Apr
22
2011

SEIU’s populist Cargo Cult plans.

It takes a national union to build a Potemkin Village.

[UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers.]

Ben Smith reports that “the Service Employees International Union plans to use its giant political operation to try to build a grass-roots movement of public protest and organization” – which is pretty much all that you have to read of that article, frankly.  This is not a slam on Ben; Politico probably doesn’t look kindly on one-sentence articles, and writers need to eat.  If your employer wants multiple paragraphs, you give your employer multiple paragraphs.

Still, the use of the phrase “plans to use” and “try to build” gives the whole game away.  The tacit admission here is that the SEIU (and the rest of Big Labor) doesn’t actually have the populist support that the Left routinely [claims] to have; something that was glaringly put on display in the last few months in Wisconsin.  While groups like these do have the ability to dump large numbers of its members into various anti-reform demonstrations (and near-riots), the results were neither successful in accomplishing any sort of meaningful change, nor in becoming self-perpetuating.  For an example of the failures in the first category, note the Prosser/Kloppenburg election – particularly, the interesting fact that Kloppenburg received both less outside money than Prosser did, but more big-donor outside money in proportion.  For an example of the latter, note the drastically-reduced protester footprint in Madison, now that they are no longer being artificially stimulated.

All of this is likely to be significant in the coming months as Democrats attempt to duplicate with entitlement reform what the Right (note: not the GOP, particularly) did with Obamacare.  It’s currently very slow going, as Slate (somewhat plaintively) observes (H/T Instapundit): there simply has not been any sort of massive pushback against House Republicans for… straightforwardly keeping their collective campaign promise to pass a budget that incorporated serious spending cuts and general budget reform.  And Slate even notes the reason, in passing: it’s because the wished-for anti-reform pushback didn’t go ‘viral.’

While ‘viral’ may be a combination buzzword and Holy Grail for New Media types, it is nonetheless a legitimate phenomenon.  It’s just not really all that well understood, and getting something to go viral deliberately is very hard.  You can do it if your underlying message is both sound and interesting, and if the sensory ‘hook’ that you’ve constructed for it is compelling enough – but to do that you have to have a good idea of what your target audience is like, or is at least interested in.  Given that Democrats have managed to put themselves firmly on the “Yes” side of the question Should we keep spending more money than we actually have?, it’s fairly clear that the Left doesn’t really have a clue about its target audience, and is instead planning to just try scaring them some more.

But here’s the thing: the American public is already a little scared.  They see a really big yearly deficit and a horrifically large debt, coupled to a miserable economy, and they want all of that to stop.  Thinking that telling the American people that the Republican plan to handle all of this is to go kill Grandma is counterproductive… not least because it’s admitting that the Republicans actually have a plan, which is something that the Democrats have yet to come up with.  Obviously, we will also have to establish that our plan is not actually evil, but that’s a lot easier in comparison to having to try to convince the voting public that the GOP is taking the situation seriously.

Which, as you might remember, was a problem for our party in 2006*.

Bottom line?  The Cargo Cult mentality – which is to say, the belief that you can create your own ‘populist’ narrative, and somehow connive people into joining it – doesn’t really work anymore, if indeed it ever did.  I understand that the temptation may be strong to try to divert existing anger and worry into more, ah, productive channels – but it’s almost impossible to do that without forming an inherent contempt for the very people that you’re trying to manipulate.

And, oddly enough, American political history is full of voters deciding to spank groups that treat them with contempt…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Which looks better and better every day, when compared to 2011.  Hey, remember when gas was $2.20 a gallon and the unemployment rate was 4.4%?  What happened with that? …Oh, right, the Democrats won the 2006 Congressional elections.

10 Comments

  • tarpon says:

    Reminds me of the Styrofoam temple … It’s what our street hustler is.

  • cthulhu says:

    “Hey, remember when gas was $2.20 a gallon and the unemployment rate was 4.4%? What happened with that? …Oh, right, the Democrats won the 2006 Congressional elections.”

