Small numbers and big noise can equal enormous results.

By Martin Burch of Portland, Oregon. Martin describes himself as a "very liberal, long-time professional writer, and dedicated activist."

Lately I’ve been studying voting patterns in Oregon during 2004, 2006, and 2008 just for the fun of it. I’m reading reports and statistics from analysts, editorialists, and state and county elections bureaus, studying demographics relevant to the elections, looking at who ran, how much money they spent and where and how they spent it in Oregon – true political geekiness. And an amateur political geek at that; make no mistake.

While it’s too early for me to discuss any significant trends I’ve noticed that differ from what professional political scientists have noted, the current cluster flock going on in the health care debate this August does tie into a few observations that I think are ready for group discussion.

Never underestimate the power a few dedicated, organized, and script-following enthusiasts can have over the conduct and outcome of any political activity. We see this in the health care debate with the thuggish actions of the angry and mostly older white people in the town hall meetings. Not only are these relatively small numbers of people able to wreak havoc in the actual meetings, their actions are consuming hours of televised media cycles in both news and opinion-oriented shows. Even when we try to seriously discuss health care, we wind up instead discussing these thugs and those who organized them. I detest their actions, but there’s no denying how effective their tactics are in obfuscating the debate.

Small numbers and big noise can equal enormous results. But this discussion isn’t about the health care thugs. I’m simply using them as an example of organization and emotions as group dynamics.

These two group dynamics also matter in elections. In some Oregon precincts, districts, and counties a 5% or smaller change in voting patterns can flip that district or county from red to blue or vice versa. This principle is nothing new in political science, and it makes sense (unlike so many things in political science…); small numbers of votes can make a difference in close elections. Duh!

Maybe a lesson we progressives can take from this summer of discontent is how to better focus our strategy, tactics, and funds so that we can identify those 5 percent regions and make them flip in our favor. As all politics are local, it will be worth our while to concentrate on picking up city council seats, school board positions, and other local elected slots wherever the opportunity presents itself. Also, perhaps, in statewide or regional elections it makes more sense to amass votes in select areas rather than to try and appeal to or campaign for all Oregon voters. Win the election with the percentages and then govern for all (or not, but that’s another discussion, too).


The second point I see this summer concerns public perceptions of emotions and media coverage and how those relate to voting patterns. Again, the relationship between emotions individuals feel and the emotions media portrays as existing in the general public is not a new concept in politics or media studies, either. For example, the message of peace and love of the flower power era didn’t capture television news, and thus the American psyche. What got the media attention and tapped public emotions were the relatively bizarre actions of some of the hippies concerning free love (sex) and the perceived assault on accepted mores about drugs and what later came to be known as family values.

We saw how displays of raw emotions were used in Oregon concerning Proposition 36. Yet in an almost completely 180 degree turnaround, the positive message of the Obama campaign in 2008, promoting hope and change as its goals, got many of these very same supporters of Prop 36 to vote for a man who openly campaigned against the principles they had supported just months before. There was that whole George W. Bush thing, too…

Now, I know Obama didn’t come out in favor of gay marriage, and when it comes to gay rights he is lackluster at best in acting on his promised changes regarding this issue. Still, the subtle but important point remains that somehow he and his campaign were able to shift public perceptions here in Oregon regarding the emotions a topic such as gay marriage aroused in people. Individuals didn’t change their minds about gay marriage or other GLBT issues, but these people did become convinced that their peers had somehow “softened” on gay rights, thus making it acceptable for them to vote for a candidate who was in stark contrast to the Republican candidate concerning gay issues.

This is a very fine point to make. It’s not the actual emotions of individuals in a group that need to change to make a difference in elections or public attitudes. What needs to change to affect voting patterns seems to be the individuals’ perception of the emotions they see in their peers. Further, negative emotions – anger, hatred, rejection for example – while easier to manipulate, seem to have no greater impact on voting patterns than positive emotions such as hope or caring. The constant images of gigantic crowds cheering for Obama made a difference in swaying perceptions in the conservative community.

Well, I don’t want to go too far in this because of the size requirements for articles here on Blue Oregon, and also because I’m not through with my research. And, it just might be that what this research will show me is that after all, it’s the economy, stupid. But watching these silverback thugs shout at the top of their lungs that Medicare isn’t socialized medicine reminds me that while we progressives enjoy facts and thinking, and that truth, honesty, and sincerity also matter to us, these ingredients are not the most important factors in most elections or public awareness campaigns. We as progressives not only have to be smart, we have to work on our branding and imaging.

And ain’t that too damn bad…

Comments

  • paul sorenson (unverified)
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    Good - thoughtful - post, thanks!

