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A Tellingly False Assumption

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Lately I've been posting some brief pieces about how the Democrats (as the opposition to the Bushites) should be dealing with various issues and situations.

Among the comments I've received in response to these writings, there have been quite a few that --with various degrees of impatience or scorn-- have sought to set me straight. In these comments --all of which are coming at me from the political left, and most of which would not be described as friendly-- there is embedded an assumption that warrants some scrutiny.

The assumption is that --from what I advocate the Democrats say to the nation-- it can be directly inferred what I know and what I believe. In other words, these people who want to set me straight assume that everything I understand or believe will be transparently presented in my "What the Democrats Should Say..." statements.

So if I don't raise the issue of 9/11, and the question of the truth being other than the official story, it can be assumed that I'm a total believer in the official version. And indeed any time I write as if I'm giving the Bushites the benefit of the doubt on any issue on which only a minority portion of American public opinion suspect or oppose the Bushites, these leftists seem to assume that I believe that the Bushites deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Now, at a superficial level, one reason I might bring this up is that it is annoying to me to be approached by people who assume they know what I believe when they don't, and to be beaten over the head for being a fool, or a dupe, or an uninvited co-conspirator.

But the more important level at which these comments and their accompanying assumption are worth looking at is that they indirectly provide an interesting demonstration of the cluelessness of much of the political left when it comes to thinking from a strategic perspective about this battle we're in against the proto-fascist Bushite regime.

In politics, or indeed in any form of communication in which the goal is persuasion, it is necessary to take into account how the audience will respond to one's message. That requires keeping in mind what the audience is ready to hear. It can be assumed that, with any given audience, there are many things that are true but that the audience is not ready to hear.

In particular, in the winner-take-all system of two-party politics which the American system of government sets up, if you want to win you have to craft a message that will move more people toward you than away from you. And it is quite possible to say things for which you will be punished politically because it is a truth from which there are more people who will recoil than will be attracted.

The assumption discussed above --that the message I advocate for the Democrats to deliver to the country reflects my own full understanding-- takes no account of that political reality. It never seems to enter the minds of the people writing those comments to me that I might be advocating a message that is not the WHOLE truth because the political reality of this moment makes some parts of the truth disadvantageous to declare to America.

This kind of failure to grasp, or to factor in, that political reality is something I've encountered elsewhere.

Earlier this year, in a piece entitled "Why We Lose: Fieldnotes From Leftist America' --to be found at I told about an interaction I had with a leftist group of faculty and students at a well-known college.

I was promoting the idea that, to defeat this regime, it is necessary think strategically about how to gain support from a majority of Americans. And I argued that, at this dangerous moment while the country hovers on the cusp of descent into fascism, this entails selecting those issues to put forward that can appeal to our shared American values, rather than those issues that would alienate mainstream Americans from our cause.

In that piece I wrote:

So what is needed is not to forget about the other issues but to find the optimal sequence of battles so that each victory sets the stage for the next...

Immediately, I was attacked. By saying that we need to defer addressing some issues ï in order to save the system that allows us to fight our battles in the political arena at all-I was allegedly "disrespecting" the great struggles of the oppressed. What about the plight of migrant laborers? What about the rights of gays and lesbians?

I conceded that there are indeed a great many issues that are just crying out to be addressed. In recent years, so many things have been damaged, so much ground has been lost in so many struggles for justice and wholeness. All deserving attention. But if fascism consolidates its grip on the country, I argued, then none of the values and causes dear to our hearts will be served, since history shows that fascism cares nothing about any of them.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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