Category Archives: Political Strategy

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How Missouri’s Legislature Can Increase Highway Funds

Now that Amendment 7 has gone down in flames, let’s look at highway funding in Missouri.House-res-45680001

Amendment 7 would have authorized a 3/4 cent sales tax increase in Missouri. The money was intended for transportation in the broadest sense of the word. Parks with dirt paths qualify, since people can walk on the paths. Even if the bill tightened down the definition of transportation, municipalities and counties would have merely shifted funds to other projects and replaced that money with Amendment 7 taxes. Politicians are masters at moving money around.

I’ve pointed out before that Missouri has great roads. Some of the best in the country. But let’s say Amendment 7’s supporters were right. Say we need more money for roads and bridges and butterfly museums. Now what?

My buddy Ben Evans of Heritage Action has a great idea. Let the Missouri Legislature pass resolutions advising our Congressional delegation of what to do and how to vote. 

The first resolution I’d propose involves highway funding. The legislature should tell our members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass the Transportation Empowerment Act. You can read all about the TEA here.

The Congressional delegation could just ignore the legislature’s recommendation, of course. The resolution could not bind them. But the act of formalizing instructions to members of Congress would make it far more difficult for Representatives and Senators to weasel their way out situations.

Could Roy Blunt really claim he understands Missourians’ best interest better than a state rep who lives and works with his constituents? Hardly.

If you like this idea, please let John Diehl know right away. Ask him to fast-track a resolution on TEA in the first weeks of the next general assembly in January. And thank @benevansstl for the great strategy idea.

Note: I’ve fixed the link to John Diehl. If it doesn’t work, here’s his address: [email protected]

Grand Safari image http://www.grandsafariusa.com/save-the-rhinoceros-hunt-them/

We Are the RINOs

You, dear reader, and I are the RINOs.Elephant Dung

We can now stop calling the crony capitalists and their legislative puppets RINO. They are the TRUE Republicans. It’s their party; a lobbyist bought it for them, not for us. They own it. We are the impostors, the fakes, the interlopers into an intimate mating dance between the masters of manipulation and the TBTF banks and corporate overlords.

Step back. Take a breath.

We Had It Backwards

I understand why you think the Roy Blunts and Thad Cochrans of the world are the impostors. I used to think so, too. I read the Republican platform. I listened to the Republican speeches. I read the Republican position papers. And mostly I agreed.

Then I watched the Big Republican Names–the Establishment–go out day after day and do the opposite. Or, more often, the Big Republicans would slither between the carefully crafted text of its documents to a position that felt comfy and consistent. To them, at least.

Do you know what “is” is?

When I saw their inconsistencies–what others less charitable than I might call “hypocrisies”–I said, “Wait a minute. That’s not the Republican way! We don’t grant favors to donors. We don’t take one person’s property and give it to someone with more clout. We play referee and let the players decide the outcome of the game.”

But when I railed against Republican inconsistencies, I was forgetting an important lesson–a lesson I learned from my mom and dad and the Dominican Sisters at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Grade School, God rest its soul. I forgot that words don’t matter. I forgot this most valuable lesson:

We are what we do consistently.

Yes, I believe in lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of praying [is] the law of believing. But it only works if we pray a lot and let the prayers work their magic. It doesn’t work if we pray with bad intent. We can stop the magic of prayer. And if we pray for two minutes a day and sin for 20 hours, we become the sin, not the prayer.

Identifying Marks of a Republican

So what do the Big Republicans do consistently? They grant favors for friends with power and money. Doing favors for powerful and rich friends is what it means to be Republican. It’s what they’ve become through consist behavior. A party exists to preserve and grow its own party, not to save the country.

That’s the whole issue in the Export-Import Bank case. Eric Cantor and his myrmidons in the House kept the Ex-Im alive to help their rich and powerful friends at Boeing and Caterpillar.

And it’s the issue with guys like Senator Cochran. Thad Cochran, every day, finds ways to take money from people in other states and give it to voters in Mississippi.

And then there’s the Missouri Republican legislators grant $800,000,000 in benefits to donors on the last day of the session.

True Republicans take from everybody and give to the rich and powerful. It’s not what they say; it’s what they do. (Tom Delay, anyone?)

We who work for the Tea Party and Campaign for Liberty and all the other groups who fight for level playing fields and the rule of law and Constitutional limits to power–we’re the weirdos. We’re deviants who violate the spirit of Republicanism.

Again, it’s an easy mistake to make. Many of us remember Reagan. Many of us studied Goldwater. We all read William F. Buckley. And we assume that Republicanism is what Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley stood for. But it wasn’t.

Like us, Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley were political deviants. They violated the spirit of Republican Party law. They may have influenced the party’s platform, but the platform is only words. The Party is the sum of its deeds, not the sum of its glittering generalities.

How to Change the Party: Leverage

Can we change the party? Sure. But it takes a long time. And we need leverage. And the party has to want to change.

We’ve tried using primaries as a lever, but that’s like David playing Goliath’s game. Primaries are what Republicans and Democrats do best. They invented the system, for God’s sake; do you really think you’ll beat them at their game? Hell, no.

Tea Party Inc. (FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots) are good people and all, but they operate just like the Chamber of Commerce. They try to beat the Establishment at the Establishment’s game, and they get their asses kicked almost every time.