    Another dynamic that we are seeing again via the health debates (?...shouting matches?) is a persistent tendency of the Democrats to completely ignore what G. Lakoff calls "Framing". The GOP during Bush era repeatedly controlled debate by determining the framework of the problem and often the terminology used to describe it (which acts to pull out certain emotions, make certain arguments possible, cast disagreement in a particular (negative) light, etc. etc.).

    Now - this framing is happening again, but it is the right wing talk shows, blogs, and websites doing the framing - and the Democrats are accepting the description of what the problem is and trying to argue back within that framework of thinking and talking about health care.

    It is not "HealthCARE reform" that we want to accomplish, it is "healthINSURANCE reform" - people like their doctors and medicare, they mistrust most health-insurance companies....what the bills in Congress are trying to do is reform how health care is provided and managed (insurance/provider reform) - but the entire discussion is framed by the right which leaves open the possibility (being exercised without any constraint or respect of 'facts of the matter' by the Mobs) of suggesting key aspects of what people depend on and like (my doctor, my medicare benefits, my having a health plan, etc.) will be taken away when 'they' CHANGE it (trojan horse, don't trust the politicians, wolf in sheep's clothing, etc.).

    Its sad to see the Democratic Party fail to see this happening and learn from it - over and over again...

  • LT (unverified)
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    "Yet in an almost completely 180 degree turnaround, the positive message of the Obama campaign in 2008, promoting hope and change as its goals, got many of these very same supporters of Prop 36 to vote for a man who openly campaigned against the principles they had supported just months before. There was that whole George W. Bush thing, too…"

    Very intelligent post.

    One thing I would suggest is that such a turnaround is not always due to this:

    "What needs to change to affect voting patterns seems to be the individuals’ perception of the emotions they see in their peers."

    Any campaign could do excellent "framing", believe individuals look at the "perception of the emotions they see in their peers", think of voters as a group instead of individuals, and still lose.

    How many folks here know: Someone who voted Bush 2004 and Obama 2008 Someone who voted for Bush and against Measure 36 (perhaps belonging to a church which campaigned against Measure 36) Someone in the 5th District who voted Bush & Hooley?

    I know someone who fits the first 2 descriptions and a couple people who fit that last description.

    I'd beware of what sounds like politics as sociology. Conversations with people who don't see politics the way people here do (and if everyone here has not had such a conversation in the last couple years, you need to get out more and expand your conversations to those to people who disagree with you, probably including people you already know/work with, etc.) can be very revealing.

    I believe one reason there were people who voted for Obama although they might not have been expected to do so were people who read his books.

    Of course that was an individual action, not something which can be controlled by any campaign.

    But then so was "someone in my office watched that young man grow up, which is all I need to know about him as a candidate", which was why a Republican-leaning friend voted for a Democratic legislative challenger. That was many years ago and one of my first glimpses into this view of politics--individual decisions matter, regardless of what any campaign does.

  • Roy McAvoy (unverified)
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    Martin, part of that dynamic is the sheer number of people who continue to fear and remain suspicious of government. There seems to be some surprise among progressives that so many citizens continue to question the actions and direction of the "new" government, now that the "evil" conservatives are for the most part, gone. The fear and suspicion still remains. There will always be a fringe group with a mike and a stage, willing to capitalize on fear to sell their own ideology. Success will only follow proven results, and Obama has about three more years to get those results.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Maybe a lesson we progressives can take from this summer of discontent is how to better focus our strategy, tactics, and funds so that we can identify those 5 percent regions and make them flip in our favor.

    I trust you are familiar with the work of the Oregon Bus Project. This is exactly what they've been doing for 8 years, and in my opinion they are one of the key reasons why the Oregon legislature is now in Democratic hands. Given their success, the Bus Project is expanding into other areas, such as activist education, but in their campaign work they focused exclusively on swing districts where knocking on 5,000 doors could make a difference in the election. The Bus Project model is now spreading to other states, and I think it has a chance to be one of those Oregon success stories that spreads throughout the nation.

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    Miles,

    The Bus is just a cog, they are not the machine. Please do not confuse this. They provide the mode of transportation, but we have to credit ALL the volunteers in this state that made the majority happen. Not to mention the work of Jeff Merkley/Dave Hunt/Peter Courtney and other dedicated members of the party apparatus. We can appreciate the role the Bus has, but we should not crown them the main driver of Oregon democracy and certainly not the main driver of the Democratic party. After all their goal is progressive policy and "small d" democracy, not building a "big d" Democratic majority.

