Four More Years (of Fail)

by Sonny Bunch on November 7, 2012

So, the election. That was a fun 15 months or so.

I wrote a kind of long, extremely overwrought* post last night that will likely never see the light of day. I canned it for a variety of reasons. I would like to relay just one small anecdote, though. (Update below.)

After 2008 was in the bag for Obama, I remember being annoyed and disappointed—but also a little hopeful, encouraged. It got a little dusty in my apartment, thinking about the progress we as a country had made. Electing a black president was no small thing, even if I felt he was woefully unqualified and unprepared to deal with what was to come. I didn’t agree with the man, but I did think there would be some effort to work with the other side, to solve some of the very real problems we faced and continue to face.

I was, obviously, wrong. Totally, utterly wrong.

After four years of prevarications, four years of bad-faith accusations of racism, four years of debt, four years of refusing to confront our enemies, four years of narcissism, four years of blinding partisanship, four years of relentless BS from the media**, four years of misplaced priorities, four years of woeful economic performance, four years of Barack Obama, I feel not hope or pride of progress or a sense that we’re all in this together. I feel something much closer to despair.

Oh well. Four more years of fail. Should be fun.

One final note, to Republicans: Just remember, whichever pet issue you have that the base disagrees with, that’s the one we need to change in order to ensure success going forward. So, you know, argue extremely loudly, preferably on Twitter, about it for the next few weeks.

*How overwrought? Well, it relied heavily on a metaphor involving Lord of the Rings, the elves “going west,” and diminishment of a once great nation of people. So “pretty-to-very overwrought.” Update: Roughly as overwrought as Kyle Smith’s take:

I do not think Americans fully educated by the media on the pros and cons would have voted to turn into declinist Britain (where even working class people pay 40 percent income tax and where everything costs double what it does here, except gasoline which costs triple). But they have chosen to allow themselves to be fooled by irrelevant chatter about caring or birth control or the DREAM act or gay marriage or “investing in our children” or whatever shibboleths were necessary to cover up the fact that we’re taking in $2.5 trillion while spending $3.9 trillion, with millions of Baby Boomers set to retire and all forms of entitlement spending set to skyrocket. The president has said repeatedly that middle class taxes won’t have to go up to pay for all this government, but even at the level of government we have today, this is a gigantic lie. And today’s government is tiny compared to what it’ll be in a decade.

There is no good news. Yesterday was a dark day in American history. As dark as I’ve ever seen.

**I’ve never been a “the media is biased, zomg sort of guy.” But Jebus has this cycle radicalized me. Imagine the coverage John McCain would have had to contend with if he had run for reelection after funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to donors investing in dodgy energy projects, 8 percent unemployment, a dead ambassador, and a drowning and freezing hurricane-ravaged New York City that his federal agencies were totally failing to help. It would not have been pretty.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

buster November 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I too used to sniff at the liberal media complaint as being like complaining about the weather, but this election has got me thinking about a unique challenge US Forces face from an information operations perspective when operating in foreign countries, and how that situation might inform the GOP/Conservative movement. Put simply, the right is operating in an asymmetric information environment just as unfriendly as that of Iraq or North/West Africa. In those regions, US messaging is almost entirely pushed out through what you might call paid media and secondary or tertiary conduits. Even as we play it pretty straight in our attributed/partner attributed messaging, we do not have the credibility to counter the much more trusted/ embedded communicators utilized by the local nationals and our enemies. So, despite the US spending tremendous amounts on foreign aid and on public communications, significant chunks of Muslim Africa is convinced that the US oppresses its Muslim population. Likewise, US messaging in Iraq was considered with substantial skepticism as just propaganda, regardless of its presentation or veracity or intended effect. In contrast, the local JAM affiliated mosque or local rumor monger was always a trusted source, regardless of the amount of unreliable BS they pushed out.

When people used to complain that we were losing the information war in the 2000′s, what that meant in practical terms was that we were spending obscene amounts of money to develop and push our messages through our conduits, only to have it be effectively countered on the cheap by a targeted intimidation act, or a key communicator’s face to face messaging.

This isn’t a ‘blame the liberal media’ rant, although that’s certainly a factor. Instead, it’s an observation that you can’t win the inform/influence fight if your only conduits are paid advertising and friendly niche media. You need the ‘earned’ media that comes from trusted conduits to the target audience accurately/effectively making or restating your argument. There’s simply no argument that we can make to win over youth voters if their vote is presented to them as a cultural posture that may put them on the same side as the Foo Fighters. We can’t win over Latinos and HS graduates if any immigration reform plan short of amnesty is described as racist, or any tax reform reporting focuses on how the rich will benefit from it.

When the opposition can make the argument that “opposing government mandated purchase of products by third parties = denying access to contraception”, or “unrelated Senate candidates’ comments on abortion = GOP is pro-rape”, it’s almost a moot point whether the problem is with the candidate, the policy, or “messaging”. To further over-extend my Iraq analogy, it doesn’t matter how compelling your proposed product is written in English, it’s how it winds up getting translated by the ‘terp that ultimately determines what you said.

That said, there aren’t a lot of good solutions. In Iraq, it took a critical mass of verifiable observations, insurgent excesses, and the develop of credible relationships with key communicators in the real power structures to actually change perceptions in parts of the country, and even that was not long-lasting or particularly deep. For the GOP, we can’t continue to allow every institution (with the exception of the sub-G.O. level armed forces) to be controlled by the left. The current program of building alternative conduits like think tanks, web blogs, and Breitbart-backed indie films has obviously hit its ceiling. Were I a development officer at the constellation of non-profits working on our side, I would be spending today wondering how I justify asking for more money after the results of the past 24-hrs.

Not sure if the answer is a more results-oriented grass roots populism, or maybe working a bunch of sleepers into seizing generational control of at least one or two media entities. Maybe somebody can figure out how to translate the Sons of Iraq program into a college club.

P.S. We also need to ID and protect our assets before they are identified and destroyed by the left – Sarah Palin and Fox News are two good examples of valuable key communicators damaged by concerted campaigns to deny us legitimate channels to the electorate.

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