CAMPAIGN 2004: IT'S ABOUT AUDACITY, STUPID
In the age of shock jocks, Superbowl strippers, homosexual "marriages," and feces-covered "art" works, it's conservative campaigners who just don't get it. Scared to death of committing political suicide by saying anything "controversial," conservative politicians continue to serve as foils for the counterculture left, especially on social issues. The strategy of keeping disquieting principles to ourselves while upholding the legitimacy of our adversaries' hare-brained ideas has succeeded neither in building bridges of commonality, nor has it earned the respect of the opposition. In fact, in the latest round of Democrats' attack ads have President George W. Bush likened to Adolf Hitler.
Faced with a make-or-break necessity to keep hold of Congress and the Executive Branch, if we are to have the slightest hope of keeping our liberties, our national sovereignty or our Constitution intact over the next decade, conservatives (not to mention neo-conservatives) are Desperately Seeking Charisma. We rehash familiar, uninspiring, themes about lower taxes and smaller government, which nobody really believes anyway, and fail utterly to energize either the Party faithful or that large swath of Americans who are fed up with business-as-usual. The closest the current administration has gotten to spirited rhetoric is when Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association a terrorist organization, a charge that, lately, even some teachers can relate to. Of course, Mr. Paige quickly apologized and "wimped out." I suspect that if former President Reagan were still in the White House, he'd have said "if the shoe fits, wear it!"
This isn't to say that lower taxes and limited government are not worthy goals. It is simply that, well, who are we kidding, after all? Taxes overall are going to increase and so is the size of government, period. Oh, one might manage a two- or four-year moratorium or sorts, or a small reduction - call it a rebate or refund or whatever you will - but the next administration, regardless of Party, is going to raise taxes again. They will be raised enough to make up for whatever was "lost" during the period of supposedly lower taxes. State and/or sales taxes will rise proportionately. So, of course, people will spend their refund check, because they know that in the end they will be paying more taxes, one way or another.
The same concept applies to "smaller government." Government has no real interest in limiting itself over the long term. Recognizing that, no doubt, former President Reagan put the matter a little differently when he used the campaign slogan "getting government off your back."
However, since the Reagan Administration, Americans have grown accustomed to an ever-shrinking measure of self-determination. We expect more government intrusion. You can't take a walk, drive down the street, go out for dinner, or mail a package without worrying about violating some asinine government directive. If you take Fido for a walk in the woods, well grab your baggie and watch Fido closely in the briar patch so you can spend the afternoon stomping through the undergrowth for "deposits" - and carrying around - manure. Environmentalists, you see, have succeeded in getting laws passed that preclude placing something so convenient as a trashcan in a wooded park, much less allowing Fido to do his business in peace.
If you go for a drive, watch for that small, half-mile stretch where the speed limit is artificially low with little traffic. That will be where the cops stand with their radar guns for no purpose other than raising revenue. If you go out for dinner, don't even think about smoking - and maybe not eating your favorite meal, either. The government has deemed it bad for you.
Mail an oversized envelope (12 ounces-plus) only if you want to stand in a long line at the post office, so that officials there can do what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The same procedures would apply had you taken the package to the neighborhood mailbox - except that, now, anything over 12 ounces is deemed "safer" from terrorism if you have to stand in a line. Uh, huh.
As long as the counterculture left has control over some 85 percent of the major media, the schools and universities, the courts, and even most religious institutions, the attitudes of people who roll their eyes at all this harassment (possibly a majority of citizens) will continue to be filtered out.
Ever think there's got to be a better way to send a message and enervate the electorate? Well, maybe there is�.
Like it or not, it's primarily the Baby Boomers who are in charge today. The Boomer generation grew up with a mind-set that said, essentially: "If you want me to get off my comfortable duff, then say something that grabs me; tell me something I don't already know; knock my socks off." You�ve heard the expression "Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way." That could well be the motto for the Boomer generation of voters.
This attitude, of course, has its down side. One is that the largest faction of voting adults today tends not to dig too deeply into the issues but, rather, settles for a much-abridged, superficial, and half-baked analysis of them. They also expect candidates for public office to look and sound like movie stars - thanks in part to the pervasiveness of television and to the frivolousness of student body elections since the days of their ill-spent youth. The time earlier generations took analyzing the written and spoken word and comparing erudite arguments has for some 40 years now been consumed in front of the television and/or "relating," whatever that is.