Maybe Reagan and Buckley could commandeer the party now and then, but Reagan and Buckley were kinds of geniuses. We’re not. At least, I’m sure as hell no genius.

We are Davids, and Davids fight a different game if they want to win. Davids don’t rush Goliath with a boastful yell. They find a new weapon, new tactics, new fields of battle. Or they repurpose old ones.

But There’s a New Dichotomy in Town

When I write about the new American political dichotomy, I’m writing about our slingshot. That slingshot is our lever.

Political party survival depends on having a large block of voters it can take for granted. People who vote for the party no matter what. People who lie say terrible things about the party and its leaders, then go out and vote for that party anyway.

For Democrats, it’s African-Americans. The Democrats can do or say anything and still get 90% of the black vote. Anything at all.

For Republicans, conservatives and conservitarians serve the role of sycophant. No matter how badly the GOP violates our principles, we’ll vote Republican because the Democrats are even worse.

A sycophant sucks up to someone in power to gain an advantage or favor. Conservatives, libertarians, and blacks have been sucking up to Republican and Democrat power for decades. Do we get favor? No. We get scraps, pats on the head, and kicks in the teeth.

But what if the sycophants de-sycophantify? What if the abused people of both parties say, “screw this?” What if the taken-for-granted plebeians wake up and realize that we have more in common with other plebeians than we have in common with either of the two Big Parties?

Then David fractures Goliath’s freakishly big skull with a rock, and Goliath collapses in a heap.

And then David better prepared to run things well, because David will soon be king.

You can be a RINO or you can be David, but you can’t be a Republican. Not now, anyway. It’s a closed club.

Call me David.

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4 Steps To Negotiating With a Politician

Have you ever said, “vote them all out?”

Do you sometimes think anybody would do a better job than the incumbent? Do you feel you have no influence in Jefferson City, Springfield, or Washington? Do you feel that way because you don’t have thousands of dollars to donate and rich friends with oodles of cash you can bundle?

I feel that way all the time. Ask my friends Ben Evans and Michelle Moore. Twenty times a year, I’m ready to throw up my hands and walk away from politics altogether. Politicians’ actions often bum me out. Ann Wagner supporting the Farm Bill bums me out. The Missouri House Republicans bailing out red light camera companies bums me out. A lot about politics bums me out.

But I have more influence than I think. So do you.

You don’t have to “throw them all out,” which isn’t going to happen, anyway. You don’t have to walk away from self-governance in frustration, either.

The question is, “how do I maximize my power and influence?”

Here are four steps that will increase your influence when talking to a politician–or a car salesman.

1. Know Your Positions and Your Interests and Let Go of Your Positions

Politicians excel at separating you from your interests by focusing on your positions. Most people have no idea what the difference is. If you want to win a negotiation with politician–or anyone else–you need to know this key distinction. And you need to lose your emotional attachment to positions.

A position is very specific and immediate. “I want an ice cream cone.” Or, “I want to defeat Ann Wagner.”

Your interest, though, is the result you want for yourself. It’s why you think you need your position.

Let’s use a career example, which is more familiar to many than political negotiation.

Your position: You want a management job and a six-figure salary. You work like a dog, build your case, brush up your resume, and land that management job for $120,000 a year.

Then you find yourself working 80 hours a week, you’re on the road half the time, and you’re warring with your family and your co-workers all the time. Your boss tells you to cut your staff by 20 percent, which means you have fire five good people so the shareholders can pocket extra cash before some tax increase takes effect.

You got your coveted position, but you’re not happy. Your position wasn’t aligned to your interests.

Your Interests: You wanted that title and that salary was because you wanted status and money. That’s your “why.” You wanted money and status so you could you do more for your family. Or maybe treat your friends to a drink now and then, or take your kids on a Disney vacation, or just feel successful. You wanted to be happy, healthy, and respected, not tired, miserable, and despised.

By blindly pursuing your position, you took yourself further away from your real interests.

Back to politics. Why did you become interested in the Farm Bill? Was it because farm subsidies mean a lot to you? Or was it because the Farm Bill balloons the debt? Or because the Farm Bill grows government dependency?

Focusing on how one representative votes on one bill one time might win your position. It might also work against your interests.

Politicians excel at using positions to advance their interests. For example, they hold many votes on a single bill so they can vote both ways. Senator Roy Blunt could have stood with Ted Cruz and blocked cloture on the budget bill last year. Instead, he voted for cloture, ensuring the budget bill would pass. Then he voted against the bill on the floor, so he could say, “I voted against it.”

What you and I might call duplicity, the politician calls looking out for his own interests..

The first step in negotiation, then, is to write down your position and your interest. In fact, write down lots of positions and detach yourself from those positions. Detach your emotions. Paint a vivid mental picture of your interests. Never surrender or compromise your interests. Use positions to advance your interests.

2. Forget “Win-Win”

Forget all that talk about “win-win.” It’s all B.S. As negotiating guru Jim Camp says:

A win-win negotiation is not controlled in a clear, step-by-step way. That’s just one reason win-win gets slaughtered in the real business world, again and again and again. I know chief executives who are proud of their deal making, but they have no discipline, no real basis for making their decisions. They’re shooting from the hip under the assumption that everyone else is shooting from the hip.