    – can we get this on a bumper sticker?

  • elaine says:

    Lessons the Democrats haven’t yet learned (and let’s hope they never do…) –

    1) Astroturf organizations are not the same as grassroots. You cannot use your giant political organization to build grassroots enthusiasm. Grassroots enthusiasm just happens. A corollary: you can’t expect to co-opt a grassroots movement once it starts rolling. A second corollary: no one is fooled anymore by astroturf posing as grassroots.

    2) While you can talk people into believing a good economy is really bad, you cannot convince them a bad one is good. No amount of cheerleading can overcome the sticker shock most Americans are experiencing every week in the grocery stores and at the gas pumps across the country. So, the 2012 election will come down to, “It’s the economy, stupid,” once again.

    3) You’re only a virgin once. Obama was a “virgin” for the 2008 campaign; all mysterious and ultra-desirable, encompassing every possibility in a picture-perfect package. But now it’s three years hence, and the virgin is a two-bit whore. The excitement people felt back in 2007-08 about electing the first black man cannot be recaptured, no matter how much you want it back. It just ain’t gonna happen, folks. The dem voters don’t gain anything by re-electing him, and they know it. Even if the economy didn’t stink on ice, the dems would still be facing a huge enthusiasm gap for Obama, since it’s painfully clear he doesn’t represent their will nearly as closely as they believed he would. A corollary: the only way a woman can “re-virginify” herself is if she moves to another town and starts over. There’s no do-over for Obama; he can’t reinvent himself as he’s too well-known.

    4) The MSM shot the last of their credibility wad during the last election. They’re dinosaurs at this point, and who cares what dinosaurs spent their days thinking about? New Media is faster and generally even more reliable than the “news” you get from the paper of record. (Which should probably be called “olds” instead, since it’s hardly fresh and new, in most cases. The MSM doesn’t break stories anymore, it merely re-prints — with bias in place — what New Media breaks.) Between new media outlets, blogs, and Twitter, the rest of us have found we can be far more aware of what’s going on than the left cares to admit. Good for America, bad for dems. A corollary: it’s become painfully clear that none of the MSM (and I include FOX news here) can provide the in-depth coverage and back-and-forth discussion that I can regularly get from the COMMENTS section of any blog in the country. This is especially true of the dead-tree media, but it’s also true of the televised media. None of the MSM provide in-depth coverage, varied points of view, or much in the way of background information… but you can usually find that from some blogger or commenter somewhere. All the MSM offers is the same talking heads spouting the same tired talking points, often shouting over one another so no one can be heard.

  • The Cargo Cult mentality is to copy some behavior or group in the hope that you will also enjoy the other successes of that group. Our current economic distress comes from the limited understanding that Democrats have about economics and wealth.

    Cargo Cult Economics
    → easyopinions.blogspot.com/2009/03/cargo-cult-economics.html#p102

    Obama’s team justifies tax-borrow-and-spend by claiming that there is a 1.5 multiplier on government spending and investing, which they say creates more wealth and jobs than private activities. They say they will spend all of the money that they borrow and tax, unlike the taxpayer who would save part of it ( ncpa.org/pub/ba643 ):

    === ===
    [edited] Keynesians believe that every dollar of government spending increases GDP by more than a dollar due to the “multiplier effect.” Keynesians concede that tax cuts are also stimulative. However, they claim the multiplier effect for tax cuts is smaller because some of the tax reduction is saved (!) rather than spent on consumption.
    === ===

    That isn’t a “multiplier”. They are only claiming to spend more of what they collect than the taxpayer would. But, “spending” is not better than “saving” for supporting jobs; in fact, saving is better. They are only measuring consumer spending, so they think consumer spending is everything.

    Our politicians almost always use cargo cult reasoning. For example, tax rates were higher under Clinton, and the economy was good. So, raise tax rates! Where is the reasoned and proven connection between higher tax rates, more government, and prosperity? What is the mechanism?

