I guess you’ve all been anxiously waiting for the rant that I was coming up with after the debacle that was the US Election. Whilst I would have every right to go into an anti-Bush Co Ltd Pty Ltd rant, or call “shenanigans”, or ask for a recount, or go into a serious, indepth analysis, I think what I need to do at this point right now is offer the Democrats some advice.
I have been observing the behaviour of both Republicans and Democrats (as well as Liberals and Labor) for well over 8 years, and in this time have been privvy to several thousand political debates, on subjects ranging from abortion to zionism, racism to economic rationalism and everything in between. I used to think that people could resolve their disputes using rational debate, citing statistics, using deductive reasoning, and generally backing up your ideas with research or fact. Oh, what a naive person I was, for I have now realised why the Democrats, or Labor in Australia, cannot seem to win.
It has nothing to do with interest rates, the war on terror, forestry policy, education, health, taxation, unemployment, faulty ballots, electronic ballots, paper ballots, numbering above the line, below the line, in Ohio or New York, country or city, terrorist or evangelical. None of that matters for left wingers. And that is the fatal mistake we all make when attempting to beat the right. It has absolutely nothing to to with any of it.
You want to know why left wingers lose?
We’re too complicated. And in a culture that wants instant results, with explosions, cheese in a can and spray on hair, if you can’t get it instantly, its not worth the effort.
In the land of the right winger, everything is simple. It comes packaged in two colours, its on the middle shelf, and its just 3 minutes in the microwave and they’re done: Good v evil, sinners v saints, god v devil, black v white, for us or against us, Coalition of the Willing v French, republicans v communists… and the list goes on. In lefty land, we all know that the world is much more complex than this. We know that what constitutes “good” and “evil” is determined by who is in charge at the time. We believe that world politics is more complex than simply “for us or against us”. When someone asks us a question “where do you stand on the issue of abortion?”, they want to know whether you’re FOR or AGAINST. They don’t want 15 minutes devoted to the constitutional right to privacy, nor the potential implications for women’s rights. Nobody wants food that is grey, particularly several shades of grey, puce, and brown. They don’t want products that are hard to prepare, fiddly and complicated.
And this is the root of our problem. We can’t get the message across to people who want to know things instantly.
The Republicans were brilliant at this in the campaign, coining nice little rhythmic phrases like “flip flopper”. Catchy, ain’t it? And it put Kerry on the back foot instantly. Akin to the “Four legs good, two legs bad” mantra we’re all familiar with from Orwell, the rhythmic name calling, something that Republicans are really good at, swept the nation. Whether it was true or not, whether George Bush lied to the American people, a phrase, packaged as perfectly as a Top 40 album or a pack of cigarettes for the masses to consume…
And all of a sudden, Kerry, with his symphony, with layers of different instruments, was defending himself against the political equivalent of a pop song.
And this, my friends, is what happened. The left somehow needs to find a way to bring its complexity into the modern world of rhetoric and PR campaigns. We need to engage in rhythmic chanting to avoid debate. We need to repeat it on every radio station, tv channel and on the internet in order to get those toes tapping. We need to resist the temptation to get into serious discourse, explainng the complexity of an argument. Instead, we need to start saying the words “liar liar”, or sing the “Enron-ron-ron the Enron-ron”. We need to somehow make everyone believe that if you aren’t a leftie, you are evil, and if you’re anything right of centre, youre a fascist. We need to play the right winger’s game, and speak crap as though its the truth. We need to start fighting dirty.