From Start With NO! The Negotiating Tools The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

Your member of Congress is not shooting from the hip. She’s not interested in “win-win.” She’s interested in re-election and increased power and status in her caucus. She wants to keep people happy–the people who have money to donate, influence to peddle, or voters to mobilize. And it doesn’t matter who “she” is. All politicians know their interests and they know how to negotiate with voters anchored to positions.

3. Let Them Say “No”

You know that famous business book, “Getting to YES?” It’s crap, too. Forget it. Do the opposite. Try to get to no because you must hear “no” before the real negotiation begins.

Again, from Start With NO! The Negotiating Tools The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

How can this be? Because “no” is a real decision that induces the party across the table into actually thinking about why they’ve just said “no.” The responsibility of making a clear decision helps the adversary focus on the real issues of the negotiation. The adversary has to take responsibility for “no,” so now everyone has something real to talk about. In fact, as we will soon see, the mere invitation for the other side to say “no” changes the dynamic of a negotiation in a very beneficial way.

Here’s how to start your negotiation with a politician.

“This might not be the right position for you, I don’t know. It’s okay to tell me to get lost. You won’t hurt my feelings. I’m just interested in how you feel about the Farm Bill, and I’d like to see if we agree on the long term strategy for shrinking government.”

Look what just happened.

First, you told her that you’re interested in (a) what’s best for her (“This might not be right for you”), and (b) her feelings. Not just her intellect, but her human, emotional feelings. Like it or not, politician or not, nobody in a negotiation really cares about you–until you show her that you care about her. That politician is a human being, too, with a brain wired just like yours. She has a family, kids, friends, and worries. Letting her know that you will respect and safeguard her feelings and her best interest will lead her to do the same for you.

Next, you’ve reminded her that you are a human being, too. You are more than just a voter registration number with no money to donate and no time to knock on doors for her. You’ve humanized and humbled yourself. And you’ve humbled yourself for the right reason. Not because you’re a lowly voter in the presence of an exalted Member of Congress. You are a human being, a meager sinner, just like her.

Finally, you’ve avoided talk of your position and promoted your shared interest instead. At the same time, you’ve asked her to stake out her position. In other words, you’ve gained all the power in this conversation. You put yourself in charge of her interests but asked her to defend her position.

4. Accept “No” Again

The more you’re willing to hear her say “no,” the more likely you are to win a final agreement. Nobody likes high-pressure sales, right? Do you enjoy a car salesman asking you every two minutes, “so I can get you into this car today?”

No. You hate it, and so does everybody else. Politicians hate being “sold” a position. They hate it so much that they usually say, “You’re right. I’ll vote against the Farm Bill.”

And they do. They vote against it in committee or on some procedural vote or some amendment. Or they get Congressman X from Oregon to vote for the Farm Bill so they can vote against it. It’s the political equal of telling that pushy car salesman, “I’ll think about it,” or “I need to talk it over with my wife.”

As former FBI chief hostage negotiator told Eric Barker, you don’t want to hear “you’re right.” Why?

Because we love it when somebody tells us we’re right. It’s usually when we’re making an argument and we’ve worn the other side down, and they’re just sick of us… Even if I believe in my heart that you are right, I’m not vested when you’re right. But when I say “that’s right,” I’ve put myself in a position of adjudicating what you’ve said, and I’ve pronounced what you’ve said right. There’s a much greater chance that I’m going to accept it if I’ve said “that’s right” as opposed to “you’re right.”

Instead, make the politician say “no.” Force her to make a true decision, to take a stand. Then ask open ended questions.

Open ended questions do two things:

They build rapport by letting her speak freely and openly.
They force her give good reasons for supporting a bill that contradicts her stated ideology.
Here are some examples.

“Why are you so committed to this particular bill?”

“What about this bill makes you want to vote for it?”

“People will ask me, so what are 10 good reasons why my friends and I should support this bill?”

These questions won’t induce her to say, “I was wrong. I’m going to fight this bill tooth and nail.” In fact, you probably won’t change her vote on this bill. But this isn’t the last bill you care about, and it’s probably not the most important.

What you will do with this method is far more valuable that winning your position on one bill. You’ve become a trusted sounding board for a member of Congress. She will seek you out in a crowd. She will take your phone calls. Because you made her feel safe and respected.

Someday, she will cast a difficult vote because you gained influence in her mind. She will know that she cannot shew you away with “I’ll vote against something for you.” She’ll respect the intellectual challenges you pose while respecting even more the emotional cover you provide.

That’s how you win your interests and change her position. And gain a reputation as a level-headed advocate for you cause at the same time. It’s a lot easier, less expensive, and more satisfying that wasting your time “voting them all out.”

But don’t you dare call it a “win-win.”

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Know When To Fight Your Own

I can be pretty hard on Republicans. Not hard enough for some. Too hard for others.

But I, at least, try to time my battles for ideological consistency. As a general rule, odd-numbered years are for cleaning up the GOP. Even-numbered years are for cleaning out Democrats.

This is an odd-numbered year. Right up to the votes on the continuing resolution, my primary targets were Republicans, especially Roy Blunt.

Once the House exercised its Constitutional power of the purse strings, sending a popular continuing resolution to the Senate, the battle lines shifted. Obama declared war on reason and Republicans.

