Thursday, March 01, 2012

What Progressives Can Learn From Andrew Breitbart

BY MARC McDONALD

Normally, when someone passes away, everyone tries to think of something kind to say about them. But I can't do that with Andrew Breitbart. I absolutely despised him while he was alive. And his death doesn't change my feelings one bit.

However, I do think that we progressives can learn a thing or two from Breitbart.

By that, I don't mean resorting to using dirty tactics and twisting the facts around to attack opponents, as Breitbart did. No, what I'm talking about is learning a thing or two from his hard-core, take-no-prisoners attacking style to get what we want.

Democrats (and progressives in general) are just too goddamn timid and polite these days. We let Conservatives steamroll right over us again and again. On the other hand, Cons know exactly what they want and they'll do whatever it takes to win. And that is why they've pretty much gotten everything they've wanted for the past three decades.

Breitbart nearly always got what he wanted. It didn't matter if his tactics were questionable or slimy. They got the job done. A good example was when he posted video of Shirley Sherrod that made it appear that she'd made racist remarks. (Of course, she'd done no such thing, as was clear when the full video was released). But Breitbart still "won" in the end. After all, Sherrod was forced to resign, apparently with the White House's approval.

The Sherrod case involved a despicable tactic by Breitbart that summed up his approach to politics: attack, attack, attack---and worry about the facts later, if at all.

Once again, I'm not suggesting we progressives copy this sort of slimy technique. But we do need some of the fire and conviction that Breitbart had in spades.

We need to fight tooth and claw for what we want, instead of timidly sitting around letting the GOP steamroll over us again and again.

Take the 2000 election, for example. The GOP fought ferociously on behalf of George W. Bush, even to the point of bringing in a rent-a-mob to bang on doors and intimidate Florida election officials. Meanwhile, the Gore team sat around politely, waiting for the phone to ring.

Yes, what the GOP did was despicable and it dealt a severe setback to democracy in America. But I get the feeling they didn't lose one second's worth of sleep over their sleazy tactics. And what's more, their guy got into the White House, despite losing the popular vote by 539,000 votes. In the end, they got everything they wanted: their war for oil, their tax breaks for the rich, and their billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for Halliburton.

Modern day politics is like a back alley switchblade fight. The GOP has known this for the past 30 years. And so they always come equipped with a switchblade, and whatever else they need to win the fight.

Meanwhile, the Dems have a bizarre fixation on using a polite, timid approach to politics. Unlike the GOP, they fail to grasp that the game has changed and that sometimes, you've got to use brute force and have a willingness to fight fire with fire.

After all, simply having the facts on his side didn't help John Kerry in 2004. On the other hand, the Swift Boat Liars' willingness to lie and use vicious, sleazy attacks sank Kerry's presidential bid.

The worst part of it was that, unlike the GOP, Kerry didn't need to lie. But he did need to use brute force (and a very loud megaphone) to get the truth out. He needed to get into the liars' faces and scream at the top of his voice that they were lying. In the end, his timid, polite approach failed. He failed to realize that, in modern day politics, politeness and being a gentleman and even having the truth on your side often isn't enough to win elections.

It's a lesson that the Dems have yet to grasp. In modern politics, if you want to win, you've got to have the fire, the hunger, and determination of people like Breitbart. Unlike Breitbart, you don't need to lie---but you do need to learn to bring a switchblade to a street fight.

6 comments:

Suzan said...

Or a gun to a knife fight.

But I've been saying it myself for decades too (and nobody is paying any attention to us).

And you don't have to use the gun. But it is good to have an overwhelming piece to play in your arsenal.

And it's not the begging for them to quit acting like thugs one.

Love you,

S

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Suzan, thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

LarryE said...

:sigh: As I expect you know, I am another who has been saying this for years. Hell, decades.

There's a related point which I've also long argued, most recently on last week's edition of my local access cable show "Left Side of the Aisle" which I believe you have seen at least once.

[T]his is how reactionary ideas get mainstreamed: Some flake like Rick IShouldBeInASanitarium spouts off and just keeps spouting off until what he's saying just doesn't sound so weird anymore, if only because it's familiar. After a while, some not-quite-as-flaky wingnuts pick up on the ideas and amplify them and eventually instead of being dismissed as they deserve, they wind up getting treated as legitimate positions deserving of reasoned discussion. ...

[T]his is how it works - this is how it's done. This is how right-wing ideas move from the margin to the center, from mocked to mainstream, from spooky to serious, from ridiculed to reasonable. ...

[I]t happens because the right wing has the confidence and the patience to say what it really means, what it really wants, for the sake of long-term victory. This is why I don't think Rick IShouldBeInASanitarium actually thinks he can win the presidency. Maybe he dreams of it, I'm sure he does, but I doubt he honestly believes he can win - he may be a flake but he's not a dope: He can read the numbers.

The thing is, he's not thinking 2012. He's thinking 2016. He's thinking 2020. He's thinking about how he can move the debate while what passes for most of the left in this country can't seem to think past the inaugural parade in January 2013. The fact is, the right wing thinks strategically, something at which we have failed miserably - and we ignore that reality at our peril.

No, we don't have to lie - but we do need to engage in aggressive, intellectually-fearless advocacy for what we really want.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi LarryE, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>The thing is, he's not thinking
>>2012. He's thinking 2016. He's
>>thinking 2020. He's thinking >>about how he can move the debate
>>while what passes for most of
>>the left in this country can't
>>seem to think past the inaugural
>>parade in January 2013

Good point. And speaking of the inaugural parade, Bill Maher has made some very scary assessments about the upcoming election, pointing out that (despite the Left's confidence), the Dems could very well lose. I recall the 2004 race. If you'd told me that Bush would be "re-elected" I wouldn't have believed it. I still remember how absolutely stunned I was when Bush got another 4 years. It took me several days just to recover from my initial shock.

john said...

Sometimes, campaigns make a big mistake by thinking they are sending the right message with their campaign slogan, but actually sending an intended and harmful message doesnt work it will only destroy your image. but i agree with you that, if you want to win, you've got to have the fire, the hunger, and determination of people.

john said...

Sometimes, campaigns make a big mistake by thinking they are sending the right message with their campaign slogan, but actually sending an unintended and harmful message it will only destroy your image but I agree, that to be able to
win the election. You've got to have the fire, the hunger, and determination of people