Archive for August, 2016

Everyone’s A Centrist

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A dozen years ago an acquaintance pointed me to a political survey—we each thought the other was a fringe wacko and he was hoping to prove his point to me.  I’m not going to link to the quiz, which still exists, or boast about my results.  But I had some observations I wanted to share.

You’ve probably seen the quiz, it’s called the political compass and ranks you on two scales, first the eternal left vs right scale and then on a scale of authoritarian vs libertarian.  Turned out I was slightly to the right of center and slightly towards libertarian (still am in fact).  I’d come out fairly centrist.  And since many of my friends at the time were liberals, I decided to share the quiz with them.

They didn’t all take the quiz of course, but those that did reported back that they felt it was graded incorrectly because it called them much more liberal than they actually were.  That includes the person in this story, who had flat out told me he was okay with breaking the law to keep republicans out of power.  And he thinks he’s a centrist! I will note that years later I met his sister and discovered why he thinks he’s a centrist—his sister is on a whole other scale of freaky leftists.

This got me to thinking.  Everyone thinks that they are a centrist–their ideas are mainstream and temperate.  This explains, for example, different perceptions of media bias.  Suppose I am at 1 tick to the right of center.  Eric Alterman, author of “What Liberal Media”, might be at 6 to the left (he’s probably further, six is where my aforementioned friend scored).  So if the mainstream media averages out at, for example, 3 on the left, I will see them as liberal while Alterman will see them as conservative.

So if everything is relative, what good is the observation?  Consider this: the perception of extremism can be seen as a distance on the scale from where one person is to where another is.  On the scale in question there’s 21 ticks (10 right … 0 … 10 left).  Let me posit that anyone who is more than, for example, 9 ticks away from you, will seem like an extremist.

By this rule, a true centrist will almost never think of anyone as an extremist, but will be able to see extremists on both sides.  A person more to one side of the scale will never call anyone on their side an extremist but will seem to lob the word freely at a wide range of people on the other side.

In essence, people who use that word, or synonyms, to describe political opponents are simply self-identifying as extremists themselves.  All the time assuring themselves and the world that they are in fact a centrist.
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Why Trump SHOULD NOT ATTACK Clinton Every Day From Now Until November

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It’s mid-August and there’s panic in the air.  Hillary has a ridiculous political war chest and is spraying ads across Olympics coverage as well as many other television and radio shows.  People frantic for her to lose are stunned that Trump hasn’t collected more money and begun ads to respond.

Trump has shown himself a master of quick-response twitter ripostes.  He picks a moment when he feels a nudge is due, and lets fly with something like a takedown of Hillary’s “I’m With Her” slogan.  Within hours of that attack she debuted a new slogan, “She’s With Us.”  His attacks are simple, effective, and free.

The danger for Trump is in launching such attacks too often.  Remember that Hillary takes Olympic gold in jumping into the victim role.  She first unveiled this skill when Bill’s infidelities came out during his first term as President.  She sat with friendly interviewers and claimed the attacks were all untrue, part of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.”  There was no evidence, but die-hard Democrats didn’t care, they just wanted an excuse for it to be okay to continue supporting Bill.  This defense was so effective that to this day a significant portion of the Democrat base will dismiss out of hand anything said against the Clintons.  Unfortunately, most of the media outlets covering presidential politics also fall into this group.

Another medal-winning victim role event came during her run for Senate in 2000.  Her opponent was Rick Lazio, a man of superior skill but with no hope of competing against the friendly media machine at Hillary’s beck and call.  He tried an unusual maneuver, he offered to her that they pledge  to run an attack-free campaign.  He needed this offer to be public, so he laid it out during their debate.  He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and offered it to her to sign.  Now, of course she would never sign it.  But not signing it made her look bad.  So her story coming out of there was that Lazio, as an insensitive macho man, had invaded her personal space and intimidated her.  Have you seen Rick Lazio?  Macho and intimidating he is not.  But Hillary’s protectors ran with the meme and discredited him. It’s always like this.  A short period when Hillary is knocked back on her heels followed by a deflective manuever from herself or a protector posing her as the victim of an unfair, completely misconstrued, personal attack.  If you’re lucky, there’s a day or two in between.

There are about 90 days until election day.  Imagine this attack and defense cycle repeating every 2 days!  There’s certainly enough material to launch a different attack 45 times, but by the end, the electorate will be numbed by the negativity.

Trump needs to inflame distrust of Hillary without the turnout-reduction that usually follows negative attacks.  He will do better to lunch a handful of multi-pronged attacks on Hillary spaced out over the 90 day window.  The attacks need to embroil her media accomplices and embarrass them into covering some of the real content of each attack. If he does it well, and he is certainly capable, each attack will peel away a few percent of her voters and shift another few percent into a nervous uncertainty, making them the group to peel away in the next attack.

I know: Trump isn’t going to do what any of us are eagerly telling him to do.  He’s going to do it his way.  And if the primaries are any indication, his way is very effective.