Once that happened, we had a choice. We could help Obama by attacking the House Republicans’ right flank.

Or we can fight Obama by riding to the aid of our closest ideological allies in Congress.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m riding with the Boehner, Ann Wagner, Jason Smith, Billy Long, and the other resilient House Republicans. After we put down the tyrannical King Barack, there’ll be plenty of time to squabble with Boehner.

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4 Reasons Why House Republicans Should Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now *UPDATE*

Yeah, I know. Obama’s childish, petulant, and tyrannical tantrums over the continuing resolution makes me want to fight like an angry cat, too.

But I don’t actually want to fight. Fighting isn’t in our interest. As Sun Tzu said:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

I want to succeed in repealing Obamacare and forcing government into its constitutionally limited box.

Republicans face limited options. They control one-third of the legislative process. Squishes like Pete King of New York threaten their unity. A national press that’s 98.4% opposes anything they do, even restoring funding to help kids dying of cancer. And they’re dealing with a public that, by and large, can’t point out DC on an annotated map of the District of Columbia.

So what can they do?

House Republicans can pass a clean debt ceiling bill and send it to the Senate.

Here are four reasons why that’s their best choice right now.

1. Never Let Your Position Overcome Your Interests.

Positional bargaining focuses on specific goals, like “repeal Obamacare.” It focuses on “what” you want. Interest bargaining focuses on “why” you want it. King Solomon gave us the perfect example. Two women each claimed a child was her son. Each held the same position: “I want the child.” But their interests were different. Solomon resolved the dispute by ordering the child cut in half, with woman getting an equal portion.

At that point, the child’s true mother dropped her position and focused on her interest: the best possible outcome for her child. The mother told the king, “let her have him.” Solomon, of course, restored the child to its true mother.

Our interest is broader than “repeal Obamacare.” For example, what if Obamacare were replaced with a single-payer system and all healthcare workers became draftees into a government-run national healthcare horror show? Yes, we’d have achieved our position but at the sacrifice of our personal and national interest.

Passing a clean debt ceiling bill now lets us focus on our interest of restoring self-governance and constitutionally limited government.

2. Take Away Obama’s Best Strategy: Confusing Low Information Voters

There are two government financial issues at play now: the federal budget and the debt ceiling. The House took its stand against Obamacare over the a resolution to extend the last federal budget. That’s the continuing resolution. The other issue is the debt ceiling.

The consequences of a government shutdown are mild, short, and familiar. We know this because there’ve been 17 shutdowns since 1974, mostly because Democrat Speaker Tip O’Neill figured out how to extort money for his friends through shutdowns in the 1970s and 1980s.

The consequences of the world’s largest economy defaulting, however, is a different story. It’s never happened before, and no one knows what the consequences would be. Anyone who tells you they do know what would happen as a result of a US default is either lying or foolish. No one knows with any degree of precision or accuracy. Smart economists say so.

Some possible consequences include:

  • Hyper-inflation
  • Deflation
  • Total collapse of the US dollar
  • Total freezing of world financial flows
  • Global depression

Other possibilities include:

  • Nothing really happens at all

I don’t know. But neither do you, Jack Lew, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, or Warren Buffet. When it comes to a US debt default, you’re just as smart as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Obama and the press use expert uncertainty combined with public ignorance to treat the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling as one. That’s wrong, and they know it. But they do it because polling shows the vast majority of Americans don’t understand either.

By passing a clean debt ceiling bill that lets government borrow through April 2015, Obama can no longer conflate the two issues for PR leverage. That lets us focus on Obamacare and the continuing resolution, which advances our interests at the expense of a position. And smart people always put their interests ahead of their positions.

3.  Strategic Thinking Says Don’t Take Unknown Risks If You Don’t Have To

When I was 17, I wanted desperately to go out with the cutest girl at Bishop DuBourg High School. I won’t embarrass her by telling you her name. It took forever, but I finally asked her out. She said yes.

That was a known risk. I could reasonably calculate the consequences. She could say yes, no, or maybe. If she said “yes,” I win. If she said “no,” I’d meet somebody else, though I’d be in pain for a long time. If she said, “maybe,” I’d take that as a yes and continue pursuing a stronger yes.

Every possible outcome was knowable, and I could live with any of them. I could plan a strategy for dealing with any of them.

An unknown risk, on the other hand, has at least one possible path that is completely unknowable. Or it has so many possibilities and combinations that no one can reasonably determine where the chain of events will lead. That’s an unknown risk, and it’s very dangerous.

As I stated above, the House has taken a known risk by passing a continuing resolution that Obama doesn’t like. We know what’s likely to happen, and we’re willing to chance it.

The debt ceiling is an unknown risk. Taking that risk when there’s an alternative would be silly and dangerous. By passing a clean debt ceiling increase now, only Obama and the Democrats could force a US debt default. They would get the blame in that case.

Plus, by fear-mongering about the debt ceiling, Obama has put himself in a position where he’d have to sign the bill. That would screw up his PR strategy, as we’ll see next.

