Frank Luntz Bingo

Conservatives have been fighting health care reform by using the same technitues they typically use to fight the modern world–misinformation and propaganda. I’ve recently discussed how they are once again using Frank Luntz to pick the right words to use in their scare tactics. Media Matters has responded with Frank Luntz Bingo. When you hear five of their buzz words along one row, you win.

Frank Luntz On Distorting Health Care Reform

Frank Luntz has warned Republicans that health care is popular and they should not oppose it. Mike Allen reports:

“You simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of REFORM,” Luntz advises in a confidential 26-page report obtained from Capitol Hill Republicans. “The status quo is no longer acceptable. If the dynamic becomes ‘President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it,’ then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless.

“Republicans must be for the right kind of reform that protects the quality of healthcare for all Americans. And you must establish your support of reform early in your presentation.”

Don’t get your hopes up that Luntz is actually advising Republicans to support meaningful health care reform. He is only saying they should embrace “the right kind of reform” as a preface to attacking health care reform. Luntz proceeds to provide a long list of every dishonest Republican talking point about health reform such as that it would be a “government takeover of healthcare.”

Frank Luntz is an expert at choosing words to influence people. He doesn’t care if the words are honest as long as he thinks they will be effective. I’m sure his distortions will sound convincing to many in the 21 percent who still back the GOP. On the other hand scare stories about bureaucrats making medical decisions won’t fool anyone who has had treatment denied by insurance company bean counters based upon profit as opposed to health care considerations. His scare stories about long waiting times won’t fool those who have no health care coverage at all. His insincere claims of concern for the ability of doctors to make health care decisions look especially foolish when so many doctors are backing health care reform, realizing that the current system is collapsing and the Republicans offer no meaningful alternatives.

Education and Party Identity

I have pointed out several times since the 2008 election, such as here, that the move by educated (and affluent) voters to the Democratic Party was a major reason why Barack Obama won. During 2008 both Hillary Clinton and John McCain embraced anti-intellectualism and went down to defeat as their charges of elitism failed to take hold. A majority of educated voters agreed with Jon Stewart that elitism in government leaders is good, and understood when he said, “not only do I want an elite president, but I want someone who is embarrassingly superior to me.”

The Cook Political Report has found that education has become the most significant predictor of party identity. The actual report is available only to subscribers but Taegan Goddard has a summary:

The Cook Political Report mines voting and census data and finds that “in the past decade, the most significant predictor of a county’s shift in partisan preference has not been existing partisanship, or even income. It is level of educational attainment. Democrats have gained ground in places where those with at least a bachelor’s degree comprise high shares of the electorate, and have seen their fortunes fade elsewhere.”

The trend line in the nation’s 3114 counties: “Each year, the Democratic candidate performed progressively better as shares of degree-holders rose.”

It  should come as no surprise that most educated voters have moved towards the Democratic Party considering the increasing anti-intellectualism in the GOP. As Republicans  lost the battle of ideas, they lost the support of educated voters.

Contrary to the common stereotype, most educated voters would not prefer to have a beer with George Bush, and even if they did have learned better than to actually vote for someone like him. This also means that Republicans are committing suicide if they should nominate Sarah Palin.

Most educated voters are also repelled by the hatred and ignorance which spew from people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Couluter.

Most educated voters will not vote for a political party which contains members who believe in creationism, and is not willing to laugh any and all creationists out of the party. Anyone who believes in creationism is not capable of reaching a rational decision in the 21st century, period.

Most educated voters might wish that global warming wasn’t true, but deep down are smart enough to know that just because you wish it doesn’t mean you can ignore virtually every scientist in the field. Pretending that a handful of weathermen who dissent from the scientific consensus are qualified climatologists doesn’t make the Republicans look any smarter.

Most educated people have become wary of anyone who claims the Iraq war was justified, especially if they believe that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 or that we were really threatened by WMD. Using made up words like Islamo-Fascism doesn’t help Republicans with educated voters either. (Even Frank Luntz realizes this.)