But there's a practical "up side" to the Boomers' "knock my socks off" temperament, too. A candidate or public official who dares to be audacious, to step out of the comfort zone and confront what are clearly outrageous attacks with spunk and boldness, gets more respect from Boomers than he or she would have from earlier generations, who tended to play by the rules. That's one reason Rush Limbaugh has done so well; even his enemies listen to him. Boomers have no patience with a "Company of Cowards," as per the title from a 60s hit song by the New Christy Minstrels; no place for the "stupid Party."
Boomers are the kind of folks who put Rudolph Giuliani, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwartzenegger into their respective Governor's mansions (whether everyone fully agreed with all their positions or not). It was they who leaned toward Ross Perot's presidential bid - at least until he self-destructed (basically, by backing off from his own candidacy).
With this in mind, we need some new thinking when confronted with hot-button issues. Why should the counterculture left be always allowed to define the terms of engagement? Why is it that whenever the Lefties launch some disgraceful and offensive diktat - such as the lawsuit to expel the Boy Scouts from public parklands over their refusal to permit homosexual troupe leaders - they are able to enshrine it in notions about "bigotry"? Yet, when we conservatives seek to avoid placing young boys in harm's way, for some reason we don't dare to holler "child abuse" in response.
The way I see it, we could well be having some fun at our opposition's expense whenever it pulls a whopper. What we need is a new breed of strategists - say, a "Conservative Response Team" (or CRT) - that is not afraid to respond to the reckless ideologues and lawmakers of the left, or to their special interest groups and benefactors, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which regularly grabs the headlines in their quest to turn society upside down. To wit:
Scenario One: A federal judge in Cleveland declares school vouchers unconstitutional.
Immediately, our newly constituted national Conservative Response Team swings into action. Instead of debating "school choice," which the liberal press will bat away like a mosquito, the CRT contacts its field office in Ohio. The Ohio CRT hires a security service to escort as many minority children as possible whose parents signed up for the voucher program, to take part in a "freedom of choice" demonstration. Simultaneously, a call goes out from the national CRT headquarters to its grassroots contingent of volunteers, who rush in from all over the country (remember last summer's turnout of student anarchists at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle?) to protest the no-voucher decision. Placards should include the vintage 1950s Norman Rockwell painting of the pretty little African-American girl in the white dress being escorted to a then-newly integrated school by police. In lieu of the Rockwell caption is the message, in lettering large enough to be picked up by television crews: "JUDGE DENIES POOR CHILDREN A BETTER EDUCATION." The same message, with picture, is erected on billboards, placed in newspaper ads, and slapped on everything that stands still.
Here's what will happen: The Rockwell family will sue for copyright infringement. Leftist pundits will call it "exploitation of minorities." The ACLU and the National Education Association will intimidate newspapers and city officials into not accepting the advertisements despite the CRT's willingness to pay. The leftists may even send their own protesters out to provoke a confrontation that they can then blame on our demonstrators.
So, okay, let all that happen. Our CRT's legal arm will level censorship suits at the officials who refuse to run its ads. Demonstrators will be armed only with cameras, to take pictures of any provocateurs from the other side. The CRT will pay the fine for copyright infringement and say, "Thank you very much."
Why "thank you"? Because it's a good buy. The left is now no longer the only side with chutzpah. Our side gets more bang for the buck exposing the inflexibility and dogmatism of liberal judges and special interests than it does trying to debate "educational choice" or vouchers in a liberal medium. Our side will have positioned itself as "protector of the poor" and "pro free speech" while the counterculture left is busy running around in all directions. Can anyone imagine the press not covering such an outrageous demonstration?
But, you say: Doesn't our one-sentence caption - "JUDGE DENIES POOR CHILDREN A BETTER EDUCATION" - oversimplify the issue? Of course it does. Exactly when has that ever mattered when the Lefties do it? Is anyone going to listen any harder because we qualify the terms on a poster? Save it for the talk shows we will get on after we�ve succeeded in getting everybody's attention.
Scenario 2: A school district announces a mandatory sensitivity training program to "promote understanding and acceptance" of the homosexual lifestyle, with a view to producing a smooth transition toward integrating open homosexuality into all aspects of the school experience. Some state governments follow their lead by announcing their intention to introduce such a program for all state employees.
Immediately, the public affairs arm of our CRT issues a press release to commend the officials on their courage in making such a tough call on a hot-button issue. The public affairs spokesperson follows that announcement with a publicized laundry list of units to be incorporated into the proposed training course - in the interest of balance and mutual understanding, of course. Such as:
Naturally, the homosexual lobby will have a hissy fit and refuse to incorporate any of the proposed units into the program, insisting that everyone already knows the "against" side.
