reported alleged late “surges” in Republican votes. There are two possible explanations: exit polling has suddenly and inexplicably failed to report actual “valid” voting, or else the exit polls remain accurate and the official vote totals are fraudulent. We are all aware of which explanation has been accepted and reported, without hesitation or reservation, by the corporate media.
Even so, exit polls can and should be used to validate the votes in November, media bias and dismissals be damned.
Summing up: We know what to expect from the Republicans during the next three months. Their misbehavior has worked spectacularly well in the past two presidential elections, and there is no reason to suppose that they will not repeat their dirty tricks once again. In fact, they are doing so even this early in the contest. So foremost in your mind, Mr. Obama, should be this question: “What would Karl Rove do?” Follow Sun Tzu’s advice: get inside the mind of your opponent, then plan your defenses and your counterattack. John Kerry failed to do this, to the great sorrow of us all.
The American public is overwhelmingly behind you on the issues. It despises the Bush Administration, its lies and criminality, Bush’s war, the loss of personal liberties and security, the shredding of the Constitution, and the public is dreading the economic calamity that is about to befall it, due to Bush’s policies. In a fair, open and lawful contest, your election in November would be virtually assured.
However, you are opposed, not only by the Republican Party and its candidate, but also by the Justice Department’s voter suppression efforts, the corporate media, and the voting machine industry. Thus John McCain need only gather voter support in the mid-forties, and then the DRE machines will take care of the rest. For the public to accept yet another stolen GOP victory and “Bush’s Third Term,” that victory need only seem plausible. And that is the job of the captive media.
So, despite appearances to the contrary, yours is an uphill struggle.
To win, you must gain a degree of public support that is overwhelming and irresistible – sufficiently massive that even the corporate media can not ignore it, and so huge that the ruling oligarchy dare not deny the people their chosen President and Congress.
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org). His book in progress, "Conscience of a Progressive," can be seen at www.igc.org/gadfly/progressive/^toc.htm .