    With that said, everyone should volunteer with the Bus at least once. Bus Trips, Voter Registration, etc...It will change the way you feel about democracy...for the good.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    I remember the 60s well. And I remember that "New Left" was well organized and made lots of noise, and succeeded in marginalizing itself, and branding itself as radical malcontents as Richard Nixon led the silent majority to electoral victory. A similar dynamic is now happening 40 years later, as a small minority of tea-baggers are trying to reverse their electoral defeat by threats, disruption, and disrupting meetings to create the impression of greater support than there actually is.

    The silent majority of today are the people who recognize that the present unregulated robber baron health insurers don't serve them. So we will have a reform bill passed. Everyone will find something to be displeased about, but it will be the beginning of a process of the majority pushing through something it truly wants and needs. At this time in history is there anyone who distrusts government so much they want to privatize social security and hand it over to Wall St.? Trusting government is what people do in a time of crisis, and the corporate health insurers can be trusted to screw the public every time.

    Right now the main message the Dem. majority in Congress understands is, "we will hang together, or we will hang separately?" They know the tea-baggers are never going to vote for them. They also know the majority who put them into office to do health care will abandon them if they don't, and they will become a minority party out of power. It's that simple.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    I've been wondering if this whole teabagger/town hall political terrorist thing isn't going to end up blowing up in the repubs electoral face just like it did as the result of the brouhaha they made over Terri Schiavo.

    That was also a great example of a small bunch of fanatical, deranged, zealots grabbing the attention of the national television cameras and showing the true nature of their radical, delusional and downright crazy beliefs to the entire country.

    I think it was that moment; the Terri Schiavo moment that started the GOP plunge into the electoral quicksand where they reside today. I think this is another one of those pivotal crossroads.

    I don't see how these tactics help them beyond just the unsuccessful attempted brute intimidation factor. The people yelling at Democrats are not Democratic voters. They are republicans. They, under no circumstances are going to vote democratic anyway. To ignore them is to lose nothing electorally.

    Secondly, I think these tactics will further appall and alienate Independents. If you have to resort to such tactics, it's because you can't win on the issues.

    There is something about the August heat that just makes repbs crazy. They will play this out but I see it hurting and not helping their cause in the long run.

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    Bill R.

    I tend to agree with your post. The question I have is whether the environment today with talk radio, cable news,the internet changes any of the dynamics from the 60's? I also am concerned that the Democrats in swing districts may not have the courage and convictions necessary to stand up to the mob.

    Lastly, do the wild accusations, hitler talk, and anger turn off the independents,and motivate the Dems? How does this dynamic play out. I haven't seen a poll since this fuss started and I am very curious to see what happens next.

  • SCB (unverified)
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    I enjoyed this post, and would like to share with the author my research in Central Oregon (but not here).

    One of the central things I note in election statistics was noted here, that a very small turn in a small number of voters can and often does make the difference in elections. That is why I am often bewildered when those who hold the levers of power on the liberal/progressive wing write off any long term efforts to change around voting patterns. Everything is always about THIS election, not the long run.

    We really should be investing some funds in making sure that in every legislative and Congressional District, there is a liberal/progressive candidate with a threshold of funding to run for office. Oddly, given the mega-millions spent on elections, that "threshold" won't even have to be much. A few thousands for auto gas and lawn signs.

    Too often when I talk to people in Central Oregon, they don't even know that we ran candidates for office, because there was no way to get out the word they were running. That allows the perception to set in that the area is a "Republican stronghold", when in fact that isn't true. Some Democrats who can spend time and money here win nicely. Like Wyden.

    Obama changed things even here. There is now an opening to advance the "cause" so to speak.

    We have had three waves of crazy this last year: tea-bagging anti-taxers protesting a cut in taxes to the middle class, "birthers" protesting that the President wasn't born in the US (some apparently think Hawaii isn't a US State), and now the "deathers" protesting about a bill that isn't a bill yet and doesn't include what they are against. As this goes on, I see those old-time Republicans getting weary of it all. They know these folks are crazy. More importantly, so do the Independent voters.

    That is where elections turn. There are not enough registered Republicans to elect Republican candidates, and not enough Democrats to elect Democratic candidates. For anyone to get elected, they need the independent voters. What I think the very great error is in the "get out the vote" strategies is that they only look at the registered base. It is rare to see these things target the independents.

    There is an huge opportunity to use the "crazy" label that the Republicans are attaching to themselves with these waves of protest to turn the Independents more and more to the liberal/progressive side.

    Rational people know that they got a tax cut, that Obama is an American, and that our Federal Government isn't out to kill us. Most people are rational.

    The current protests will turn on the Repubicans and hurt them badly save for one small thing.