    People spend money in a prosperous economy, so let the US government give them money to spend. Prosperity is sure to follow. Again, where is the government approved analysis which supports that policy? Not just the claim, but the explanation of the mechanism. It would be a laugh to analyze it.

    What is the similarity between our government and some superstitious Pacific islanders during World War II? The government implements selected policies from the past with great hope and no understanding.

  • bongo says:

    I would like to see a really bold move on the part of the Repulicans.

    Tie the debt ceiling increase to the Ryan budget plan.

    In the normal course of events Congress passes a budget (done with The Path to Prosperity) and then the Senate passes a budget (I’m assuming this is the objective of the “Gang of Six”) and then these two budgets go to committee (where all manner of mischief can creep in). This reconciled budget is then voted on again and finally makes its way to the President’s desk for signature.

    This can take months.

    All this time will allow Obama and the Dems to demagogue about how the evil Republicans want to kill grandma.

    The debt ceiling comes up for debate within the month.

    Here’s what we do. Attach the debt ceiling increase to the Ryan plan. Get out in front of the Dems by emphasizing how the Republicans have put forward a comprehensive plan that does not endanger the current credit rating of the country and reins in future threats to the US economy. Also, emphasize that the Ryan plan is the repeal of Obamacare, which 60% of the country claims to support.

    This would put the debt ceiling crisis squarely on the plate of the Senate Dems. The Congressional Repubs have passed a plan for raising it. Harry Reid would have to explain to the public why the Ryan plan is more of a threat to the country than a collapse of its credit rating.

    If Boehner and McConnell stand firm (a big if) we should be able to get this through the Senate.

    Once this budget and credit extension make it to the White House, Obama would only have two choices: pass the plan (and repeal Obamacare) or veto the plan and crash the economy.

    This bold stroke would happen quickly, eliminate multiple Dem talking points and put America on the path to prosperity.

  • MWR says:

    Heh. My local branch of the SEIU here in NH is planning to hold a series of “actions” on Saturday, 4/23, in protest of state Right to Work legislation. Their breathless emails decrying the alleged abuses of workers who aren’t forced to join unions are a laugh riot.

    For example:
    http://www.seiu1984.org/Right_to_Work__for_Less__is_WRONG_for_New_Hampshire.aspx

    I would go to one of these meet-ups just for the fun of watching the hysteria unfold, but I’m washing my hair on Saturday.

  • jdm says:

    The MSM shot the last of their credibility wad during the last election.

    It doesn’t matter. The reason the MSM is still the MS and that it still matters is that accessing it and digesting its message requires the least amount of “work”. It’s the fast food of news* – it’s the FFM.

    Credibility? Credibility is irrelevant: Trump, birthers, Lady Gaga, tornadoes… hey! The Wedding! Where’s the discussion of the debt? Hell, where’s the interest?

    Sorry. I think the other three points were great. I also think that this post was interesting although I thought it used Cargo Cult in a new & unique way, but I don’t think very many people really understand the “power source” of the MSM and why it’s not going away.

    * that’s actually a bit of a slam on real fast food which is mostly healthy enough as opposed to MS journalism.

  • SenatorMark4 says:

    I enjoyed your analysis. I think. I’m just getting so tired of people whispering 10 years plans into my ears and telling me it’s going to be really,Really good. Why can’t I have a little fairness with income reporting so we know where this stuff goes? My W-2 and 1099-MISC should be balanced with 1099-GOV for all those recipients of ‘income,redistributed’. Start that now! You don’t need no fricking vote. Any mayor could start reporting. And speaking of reporting, why in the world are we spending blood and treasure on people that don’t support the First Amendment?

  • [...] Speaking of which, as Moe Lane recently noted, the years prior to 2006 look “better and better every day, when compared to 2011.  Hey, remember when gas was $2.20 a gallon and the unemployment rate was 4.4%?  What happened with that? …Oh, right, the Democrats won the 2006 Congressional elections.” [...]

  • [...] The SEIU has announced that they plan on forming a “public protest” branch of their union. It takes a national union to build a Potemkin Village. Moe Lane [...]

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