4.  Obama’s Losing the Continuing Resolution PR Battle But Winning the Debt Ceiling Debate

On Friday, Obama held a press conference. His sole purpose was to trigger a stock market crash and a financial panic. He spoke under the guise of the continuing resolution debate, but spoke only of the consequences of a debt default. He urged investors to panic-sell all their stock to trigger a market crash. Very calculated, very cold, and very irresponsible. Completely unworthy of a US President.

As the Detroit News put it:

Stocks finished the government shutdown week mostly down, but not nearly as much as they could have fallen, given President Barack Obama’s efforts to panic investors. When Wall Street gave a ho-hum response to the shutdown, Obama went on TV to question why the markets weren’t more concerned by the standoff in Washington, and warned the U.S. could default on its debt.

They were highly reckless remarks by a president whose job it is to cultivate calm and confidence, not fear.

Why would a president want to trigger bank runs, market crashes, and financial disasters?

Because the president is losing the battle on Obamacare and the continuing resolution.

The White House’s shutdown strategy was to inflict maximum pain on the largest number of people. So Obama ordered the WWII Memorial closed. And the Vietnam Wall. He tried to shut down private businesses around the country. He threatened to arrest Catholic priests who crossed his picket line to say mass for Catholic troops in the armed forces. He even tried to close the Atlantic Ocean.

All of his attempts at punishing people failed, because we know he’s little more than the Wizard of Oz’s evil twin. And Obama’s approval rating has plummeted to 41 percent–just 2 points above the “point of no return.”

Clearly, the world hasn’t ended because of a partial government shutdown, and everyone knows it. So Obama’s conflating the shutdown with the debt ceiling.

By passing a clean debt ceiling bill, Obama will be forced to deal solely with his failed government shutdown. That will force him to negotiate. Something he’s sworn repeatedly is beneath him.

Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now

Ask @RepAnnWagner and @RoyBlunt to push their leadership to pass a clean debt ceiling bill this week. Base it on the deficit of the last three months. Raise the debt limit to allow the government to borrow through April of the next Congress, so the next Congress can re-evaluate and adjust. Even Erick Erickson agrees:

 

If we take away Obama’s ability to confuse low-information voters while we demonstrate reasonableness in facing unknown risks, Obama will have to negotiate to re-open the government.

Because Obama’s position is “no negotiations, period,” forcing negotiations will destroy his position. He will be exposed as a liar and a fraud whose power is based on mythical fear not respect or Constitutional authority.

Taking a debt default off the table will damage Obama’s domestic credibility as thoroughly as Syria wrecked his international esteem.

UPDATE: Erick Erickson of Redstate.com expanded on his tweet.

So what should we do? I think somebody like Steve Scalise, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, needs to propose a short-term debt limit for a few weeks and attach to it the Full Faith and Credit Act that ensures the Treasury Department prioritizes interest payments in the event the debt limit is ever not increased. This would buy us some time to finish the fight to defund Obamacare and set us up well to fight the next long-term debt limit increase to the death by removing some of the President’s scare tactics. How do Republican Leaders not adopt and push such a proposal? How does Obama not accept it without looking completely unreasonable?

Bingo, Erick.

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Kudos to President Obama For Touching the Third Rail

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President Obama submitted a budget wildly out of balance that increases taxes across the board. But he also stuck his tongue on the infamous ‘third rail’ of American politics by proposing chained CPI for calculating Social Security cost of living increases. Bravo.

We’ve Been Asking For This

Economic conservatives have pointed out for years that America’s entitlement programs are bankrupting the country. The $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities can’t go on. Accounting gimmicks only get you so far.

I proposed a phase out of Social Security in The Conservative Manifesto  in 1993. Obama’s proposal isn’t even a step in that direction, but it’s still an acknowledgement by the most liberal president in US history that entitlements can continue to grow.

Republicans Can’t Oppose Chained CPI

Sure, the AARP and other far-left groups are crying an gnashing teeth over the proposal—that’s why they call it the ‘third rail.’ But Obama’s move is strategic. Republicans have to sign on or risk being seen as hypocrites.

Already, the Club for Growth slammed Rep. Greg Walden for Walden’s take-down of the chained CPI proposal. Walden’s comment about Obama’s “shocking attack on seniors” threatens to put the GOP into position as defenders of Social Security, guardians of the third rail. For my entire life and longer, defending Social Security against any reform has been the job of Democrats.

Millennials On The Hook

I heard someone say that Obama’s “turned his back” on the people who elected him. Poppycock. The people who elected Obama, especially in 2012, were Millennials—the folks born after 1982 who begin adulthood with an anvil over their heads—the weight of unfunded liabilities under Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Meanwhile, the AARP’s members voted overwhelming for Romney.

Obama’s mild revision to COLA indexing benefits his strongest demographic group, and the group I’m most interested in winning over. This will be their country soon and for a long time.

This Could De-Energize the Third Rail

Welfare reform was possible only because Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was Speaker. When one party controls White House, Senate, and House, that party actually tends to play it safe. Why? They have no one to blame if something goes wrong, and they’re more worried about holding onto what they’ve got than advancing the principles that got them there. See Tom DeLay.

But when power is split, both parties want to gain the office they lack. Or, in the case of presidents, they want to solidify their legacy. Both sides, then, are willing to take chances.

Once Clinton agreed to welfare reform and the GOP signed on, it was a sure thing. A certain number of Democrats were sure to go along because Clinton was their president. Republicans were certain go go along because it was an issue they’d championed for years. And it got done.