    We need to point out that the crazy's are crazy. The media isn't doing it, so we need to talk to neighbors, write letters to the editor, run ads in the papers and in the TV/radio media, etc. We need to make it plain that crazy is crazy.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    @ John Calhoun

    The town hall disruption tactic and public reaction is just beginning to play out. But the videos of the deranged ranting people, like the one with Arlen Spectre,the swastikas and Hitler placards, don't play well I'm thinking. Contrasted with the well grounded rational and reasonable Obama demeanor these images are alienating. Time will tell. As for talk radio, Rush Limbaugh's audience has drunk the koolaid, they are the 30% who are the rabid ideologues who make the death threats and are the screamers at public meetings. They don't change the public dialogue at all.

    As for public polling it is too soon to tell, but Obama's numbers are stabilized in mid to high 50s for performance approval and his personal approval is even higher than that. As this process goes forward I think it will become clearer that the majority wants something akin to what Obama is proposing, and after it's passed, the numbers will be even higher.

    There was a moment yesterday where Sen. Claire McCaskill was lecturing the screamers in a direct calm way, just saying accurately, "How is this rude behavior helping you? I don't think you are winning anyone over with this disruption. " And she was right. The GOP is branding itself as a group of wack-jobs who can't compete electorally so they try to overturn elections with threats and disruption.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    One effective tool of change is the use of the boycott.

    Today Whole Foods CEO writes in the WSJ opposing Health Care Reform. When a corporate entity is out of sync with its customers, it's.... Time for a boycott! progressive Portlanders:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/8/12/765613/-Whole-Foods-is-anti-Health-Care-reform

  • JJ (unverified)
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    Thanks Bill R....I don't often shop at Whole Foods, but I certainly will start shopping there more now....and if your call for a boycott is successful, I suppose I won't have to see/smell as many of you and your flag burning, bleeding heart friends roaming the aisles in their birkenstocks...a clear win/win on my end.

    As for the rest of you (including uncle Barry in the White House)... you all need to come off this single payer healthcare garbage and start sounding like adults...I'm always proud to be an American but you all are really starting to make it a little embarrassing. If you want to promote liberal causes..fine, that's your choice...but if you want to be taken seriously, you need to start sounding like grown ups and stop pounding sand over the fact that some horrendous, intellectually bankrupt, crackpot idea of yours is somehow going down in flames because the American people aren't excited about the idea of our government destroying the highest quality healthcare system in the world. Is it really that shocking to any of you that although Americans were willing to give you guys a shot a running things for a while, we were not going to let you just roam free without adult supervision? Come on..we all care way too much about this country to let you guys actually carry out the crazy talk. So do America a favor...find another issue to move on to..approach it with actually serious,viable, non-insane ideas for reform...and the American people will give you a shot. If not...another election will be here soon enough and it will be time to put the grown ups back in charge...but until then, the ball is in your court...act accordingly. And if I'm still not getting through to a few of you on the healthcare thing, I'll keep it short and use small words....You Lost, America Won, now get over it and move on.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    What on earth is wrong with having a bleeding heart? I hear people use that as an insult, but I consider it some of the highest praise possible.

  • SCB (unverified)
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    Thanks JJ for that last post in response to Bill R. I'm going to save it and use it as an example of argument based on sterotypes and not addressing issues.

    Really, flag burning? Health care debate is juvenile?

    Clearly one of the best posts of this type I have ever read, there is not one real argument to be found in JJ's post, its all sterotypes. Sociology classes and journalism classes should read this exchange for the next 50 years.

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    Bill,

    Again I agree with what you are saying. The electoral problem in the Senate is that we need 60 votes to get a full bill through (some things can be done with 51, but it gets dicey). My guess is that close to 40% of the voters are now opposed to the legislation and they have a bigger impact in the small states where some of our conservative Dems reside. A plebiscite would pass handsomely. We can pass what we can with 51. Not sure we can get to 60.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    @ John Calhoun

    From what I have read we can do health care with 51 under reconciliation and reportedly the White House and Senate leadership are ready to do that if needed. And if we do a weak public option/co-op probably get 60. My comments pertain more with long term trends.

    The point is, the GOP is not winning anyone over with these stupid tactics. They are only hurting their brand for the sake of the short term gains of the next news cycle.