Our CRT unit should counter dubbing the opposition "reactionary" - for attempting to return to the bad old days when young women got married and had no idea what to expect on their wedding night, and young girls thought something was wrong with them when they menstruated. The CRT should argue that many people, in fact, don't have any idea what homosexuals do - which is true. The counterculture left will argue that this is being corrected in sex education classes, which allows us to bring up the issue of age-appropriateness.
What have we done here? We have framed the debate. No longer is the argument about acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. It is about health issues, balance, and societal collapse. It is a strategy that is pro-active, not reactive.
Scenario 3: A publicly funded museum exhibits a painting showing a dung-covered (among other things) Mary, Mother of Jesus, eliciting howls of indignation from Christians (as happened in Brooklyn in 2000).
The local chapter of our CRT decides to take a "pragmatic" approach based on the prevailing interpretation of free speech by the counterculture left. The local CRT calls a press conference, reasonably insisting that there is NO REASON to abridge the free speech of "artists" who wish to throw manure on the Madonna, as long as equal amounts of feces are showered on the likeness of Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, the Dalai Lama, the Star of David and so forth. The CRT announces that it will commission artists to produce these "innovative" masterpieces.
Of course, such an announcement causes a firestorm. Anticipating this, the national CRT calls on its nationwide "demonstrator bank" to converge on the city museum in question - not to protest the blasphemous rendering of the Virgin Mary, but to defend everybody�s right to leave manure-covered "art works" at the museum. Being fair, taxpayers would not be asked to foot the bill for this manure-fest. Instead, the CRT initiates a lawsuit on behalf of every religious bloc in the city aimed at reimbursing them for their share of the monies used to create these atrocities - call it a tax rebate, of sorts. Make a big deal out of calculating the amount - say 1.4 cents per person to Jews, Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, etc.
Ridiculous? Of course it is. But was the original exhibition that launched the debate any less absurd? Does anyone imagine that such a bizarre controversy will not be covered by the media? Again, the money for any publicity, lawsuits, and fallout will be well-spent, because our side has re-framed the debate for the American people. No longer is this about "free speech." Now the controversy is about how far taxpayers must go to accommodate atheists and anarchists.
Scenario 4: The Massachusetts high court rewrites its constitution to redefine marriage and demonstrates contempt for the legislative branch; public officials in Massachusetts, Oregon, and California legitimize homosexual �marriage.�
Our national CRT swings into action, locating officials in various cities who will provide marriage licenses to dogs, cows, and even vegetables. Serious-sounding, tear-jerker billboards, posters, and advertisements appear in the target cities, complete with photographs, "exposing" the heart-wrenching stories of German Shepherds and Dachshunds, bulls and cows, and tomatoes and carrots denied the right to marry.
Every gay activist organization in America (and worldwide) can be expected to have apoplexy. That is why the scriptwriting and cartoons for full-page ads and billboards must be gut-busting hilarious. Hire only the best - and sue the socks off any entity that refuses to run your ads if they are running those of the opposition.
Scenario 5: Jane Fonda is honored as one of the "100 Women of the Century."
The CRT immediately calls for Phyllis Schlafly to be so honored. Millions of signatures should - and would - be garnered for such an award, given the fact that Mrs. Schlafly has accomplished far more in her lifetime than Jane Fonda, politics aside. She has raised a large family, earned her J.D., been a columnist, author and headed a successful, huge organization, Eagle Forum. She has served as a commissioner of a Presidential Commission, hosted a successful radio program - all while retaining her femininity and dignity. If Jane Fonda is considered for such an honor while Phyllis Schlafly, with many more credits to her name, is not - especially if taxpayer funds are involved - a lawsuit should be filed charging political bigotry, coupled to large demonstrations. Signs, carried by women of course, should read: "Fonda - Radical Leftist of the Century" and "Jane Fonda Makes Me Ashamed to Be a Woman."
And so on for the proposed "National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers," the Supreme Court's recent disallowance of theology scholarships on Establishment Clause grounds, et cetera. We must frame the debate on our terms!
The counterculture left has been wrong about almost everything in the last 40 years - welfare, global warming, sex education in the schools, you-name-it. Now it has its sites on banishing religion, private property, and home-schoolers. The Lefties have been masters at controlling the psychological environment - telling us, in effect, what we shall think about and for how long.
It's time to think "outside
the box." Way outside� The beatings will continue till
our strategy improves.
� 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved
Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking
since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning
of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive
Director, National Education Consortium. Website: BeverlyE.com
"If you go for a drive, watch for that small, half-mile stretch where the speed limit is artificially low with little traffic. That will be where the cops stand with their radar guns for no purpose other than raising revenue."