Most educated voters have figured out that Fox News is neither fair nor balanced, and that those who claim that every outlet of the mainstream media shows liberal bias are themselves a bit unbalanced.

The Republicans have degenerated into a party lacking in ideas which substitutes McCarthyist attacks for rational political debate. This worked for a brief time, aided by fear of terrorism after 9/11, but is not enough to sustain a political party which has repeatedly shown itself incapable of governing.

Frank Luntz Predicts Obama Victory Based on Polls

“I cannot foresee a scenario that John McCain is elected president of the United States.”

–Republican Pollster Frank Luntz on The BBC

The polls still are not showing any meaningful narrowing in the polls. Luntz sees some narrowing in the firm red and blue states, possibly decreasing the popular vote lead for Obama, but Obama continues to have strong leads in many battleground states.

In today’s Gallup tracking poll, Obama leads by eleven points among all registered voters, eight points in the traditional model (which excludes new voters), and by nine points in the expanded model for likely voters. Pew Research shows Obama leading 52 percent to 46 percent among likely voters, with an eleven point lead among all registered voters. CNN/Opinion Research shows Obama leading 53 percent to 46 percent. Reuters/CSpan/Zogby has Obama leading 50 percent to 44 percent.

Back in 2004, when George Bush had a small lead over John Kerry going into election day, many of the liberal blogs were predicting a Kerry victory by arguing that no incumbent president has been elected when they went into election day with under 50 percent in the polls. They believed that the undecided vote would go more heavily to Kerry and he would win.

This year John McCain’s supporters have predicted both that the polls would narrow and that the undecided vote would go to McCain. We are not seeing meaningful narrowing in the polls, and it is questionable how the undecided voters will break.

McCain supporters speculate that some white voters who are unwilling to vote for a black candidate are telling pollsters that they are undecided when they really plan to vote for McCain. Others discount the Bradley effect, arguing that those who plan to vote for McCain, regardless of reason, are already telling pollsters they are voting for McCain (even if not always admitting that race is the reason).

Today on CNN’s Late Edition, John Fund argued that Obama is a quasi-incumbent and tried to apply the same theory applied in 2004 to Obama, also arguing that the independents would go to Obama. There are two major problems with these theories that the undecided will go to McCain. First, Obama leads by fifty percent or more in many polls. Even if one hundred percent of the undecided vote goes to McCain, which is unrealistic, Obama would still win. Secondly, Obama has safe leads in all the blue states which Kerry won and is concentrating on picking up support in several red states.

Even if Obama splits the red states where he is leading in the polls he would still exceed 270 electoral votes. McCain is hoping to pick off Pennsylvania but although some polls show the race is narrowing, Obama still has a strong lead, such as by seven points in the Survey USA poll. Obama’s confidence in winning Pennsylvania can be seen by his plans to campaign in red states for the final couple of days of the campaign, leaving Joe Biden to campaign in Pennsylvania. There are paths to victory for Obama even if he sould lose Pennsylvania. In contrast, McCain has been forced to also campaign in the red states in an attempt to hold onto them, including in his home state of Arizona, and needs to come back from behind in several states in order to win.

Humpty Dumpty And The Meaning of “Eugenics”

Yesterday I noted how conservatives have redefined eugenics as part of their attacks on liberals and science. Ezra Klein has also argued against such misuse of the word eugenics. Ross Douthat continues to feel he can use the word to mean whatever he wants it to.

For some insight on this issue, I’ll turn to Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll:

`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

If Humpty Dumpty is the referree, then Douthat wins. Otherwise, Ezra is right. Regardless of where one stands on abortion, individual choices to terminate a pregnancy is a totally different issue than a program of eugenics designed to alter the species. As I also noted in the previous post, this is just another example of the Frank Luntz school of trying to win arguments based upon the words you use as opposed to the merits of the argument.

Redefining Eugenics

I recently quoted Glenn Beck in providing one example of the anti-science right using eugenics to disparage science. This has been a common meme from the right wing noise machine. Apparently their logic is that a few scientists advocated eugenics in the distant past, and therefore liberals who quote science when discussing evolution or climate change are planning a secret eugenics program. Kevin Drum also questioned Beck’s reference to eugenics.