George Bush could not have touched the third rail, because Democrats and the media—and some Republicans—would have destroyed him. Look what happened when he pitched privatizing part of Social Security.

But Obama has flipped the switch on the third rail. If the Republicans jump on that one issue fast, they may be able to make Social Security reform a debatable issue instead of a suicide mission. This is their chance to advance a principle instead of covering their asses.

Let’s hope they take it.

Americans prefer the GOP budget over the Democrat budget by a large margin

Trust Is a Bigger Problem for GOP Than Marketing

The GOP’s self-examination on the 2012 election debacle rightly identifies marketing and messaging and lack of a ground game as contributors to that mess.

Trust

 

But the GOP’s self-exam missed a potentially fatal problem for the party: the American people simply do not trust Republicans on the budget.

Read this paragraph from The Hill carefully.  Read all of it. It should tell you everything you need to know.

More voters trust the Democratic Party than the Republican Party on budgetary issues, according to the results of a new poll for The Hill — even though a strong majority actually prefer Republican fiscal policies [emphases added].

Now do see how bad things are for the Republicans?

Marketing Can’t Fix Trust

Bad marketing is fairly easy to fix. The world is full of marketing scientists, strategists, and copywriters. It’s just a matter of humility and money.

But marketing can’t fix a company that people just don’t trust. And, right now, people don’t trust the Republicans. What’s worse is that the GOP did not identify trust among its seven problems.

Are Republicans Incompetent Or Threatening?

Trust comes in two forms: Warmth and Competence. According to researchers, social animals—like people—must evaluate others on two scales with these questions:

  • Do they mean me harm or good?
  • Are they competent to deliver on their intent?

The Hill poll did not delve into this question, but we know this much: 55 percent of Americans believe that the GOP is lying about the Ryan budget (threat) or incapable of carrying it out (incompetent) or both.

Here Are the Numbers on Budget Preferences

The Hill designed their poll so people wouldn’t know which party proposed which budget solutions. When presented this way, here’s how people responded:

The Hill Budget Poll

The Ryan Budget beats the Patty Murray Budget by a whopping 55-28. Even among women, Ryan’s budget wins 51-27.

But now look at which party people trust to fix the budget problem:

The Hill Budget Poll-Party

While 55 percent prefer the Republican budget, only 30 percent trust the GOP on budgetary issues.

The GOP Needs To Learn More About The Trust Issue

Marketing begins with research, and The Hill poll gives the Republicans an immediate challenge: find out if people think they’re insincere, incompetent, or both.

In the past, the party and politicians and pundits would simply argue with people, telling the public it’s wrong. That doesn’t work.

And better messaging won’t either. Not until the Republicans know why people don’t trust them.

How the GOP handles this trust issue will tell a lot, and quickly, about its future. If they choose to fight public opinion before understanding it, the Republican candidate for President in 2016 might not finish in the top two.

 

Now read about one of those “stuffy old men” who contribute to the GOP’s image

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Here’s Why John Danforth’s Attack On Ed Martin Is So Bad for the GOP

Old Jack Danforth is a troubled man.

John Danforth Attacked Ed Martin for Supporting Rand Paul
“You once called me a ‘warped, frustrated old man.’ Well, what are you, but a warped, frustrated young man?”
John Danforth Attacked Ed Martin for Supporting Rand Paul

Danforth’s wiry frame got bent all out of shape because the chairman of Missouri’s GOP stated the uber-obvious in an email to friends: the McCain-Graham angry old man meme ain’t sellin’ no more. What is selling is Rand Paul’s courageous demand for a statement on the limits of executive power.

On Wednesday, Ed Martin sent an email to Missouri Republicans praising Paul’s courage and rebuking McCain and Graham’s defense of unlimited presidential power.

On Thursday, former Senator John Danforth responded with an email criticizing Martin and accusing the chairman of the Missouri GOP of kicking people out of the party.

Martin’s email praised the courage and consistency Senator Rand Paul displayed in his famous 13-hour filibuster. It also derided McCain and Graham for their childish and un-Senatorial attacks on fellow Republican Paul. Why Danforth felt a need to reply, and why he felt a need to exaggerate Ed Martin’s message, tells me there’s  more going on here than just an angry, irrelevant old man spouting off.

Missouri’s Republican Establishment Is At War With the Grassroots

You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!

–George Bailey to Mr. Potter

When Ed Martin won the race for MOGOP chairman, the establishment was stunned and horrified. Martin appeals to conservative and libertarian grassroots activists, not the smoky room king makers that Danforth favors.

I think the Establishment believed they could intimidate Martin by threatening to cut off donations to the MOGOP and to Republican candidates who won’t do their bidding.

With Martin continuing to display his populist independent streak, the Establishment called out their version of Mr. Potter to play bad cop, keeping the others’ noses clean.

This Could All End In Disaster for Missouri Republicans

Danforth  and his cronies are playing with fire. In November 2012, 90,000 votes were cast for Libertarian candidates in Missouri. Most of those votes came at the expense of Republican votes.

If the grassroots–and especially young voters–get the feeling that the GOP is a private club for the rich, they’ll flee to the Libertarian Party in 2014. And if the RNC installs rules meant to block non-Establishment presidential candidates at their April meeting in Los Angeles, 2016 could be the Republican Party’s last national election.