    Here's a little evidence from Research 2000 on current trends, as of last Fri. Neither party is spectacular but the GOP is down in the cellar and going deeper. And Obama, still holding his own at 60% favorable, http://www.dailykos.com/weeklytrends Favorable ratings. favorable / unfav.
    CONGRESSIONAL DEMS: 42 (41) 52 (51) 6 (8) 0 CONGRESSIONAL GOPS: 10 (10) 75 (74) 15 (16) -1

    DEMOCRATIC PARTY: 44 (45) 49 (48) 7 (7) -2 REPUBLICAN PARTY: 18 (19)

  • JJ (unverified)
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    Thanks SCB for the critique..I guess I should have dumbed it down a bit for those of you who don't read at the adult level. The primary point of the post was that if liberals want to advance any part of the liberal agenda, they should stop burning their political capital on an hugely unpopular idea that has lost all traction and that is bringing the party and its leadership down in the polls. The American people don't take well to seeing their country in crisis and a new leader trying to ram a bad policy idea down their throats while seeming to ignore other issues that the electorate is more concerned about and reforms they are more receptive to. So you see SBC, if you burn up all your time and popularity trying to advance something that is unpopular, its much harder for you to advance other agendas later on, once your popularity is damaged. That's how politics works in America...you should check out a book or try out the internet or something if you want to learn more. I hope that spelling everything out for you in this post has cleared up the confusion caused by the fancy words I used in the other post. Good luck to you.

  • (Show?)

    http://www.advantageconsultants.org/

    Trolling isn't just a strategy; it's a business.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    A bit more...

    I'm not sure a large number of people fear government, at least not as many as some 20-30 years ago and certainly not their local government. No doubt the wigouts getting the media attention at town halls fear federal government. But I wasn't really talking about them, except as an example, and the places in Oregon where 5% can make a difference isn't in national or statewide offices.

    There are a number of counties where a slight change in voting patterns can increase the number of progressives on school boards, city councils, and county commissions. THOSE, I believe, are the changes we need to seek. National issues garner all the media attention, true, but changing the political structure for the long-term requires making gains in communities, not just Washington. To me, the "trick" is to sway the votes in the 5% regions through activism and at the same time create an image that resonates with the people in those counties. Framing isn't quite what I mean, for framing has to do with the way issues are presented, if I remember classes taken far too long ago to mention...

    In the first "Men in Black" movie there's a scene where Tommy Lee Jones' character tells Will Smith something to the effect that a person is a thinking, sometimes rational human being while people are an unthinking unruly mob. We progressives often focus on imagery that tries to reach a number of people, given that we have so many divergent groups in our coalition. Sometimes we succeed, but our messages don't reach too many of those individuals. The wigouts, on the other hand, simply have to appeal to the mob, for they don't want individuals to change minds. They want their mobs to go along just as they are. We have the greater challenge.

    As for the 60s, overall I'd say the "left's" organizational skills were superb for the mega-level events, but overall they killed their own message by being unable to translate those organizing skills at the local level (there are of course notable exceptions) and because there wasn't a consistent effort to present a national image that resonated outside a younger demographic.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    Damn, I thought I did that HTML italic coding thing right. Arggg...

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    72% of Americans want a public option or singlepayer. Yeah, that's a hugely unpopular sentiment.

    That's larger polling numbers than the people who believe in UFO abductions, and more than twice as many people who think the GOP is to be trusted on anything.

    Whenever I see someone say the majority of Americans don't want government-run health care, I note than none of the protestors at the town halls are willing to stop being a part of Medicare, and none of the people leading those who flock to the town halls are suggesting we end Medicare.

    So I know they either don't know what they are talking about or aren't being honest; or both.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    The Bus is just a cog, they are not the machine. Please do not confuse this.

    They're certainly not the machine, but in my view they're more than just a cog. They're like an entire gear. One of the biggest gears in the progressive/Democratic machine. One might say they're part of the drive train. (I'll stop with the bad transportation analogies now.)

    I don't give Hunt/Merkley/Courtney as much credit as you do. I think they did a fine job once the ball was rolling, but I really do think it was the Bus, with a few other interest groups in the state, that started it. Looking over the last 8 years, there are a whole lot of House and Senate seats where progressives won by far fewer votes than the number of doors knocked on by Bus Project volunteers. Can you draw a direct line of causality there? No, but I think that door knocking had a lot more to do with the wins than any Demcractic Party strategy or money. After all, the DP strategies didn't change much from the 80s and 90s to today. And while there has been a slow progressive trend in Oregon for awhile, that trend turned sharply upward when the Bus Project started its targeted campaigns.

    After all their goal is progressive policy and "small d" democracy, not building a "big d" Democratic majority.

    This is what makes me love them as much as I do. Working outside the system, they've done more to help the party than the party did to help themselves. But as you can tell, I've never been much of a party guy to begin with.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Meet Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Ron Wyden's negotiating partner as he gives voice to the Sarah Palin lie that Dems want to euthanize your grandmother with death panels:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/12/grassley-endorses-death-p_n_257677.html

    Sheesh, Sen. Ron, why are you wasting your time, and ours, on this idiot?