Russ Douthat responds to Kevin Drum by arguing that conservatives have been talking about eugenics for a long time–as if holding a fallacious belief for a long time is somehow superior to recently developing a fallacious belief. Douthat’s response comes down to redefining support for abortion rights (or unfettered right to abortion as Douthat erroneously calls it) as being “pre-natal eugenics.”

Abortion rights is a totally different debate. Regardless of the merits of that argument, abortion and eugenics are two different things. Maybe the opponents of abortion rights found that they were sounding too shrill and unconvincing with their cries of “baby killers” and are looking for a new word. This is just another example of the Frank Luntz school of trying to win arguments based upon the words you use as opposed to the merits of the argument.

Republicans Are Losing the Fiscal Conservatives

I found, via Andrew Sullivan, more evidence for an argument I’ve made many times here that the conventional distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives, over economic matters no longer apply. Sullivan points out a statement from Frank Luntz in The Washington Post:

My polls show that Democrats now hold a perceived advantage with voters not just on reducing deficits and balancing the budget but on an issue long seen as a GOP strength: ending wasteful spending. That alone should jar Republicans into taking a fresh approach.

I’ve long maintained that the Republican claims of supporting small government represents their preferred rhetoric, not reality. As Sullivan also points out, rather than showing evidence of supporting fiscal responsibility, “they seem far more concerned to shore up the battle against abortion and gay marriage.” Or, as I wrote yesterday, Republicans can no longer being taken seriously with regards to developing public policy when they have made ignoring reality part of their political philosophy.

There was a time when being a conservative meant supporting fiscal responsibility and avoiding unnecessary foreign entanglements. Today that’s a far better description of Howard Dean, John Kerry, and many other Democrats than of any prominent Republicans. Of course you’ll never hear this from Republicans who prefer to demonize their opponents rather than engage in an honest discussion of the issues. Earlier in the op-ed, Luntz wrote:

It is unfortunate that the Republican Party is currently dominated by hyperpartisan, gut-punching professional politicians and expert technicians whom I wouldn’t want to face at the dark end of the electoral alley. They specialize in the flawless execution of “wedge” politics. That may have worked well in past elections, but no longer. The latest gimmick is “branding” — a Madison Avenue technique — to reverse the Republican slide. But political parties are not brands, slogans are not a replacement for ideas and you don’t sell leaders the way you sell widgets.

Strange. That’s exactly what I thought Luntz’s role has been in the GOP all along.

Ic To You, Mr. President

There’s not much meaningful to say about the State of the Union Address–a statement so weak in ideas that it seemed like Jim Webb was the real speaker tonight and George Bush was just his amateur warm up act. His domestic policies will go no where, including his health care proposals which I already discussed here and here. His Iraq plan is just more of the same failed strategy.

In a speech which lacked substance the tone might be more important. Bush typically uses code words which must be evaluated to determine the real meaning of his statements. Past speeches have included code words to the religious right to reassure them that he is on their side even if he is claiming to be a compassionate conservative. Rather than taking advantage of the State of the Union to bridge the partisan gap, Bush carefully chose his words, deviating from the prepared text, to show that he has no intention of cooperating with Democrats. Washington Wire, a blog at the Wall Street Journal, describes the important variation from the prepared text:

President Bush departed from the prepared text of his State of the Union address to graciously congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her history-making selection as the first female Speaker of the House. Then he departed from the prepared text a second time to take a jab at Pelosi and the rest of the new Democratic majority of Congress.

[George Bush]
George Bush

In the prepared text of the speech, sent out by the White House some 40 minutes before Bush ascended the House rostrum, the president was to say, “Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate – and I congratulate the Democratic majority.” When Bush delivered the line, however, he paid tribute to the “Democrat majority.”Dropping the “ic” from the word “Democratic” may seem insignificant, but it was almost certainly a deliberate move by Bush, who has used the phrase “the Democrat Party” for months as a way of needling his opponents.