It’s All Happened Before

Before the modern Republican Party emerged from the abolitionist movement in 1858, America’s other major party was the Whigs.  Abraham Lincoln led the Whig Party in Illinois. But the Whigs were never a cohesive party of consistency around some set of principles. Instead, they were united only by their opposition to an imperial presidency. From the History Channel:

The Whig party was founded by individuals united only in their antagonism to Jackson’s war on the Second Bank of the United States and his high-handed measures in waging that war and ignoring Supreme Court decisions, the Constitution, and Indian rights embodied in federal treaties. Beyond that, however, there were Whigs and Whigs. Some played the demagogic anti-Catholic game; others scorned it. Some spoke critically of working people; others, admiringly. Detailed studies of the Whig party in the states and biographies of such Whig leaders as Clay, William Seward, Daniel Webster, and Horace Greeley reveal dissimilar policies from one state to another and important differences in the character, beliefs, and actions of the leaders.

It seems that opposition to Barack Obama is the only thing that unifies Republicans. But many of us realize that Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016. So what will the GOP stand for?

Within the GOP today, I see two large factions. One is the Establishment personified by McCain, Graham, and Danforth. The other is, for lack of a better term, the Tea Party faction united on the principles of free markets, Constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility. The Establishment stood around befuddled in 2009 and 2010 as the Tea Party did the work to regain control of the House and dozens of state legislatures. And that Tea Party success is what started the current rift.

Leading up to 2012, the Establishment, recognizing that the rabble were within striking distance of seizing their  party, went on the offensive–not against the Democrats, and not in support of those basic, simple principles. The GOP Establishment went to war against its own grassroots base.

Like the Whigs of 1856, the Republicans of 2016 seem poised for a horrible fall. The millions of rabble who want the party to stand for three simple principles don’t understand why Danforth and his spiders insist on keeping the party a closed country club. We don’t understand why Danforth won’t invite in the libertarian kids. They won’t steal his millions, I promise.

Who’s Kicking Who Out, Mr. Danforth

With that background, isn’t it sad that Danforth’s vitriolic email to wealthy Republican donors accused Martin of doing exactly what Danforth and his scurvy spiders have been doing for years: deciding who may and may not call themselves Republicans.

In 2005, Danforth all but called for the expulsion of Christian conservatives from the GOP’s ranks. And he did so in that Republican of Republican rags, the New York Times.

Isn’t it sad that a man whose tent is closed to Christians and, now, libertarians accused Ed Martin of minding the gate?

Ed Martin understands that young people smell hypocrisy better than old men like Danforth. And even Bill Hennessy.  Ed’s email simply praised Rand Paul’s courage in raising a vital question that Danforth should also be asking: is there a limit to Executive Power?

McCain and Graham–and, by proxy, Danforth–seem okay with unlimited executive power to assassinate American citizens.  They apparently were content to leave the American President with absolute power. And if they oppose such tyrannical power, they are unwilling to confront the President on the matter.

That puts them at odds even with Attorney General Eric Holder.  Forced by Senator Paul’s 13-hour filibuster, Holder admitted that the President lacks the Constitutional authority to order the assassination of Americans on American soil.  That’s an admission the White House refused to make for months until Senator Paul forced its hand.

Neither McCain nor Graham nor Danforth lifted a finger to press this fundamental human right and this enormous Constitutional question. Rand Paul did, and Ed Martin was right to point out it out.

Those Scurvy Little Spiders

I’ll leave you with George Bailey’s speech to Mr. Potter as the board of Bailey Brothers Building and Loan met to dissolve the firm upon George’s dad’s death.

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

John Danforth and his nest of scurvy spiders should consider that their money can’t buy blind loyalty from the rabble they so despise. There are more of us than there are of them. Nothing guarantees that a political party will last forever, and the arrogance of the Establishment threatens to destroy the party that men like Danforth seem to love more than the country that party’s supposed to serve.

Compromise

Why Compromise Is Like Half a Boob Job

A man wants his wife to get breast implants. His wife doesn’t want it.

They compromise, and she gets one implant.

Is this the best outcome?

No!  It’s the worst possible outcome. Either of the two other outcomes—no implants or two—would be better than the compromise.

So why are Americans so infatuated with political compromise that leaves the country more lopsided?

Why Compromise Produce the Worst Outcome

The FBI’s top hostage negotiator provided my example, via Eric Barker’s fabulous blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Chris Voss, the negotiator, said of compromise:

It’s really one of the worst things in disguise . . . So you’ve got to ask them open-ended questions to get them to see. You’ve got to use basic hostage negotiation skills to get them to hear it and sound it out, so that they begin to see that what they want might possibly be ridiculous…

Ridiculous, indeed. The sequester is an example. Compromise resulted in cutting defense–the thing the government is supposed to do–and leaving alone entitlements. Entitlement is what the the government’s not supposed to do.

Even Krugman believes we have to fix the entitlement nightmare, but as long as compromise trumps principle, we won’t.

Famous Compromises Ended In Horror

Political compromises usually produce the worst possible outcome. But that outcome isn’t realized for years.