  • robtr (unverified)
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    Maybe leftists could elect a President to sell this disaster of a bill that can make it through an entire townhall meeting that he has stacked in his favor without lying. You see when a President lies about a bill that still isn't finished no one trusts one he is saying about any of it except the truly infected followers.

    When Obama says AARP supports the bill and the next day AARP comes out and says: "uhmm no we don't" people don't trust him.

    When the President explains different ways the bill with be paid for and factcheck.org says: "you know what, none of that stuff is in the current bills under consideration" People don't trust him.

    When Obama says the audience isn't hand picked ringers and the next day it's all over the interwebs that the little girl who asked the question mom is a friend of the Obama family and has her picture with Obama on her facebook page. People don't trust him. Distrust is what gets these record number of people out.

  • Jay (unverified)
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    Just a little something to consider,the angry healthcare thugs that you so ardently despise,despise you as well.My greatest concern about all of the latest disturbances surrounding this debate is the potential for violence.Nixon warned about the silent majority and the impact they could have if disgruntled and threatened.The only images the media is allowing us to see are the ones they want us to see,angry white people. That isn't helping the matter and is going to cause a lot of problems very soon. The generation that grew up during the Vietnam War are now the senior citizens and middle aged baby boomers who are demonstrating for a different cause and they come in all colors and creeds.People are genuinely mad,I've seen it up close and it's not all manufactured by special interests. Obama needs to stop fanning the flames of discontent and start explaining his ideas better.Maybe then people will listen.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    I don't really despise the thugs. I believe they are angry about a host of things, and merely acting out at town hall meetings because of coaching and organizing funded by individuals and corporations who want no real change in the status quo.

    Medicare is socialized medicine, yet I hear none of the thugs or their leaders calling for an end to that. I see none of the Medicare recipients at these meetings offering to end their participation because they are opposed to it as socialized medicine. Anyone who watches Obama speak -- you can't get it on FOX -- knows he does explain HR 3200 and related legislation in detail; too much detail, possibly.

    Nixon's silent majority was more than 30 years ago. The demographics have changed, and continue to change. In less than five years Hispanics will outnumber whites in the USA. There are already more American Moslems than there are American Jews. This ethnic spread is what I believe frightens many people. However, it is unstoppable; America's future is many races, many ethnicities, no clear majority of one over the other.

    As far as hand-picked audiences, I readily recall W using nothing but military bases for his speeches, places where the attendees could not do or say anything out of order. That Obama's last town hall picked attendees by random from the crowd outside (or at least some form of raffle) is something I never saw in the last eight years, where people were even forced to sign loyalty pledges to gain attendance.

    Again, though, that is not the purpose of my article. I'm pointing out that here in Oregon we can focus on small gains in traditionally conservative areas, and through action there change "hearts and minds" where it really counts -- locally.

    All we need is some applied effort, a bit of assistance from the national "liberal" organizations (I can't be making direct calls for help from political parties here) in terms of matching funds and the like, and positive success stories we can trumpet in local media such as rural radio, television, and newspapers.

    The health care fracas is simply a diversionary battle, and it's not even a vital battle. More on that later.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    JJ blathers:

    "... because the American people aren't excited about the idea of our government destroying the highest quality healthcare system in the world."

    Actually, the United States is ranked #38 overall in quality and outcomes. The US is also ranked #47 in infant mortality. But if it makes you feel more 'merikan, we totally kicked Croatia's butt!

    I'll keep it short and use small words - don't let facts get in the way of a good foaming at the mouth rant. But I guess I should have dumbed it down a bit for those of you who don't read or comprehend at the adult level.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    @ Martin Burch

    In what way is the health care reform a "diversionary battle"?

  • SCB (unverified)
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    Ha ha! If you read JJ's stuff (I don't recommend it) you can actually see whole paragraphs that say absolutely nothing.

    I continue to be impressed that by throwing words out like "adult", "advance agenda", "traction", "damaged popularity", and so on JJ thinks that something real is being said. Buzz words thrown together do not make an argument.

    There is no content to these statements, just buzz.

    Again, thanks for this stuff, it's classic.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    SCB:

    I'd enjoy discussing your data. Maybe Kari would be so kind as to act as an interlocketor for email addresses.

    Isn't it great asking the moderator for favors in his forum, putting him on the spot like that? Martin

  • (Show?)

    "In less than five years Hispanics will outnumber whites in the USA."

    This must've been a typo, Martin. It'll be several more decades before whites are no longer the majority, though they'll still constitute a plurality.

    According to the last Census projections I recall (from a year ago), non-Hispanic whites will drop below 50% in 2042. Hispanics were then projected to reach 30% of the population by 2050.