[Nancy Pelosi]
Nancy Pelosi

Republicans have periodically referred to their opponents as belonging to the “Democrat Party” for many decades, and the phrase was a particular favorite of former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. A recent Washington Post column filled in the backstory: according to the Columbia Guide to Standard American English, McCarthy “sought by repeatedly calling it the Democrat party to deny it any possible benefit of the suggestion that it might also be democratic.”The phrase lay largely dormant for years, however, until President Bush resuscitated it during last fall’s midterm election season and made it a mainstay of his public remarks about the opposition party. It has since been widely adopted by many Republican lawmakers, conservative political activists, and conservative commentators and pundits at media outlets like Fox News.

For all of Bush’s talk tonight about crossing party lines to work with the new Democratic Congress, it is the missing two letters that may offer the clearest indication of whether partisan tensions are really like to fade in the waning years of Bush’s presidency.

They did make one error in attributing the resumption of “Democrat” to Bush last year. Actually Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz have been promoting this since the 1990’s. Hendrick Hertzberg, writing in The New Yorker, also quotes Bob Dole as once resorting to this insult. It isn’t as important whether it was Bush who resumed this McCarthyite tactic. What matters is that Bush chose to perpetuate this, quickly providing an answer to those watching the State of the Union for clues as to whether Bush has learned anything about bipartisan cooperation after losing control of Congress.

Why We Don’t Believe Conservative Criticism of the News, Or Conservative News

Townhall has an article entitled Why We Don’t Believe You which gives the conservative case for not believing the news. No need to read it all. The real reason is not that the media makes mistakes from time to time, but that conservatives don’t believe those who don’t accept their fictitious world view. They include the so-called Reuter-gate affair in which a freelancer photographer was fired by Reuters for photoshopping photos. Biased report, and the photographer was fired–hardly an argument to never trust the news media.

While liberals are also critical of the mainstream media, there is a major difference. Liberals criticize the media because we want it to do a better job of getting out the truth. Conservatives attack the media in an attempt to prevent them from revealing the truth.

I’m speaking of the real news media here–not the fake news outlets used by the right wing noise machine to spread their propaganda. Pravda wannabees like Fox News are not news outlets. We could go on much longer as to why we don’t believe them. For starters I’ve reprinted some posts below the fold, including some of their slips showing whose side Fox is really on. As this is a topic I’ve written on numerous times, to keep this at a readable number of posts I limited this to previous posts at Light Up the Darkness from 2005.

Talking Dog Talks to George Lakoff

The Talking Dog interviewed George Lakeoff. Here’s a couple of the questions:

The Talking Dog: How would you reframe the “war on terror”, and in particular, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL IT, for one thing? Am I correct that in your view the fastest way to frame the Iraq war is to frame it as THE IRAQ OCCUPATION, to wit, when flight-suit-wearing Presisdent Bush gave his “mission accomplished” speech on the carrier Lincoln, we had, in fact, already won “the war”, and left us with “the occupation”?

George Lakoff: There is no question that the occupation is and has been a disaster. Our troops were not trained for it. While a civil war was not predicted, it should have been, and the situation is now impossible for our troops, who have been regularly cut down ever since while being placed in the midst of it. It was the grossest of irresponsibility to think that we could have a quickie war and occupation– a gross irresponsibility, to our troops, to the Iraqis and everybody else.

We also have to get a handle on definitions. You can’t have a “war on terror”. Terror is an emotion– it is not an army who fights to control territory– the definition of a party that you have a “war” against. That’s not what terrorism is about… (Israel’s current war with Hezbollah may be a bit different, as Hezbollah does appear to control territory, making it a more classic war- though still very different.)

Terrorism is more like organized crime. Indeed, immediately after 9-11, Colin Powell suggested that the 9-11 attacks be treated as a crime, and responded to as a crime, albeit a huge one. When we’ve been most successful against terrorism, it’s been when we’ve treated it like organized crime — combating it with spies, infiltrators, and with international police and intelligence cooperation. This is not an issue of war… it is more like busting a syndicate.