Tuesday, 16 September 2008

How Not To Win At Politics (1)

1: The Kings of Wishful Thinking

There's a certain way of thinking about politics that, though in a way understandable, is unfortunately also utterly wrong.

I encountered a sterling example of what I am talking about in a discussion thread over at Boatang & Demetriou (highly recommended blog, BTW) today.

We can inform people and have them be against the EU simply by telling them the facts, because the facts are shocking enough, without having to resort to hate filled bile like the Mail pumps out on a daily basis - Kevin Boatang.

No, no, and no again. This - this belief that if only 'we' tell people our side of the story, calmly and factually, that they will be convinced and come around to 'our' way of thinking, is so far from the actual way things work that it isn't even funny.

You might call this cynicism. It's not - it's realism. And if ever I begin to feel that maybe I am being a little bit too cynical, events across the Atlantic conspire to ram home the following message:

It doesn't matter to what degree you are right and the other lot are wrong. It doesn't matter if their policies will make people poorer, less safe, and their lives more miserable than if your side were to win. None of that can help you, if your presentation is wrong. The Democrats may have been substantially the better choice on the most important issues in 2004, just as they are this time around...

...The Republicans understand this, oh so well. The GOP knew the correct approach in 2004, saw that it worked, and are successfully applying the same tactics, borne of this understanding of the reality of democratic politics, this time around too. Hence the selection of Palin despite her patent unsuitability for the role of Vice-President and her extreme right-wing views. Hence the constant barrage of half-truths and lies in Republican ads. And it's working again.

The Democrats seem not to understand this at all. Even now, nearly 3 weeks after the game-changing introduction of Palin, official Democrat ads are almost without exception dry, factual and low-key. They seem to think that "you can inform people simply by telling them the facts", and that this will result in electoral victory. Oh dear. There is another way, but it's tough to change the habits of a lifetime... So, I guess we ought to start preparing for 4 more years of the Bush doctrine, with an added element of loose cannon.

Tomorrow: Part 2 - Why we need the Daily Mail

MORE: Michael Tomasky discusses the Democrats' predicament.


Mark Wadsworth said...

To hell with The Daily Mail.

They might be right on the topic of the EU (albeit for the wrong reasons) but they are the last bastion of NIMBYs and racists and would never, ever contemplate calling for the legalisation of drugs, or a Citizen's Income-style welfare system or Land Value Tax or anything else that is dear to my heart.

QT said...

In that case, tomorrow's post is for you...

TBRRob said...

Yes presentation means a lot. It can help even the most fraudulent people gain influence.

Kevin Boatang said...


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, it's been a busy week!

Good article, and thanks for the plug, but I have to completely disagree with you.

What you accuse me of is liberalism, that is, I think this and want you to believe the same because I am right. That simply isn't what I am saying.

What I, or John for that matter, am saying is that people should be given the the facts and allowed to make their own mind up. Because I'm a libertarian. Freedom QT, freedom!

If the result is that people decide to be for the EU after being given the true facts (I'm fairly anti btw), then that is the choice of the people. The fact that you want to make people believe what you believe by using a nasty rag like the Mail to stir up racism and bigotry makes me seriously question your libertarian credentials.

It is not the Mail, the Sun or the Express we need to give us a referendum, it is a strong free press and an educated, informed public.

Hate and fear, no matter what message it carries, is never ever the way forward.

Good debate though.