    But let's give the inimitable Larry Willmore the last word on the topic.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    Dan:

    It could be a mistake; I'll check to see if I'm wrong, didn't explain it correctly, and correct the piece about demographics.

    Bill R:

    The present health care debacle is most definitely a diversionary battle. The idea from those opposed to health care reform as presented in HR3200 et al is to "defeat Obama," as more than one protestor and Republican official has proclaimed. Given that most of the thugs in attendance already have Medicare or VA health benefits, or a family member who does, they either do not know what they are talking about or else are participating in a great deception.

    I believe the real political battle we wage at this point in time is quite complex, but to boil it down to "us and them," I'd say it's the role of multinational and extremely large corporations versus small business and "regular" people. Health care, government entitlement programs, taxes, subsidies, foreign policy, these are all components of the real political battle we face.

    This present brouhaha about health care is designed solely to stop discussion and once more keep us divided so that we don't focus on where true reform and regulation is required. Case in point and example, the trillion dollar bank bailout didn't evoke this kind of rage, mostly because there were no organized and deep pocketed sponsors opposing the bailout. Billionaires got billions, people like me got squat. No one was enraged about that.

    But they should have been.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "Thanks SCB for the critique..I guess I should have dumbed it down a bit for those of you who don't read at the adult level. The primary point of the post was that if liberals want to advance any part of the liberal agenda, they should stop burning their political capital on an hugely unpopular idea that has lost all traction and that is bringing the party and its leadership down in the polls. "

    JJ, I don't know who you are, but SCB is a friend--someone I exchange intelligent emails with from time to time.

    There is a new book out by Kurt Andersen called RESET.

    In an interview, he said that when all the change of these past months shakes out, it is quite possible that ordinary Americans will be more interested in people who talk about solutions than "the professional right wingers and professional left wingers" who are so much of the debate on cable TV and elsewhere.

    I'm old enough to think of Hubert Humphrey as liberal and Barry Goldwater as conservative---gentlemen of a bygone era.

    I happen to think the Bus Project transformed Oregon politics. "Money is all that matters and only professionals know how the game is played" politics had caused grass roots political involvement to wither until they came along. And of course, Bus proved wrong the statement "young people don't matter because young people don't vote".

    Oh, all those young legislators in the 2009 session were voted in by people 40 and older??

    And Scott was right, "don't let facts get in the way of a good foaming at the mouth rant. "

    When people use the kind of language JJ used, that generally means they are devoid of solid proposed solutions and/or intellectually lazy enough to think "taking points" always win political arguments.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Apparently the tea-baggers also include people who not only want to murder our constitutionally elected president but also his wife and children. Nice people...

    http://www.salon.com/wires/ap/us/2009/08/13/D9A230BG0_us_health_care_obama_sign/index.html

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    @ Martin Burch

    Maybe for your intellectual exercise the health care battle is a "diversionary battle" but for many people, including my sister in law, who has life threatening cancer, it's the difference between losing her cancer treatment or not. Placing it all on the plane as mythical struggle between the multi-nationals and "the people" simply places a layer of intellectual detachment on life and death issues for every day people. ("mythical" here does not mean false)

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    I'm sorry for your sister-in-law and by using the term "diversionary" I in no way meant to imply the need for health care reform is merely an intellectual exercise nor important.

    However, more than one Republican has said that the fight against health care is to them a fight against Obama. Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.

  • dual citizen (unverified)
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    Re: "Its sad to see the Democratic Party fail to see this happening and learn from it - over and over again..."

    Maybe you should consider the possibility that DP elites are not stupid, but rather that they hold essentially the same values that Republicans do.

    Democrats have favored INCREASING militarism and military spending, even at a time when our economy and our ecology are collapsing.

    Al Gore was a corporatist/hegemonist who ran on a hawkish platform of regime change in Iraq. He cheered on the killer sanctions and promised to go "further". He not only failed to distinguish himself from Bush in 2000 debates, but, like Obama, he went out of his way to describe himself as the same as his Republican "opponent" on foreign policy.

    Democrats refused to impeach the war criminals who were in charge of our country. They have acted in complicity with Bush crimes of torture.

    Democrats have consistently ignored the overwhelming support of the American people for even-handedness on Israel/Palestine, instead choosing unqualified support for US-Israel crimes, in spite of the fact that this endangers us perhaps more than any other single foreign policy issue.

    Democrats have consistently ignored the preference by the American people for government-backed universal health insurance.

    Democrats have joined with their Republican brethren in destroying the possibility of democracy in elections by conspiring to keep out alternative voices in debates and in mounting bogus challenges to ballot inclusion.

    The leadership of both major parties wanted the supplemental to be tied to the privatization of Iraqi oil.

    "Law and Order" for the DP/RP means for non-whites/non-rulers.

