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Hard Lessons from Election 2010

By       Message Robert Parry       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   12 comments

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From Consortium News

Election 2010 was a victory for corporatist Republicans even more so than Tea Party radicals, a stunning resurgence for the Establishment GOP that says as much about weaknesses among Democrats and the Left as it does about strengths on the Right.

Indeed, one lesson from Nov. 2 is that the Democrats and the Left seem to have learned few lessons from the last time a Democrat was in the White House. There is a stark parallel between Bill Clinton's pummeling in Election 1994 and Barack Obama's "shellacking" in Election 2010.

However, there are tactical, strategic and systemic lessons that still can be gleaned from the two humiliating Democratic defeats, each coming after only two years of rare Democratic control of Congress and the White House.

First, both Republican comebacks began from their media power, whether the anti-Clinton tirades of talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh or Fox News' Glenn Beck stirring up suspicions and hate toward Obama. Media power is now the ballast that keeps the Right's man-o'-war sailing through occasionally rough seas.

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The Right's media clout through well-funded talk radio, Fox News, Web sites, newspapers, magazines, books and every other communications system known to mankind has enabled the Republicans to deploy what intelligence operatives call "agit-propaganda," stirring controversies that rile up the public.

Not even gifted political speakers, whether the savvy Bill Clinton or the eloquent Barack Obama stand a chance against the angry cacophony that the Right can orchestrate.

One week, the Right's theme can be "Obamacare's death panels"; another week, it's "the "Ground Zero Mosque." The Democrats are left scrambling to respond and their responses, in turn, become fodder for critical commentary, as too wimpy or too defensive or too something.

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The mainstream media and the progressives often join in this criticism, wondering why Obama let himself get blind-sided or why he wasn't tougher or why he can't control the message. For the Right and the Republicans, it's a win-win-win, as the right-wing base is energized, more public doubts are raised about the President, and he is further diminished by all the caviling.

In this way, even though right-wing policies dating back three decades to the Reagan administration have worsened the lives of middle- and working-class Americans, millions of these average folks especially white men rally to support the policies that are ruining them.

While Obama, like Clinton before him, has made his share of unforced errors, the problem is much bigger than any individual politician. It is surely not enough for progressives to simply complain that the Democrats need to be more aggressive in defending their actions or explaining their plans.

The Left must recognize that it faces a structural media deficit that leaves even the most effective political speakers stammering against all the fiery accusations that can be whipped up by the Right.

So, perhaps the most important realization for progressives to gain from Election 2010 is how weak their voice is inside a national echo chamber dominated by thousands of loud voices from the Right.

And the Right makes its case to the American people day-in, day out, year-in, year-out, not just during the campaign season (though it spends heavily on that, too).

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The Olbermann Case

The Left's primary media outlet is now the evening programming at MSNBC, which is currently owned by General Electric, a major defense contractor, and which will soon be transferred to Comcast that like GE has other corporate priorities in Washington that Republicans can either aid or obstruct.

The recent suspension and humiliation of MSNBC's biggest star, Keith Olbermann, for making three personal donations to Democratic candidates without first getting corporate approval, indicates the true pecking order within NBC and GE.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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