    Democrats have gone out of their way to frame issues in right-wing terms, including the "Iraq WAR" instead of occupation; withdrawal of "combat troops" instead of all corporate and military personnel; "redeployment" rather than return home.

    Democrats have supported "free trade" instead of fair trade; corporate personhood instead of corporate responsibility; nuclear instead of solar first; maintaining our unnecessary and self-defeating nuclear arsenal; non-living wage; maintaining of Taft-Hartley.

    Democrats have terrorized their supposed enemies with nuclear annihilation (Telling the population of a sovereign nation that has not attacked you that you would "not rule out" nuking them is TERRORISM.)

    Democrats have supported the "war" on drugs, the "war" on terror, the Patriot Act, FISA abominations, and pay-or-die health insurance.

    Democrats have supported neoliberal economics.

    Democrats have refused to support the War Crimes Act of 1996, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Tribunal, all of which have been violated during the past twelve years.

  • Martin Burch (unverified)
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    Dan:

    My five years remark is an error for several reasons, but the facts I were going on come from the US Census Bureau. This is a 2005 press release quote:

    "Texas has now joined Hawaii, New Mexico and California as a majority-minority state, along with the District of Columbia, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. Five states — Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Arizona — are next in line with minority populations of about 40 percent. (The minority population includes all people except non-Hispanic single-race whites.)

    According to July 1, 2004, population estimates, Texas had a minority population of 11.3 million, comprising 50.2 percent of its total population of 22.5 million. In comparison, 77 percent of Hawaii’s population was minority. In New Mexico and California, the proportions were 57 percent and 56 percent, respectively, while the District of Columbia was 70 percent minority."<<<

    It will be many years before these changes in pluralities affect all states, but in some states the "new day" has already dawned.

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    Typical Democratic spiel. 'Y'all are thugs. You're keeping me from getting what I want, that's why you're thugs. Did I mention you are thugs, you thugs?'

    Martin, are you completely incapable of making a cogent argument or citing information to try to make a case for the policy that you desire to enact into law?

    Are ad homs all you have left?

  • rw (unverified)
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    Excellent late night prog (Frontline?) on OPB last night carefully and clearly laying out the nuances of how the media has selected what the message is and in so doing has crafted a turning of the tide against Obama. They may or may not have done this on purpose, and those supportive of Obama will be horrified if they ever get their heads out of their asses and see what they and their own papers did do.... it's worth searching it out, as it is nuanced, and the threads were picked out quite well.

    I was drifting in and out of dozing, sorry - but it was somewhere around 9 - 10 OPB... and excellent in between the dips of the head! Thought a lot about one of your number whose primary interest is in the effect of media upon political process, as well as campaign finance reform.

  • (Show?)

    Sue is correct, many of the nonsense posted by trolls gets there because they're paid mercenaries. Judging by the thotful evaluation offered by JJ and Joe W., I'd suspect that they fall into this group... or they're using the idiot side of their brain... or both.

    While they conjure up some more invectives, I'll offer up a few more facts to add to those already noted.

    -46 million Americans are currently w/o health insurance -60 million Americans, both insured and un-insured have inadequate access to primary care providers in their communities -100 million Americans have no dental insurance - the US spends 2.3 trillion a year, 16% of its GDP on health care - the US has the highest cost of health care, with the lowest outcome among industrialized nations. Our infant mortality is among the highest and our lifespans are dropping annually - the majority of personal bankruptcies occur because of medical expenses

    Finally, a personal note - a very close friend suffers from a fairly rare form of cancer and has been prescribed a specific medication by her Doctor in order regulate the affected organ in her body. The insurance company has refused the coverage. Her Doc has pleaded. The insurance company will not give in. The drug costs anywhere between $800 and $1000 a month.

    So just WHO is coming between the patient and her Doctor?

    The shills on the right can blather their nonsense and scream their idiotic slogans til they turn blue, it doesn't change the fact that the health care industry IS an INDUSTRY, guided by the principles of cost-benefit analysis thru every hospital corridor, every pharmaceutical lab, every specialized care clinic, and every insurance company high-rise.

    How can any American, with ANY modicum of decency can look at this system and declare that all is well?

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    KC Hanson wrote:

    "How can any American, with ANY modicum of decency can look at this system and declare that all is well?"

    Farmers demand payment for the food they grow.

    How can they live with themselves? Evil capitalists.

    Food is the right of every American is it not?

    Can anyone deny that the framers of the Constitution intended that every American be fed?

    The food lobby knows that they have us over a barrel because we must eat, so they squeeze every last dollar out with their greedy hands!

    <h2>How can we call ourselves a modern country without foodcare for all?</h2>
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