Neville Chamberlain’s compromise with Hitler (The Treaty of Berlin) enslaved millions, prolonged the horrors of the concentration camps, extended Hitler’s reach across Europe, and subjected Chamberlain’s country to a brutal, prolonged bombing terror.

The Missouri Compromise turned human slavery in the US South from a family matter into a massive industry while hardening the positions of both abolitionists and slave-merchants. The result was the Civil War.

Dodd-Frank negotiations and compromises ended up regulating the life out of small financial firms and even non-finance small businesses, while protecting irresponsible and exploitative Wall Street firms from the consequences of their own misdeeds.

Yet the press and the President scream for more compromise in Washington.

I’ll take them seriously when they get half a boob job.

Compromise
Compromise is like getting a breast implant on one side.
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How To Get More Twitter Followers

Unless you just want to vent, the reason you post things on Twitter is to influence people. But you can’t influence people who don’t see your tweets. The more people who see your tweets, the more influential you are. So you should increase your Twitter followers.

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How can you increase your followers?  Research at Georgia Tech gives you the answer.

Twitter Things To Do

Be Positive. Positive tweets are more likely to be retweeted and people who use positive words have more followers. Who wants to listen to people complain all day? Use the ideal positivity ratio of 3 positive tweets to every 1 negative.

Be Informative. People like useful information. Link to How To articles. Give useful tips, like “Order the Margharita Pizza at Stefano’s.”

Get Followed By People With Lots of Followers.  Network overlap is the number one driver of followers. If you know someone with lots of followers, ask them to follow you.

Fill Out Your Profile. Longer profiles earn more followers because people want to know about the people they follow. Link to your facebook page, to your blog, or to someplace where people can learn more about you. And tell people where you live, because we like people who are like us, even if they only share a name like ours.

Follow Back. When a real person with a picture and a profile follows you, follow them back. Reciprocity is the most powerful tool of persuasion, and it works on Twitter, too.

Twitter Things To Avoid

Avoid Negativity. Negative sentiment turns people off.

Avoid Hashtags. While hashtags help with SEO rankings, they turn people off. And never use a hashtag if you’re cross-posting to Facebook.

Avoid Broadcast Communications. People don’t check Twitter to read your ad.

You might say, “Great, Bill, but the country’s going to hell in a hand basket. Why shouldn’t I complain?  How else will we get people to pay attention?”

Most people know America is heading in the wrong direction. They don’t need more evidence; they need more answers.

Every bit of scientific evidence shows we’re attracted to positive things and we avoid negative things. Negative campaigning works by turning people away from the other candidate, but it also turns people off from the negative campaigner.

If you want to influence people and win your point, first they have to like you.

So here’s your super simple task for this week: post 3 positive tweets every day.  About anything.  “My kids are great!”  “Here’s some good news we can use [link].” If you want, you may add one negative or neutral post.

Do that for five days and see how many followers you gain.

BONUS: You will love this new information instantly, because it’s free!

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Republicans Lose Because They Don’t Attract Enough Conservatives

For 20 years, the Battleground Poll of States (now the Politico/GW Battleground Poll) showed a freakish consistency about ideology.

2009: 59% Conservative

battleground-d3-2009

2012: 57% Conservative

battleground-d3-2012

 

With almost 60% calling themselves somewhat or very conservative, how could Barack Obama get re-elected? How could Republicans fail to gain the Senate in 2010 and 2012? Come to think of it, how do Democrats win at all?

The answer is simple: being conservative doesn’t make you Republican, but being Democrat makes you a liberal.

Look at responses to question d4:

battleground-d4-2012

Only 40 percent of respondents called themselves Republican (of some type), while 43 percent identify as Democrats.

Now, look again at ideology.  Thirty-seven percent identify as liberal. So Democrats would appear to win over all liberals, all “moderates” and at least half those who don’t know or refused to answer question d3.

Meanwhile, at least 30 percent of self-described conservatives do not identify with the Republican party.

When you look at voter turnout, it seems clear that what Republicans are missing is 30 percent of conservatives.  They just don’t vote.

Why?

Because the Republican Party isn’t conservative in their eyes. So they stay home or vote third party.

Becoming More Liberal Isn’t The Solution

We hear a lot of Republicans saying the GOP must become more liberal. The Battleground Poll seems to disagree. Instead, the GOP needs to become more consistent in its defense of freedom and its promotion of liberty.

That means:

  • Reducing the size and scope of the federal government
  • Ending the Republican love affair with crony capitalism
  • Flattening the tax code until we convert to a simple consumption tax
  • Eliminating income taxes eventually
  • Scaling back the war on drugs
  • Eliminating the Department of Education
  • Reducing foreign investments
  • Scaling back the power of the federal reserve

When libertarian and young voters look at Republicans, we see a party that worships government as much as the Democrats. Republicans are just as quick to hold Congressional hearings on issues that belong to the states alone. Republicans crave the power of committees and brag about bringing home pork to their districts and states.

As I demonstrated, young people can smell a scam more readily than older voters, and they smell one when the GOP talks about reducing government. Government grew under Bush and a Republican Congress. It grew under Reagan and a Republican Senate.

The only real rollback of government power came under Clinton and a Republican Congress with welfare reform.

Republicans Will Never Win Over The Middle

With 57 percent of voters calling themselves conservatives, the GOP has no need to win over the middle. Instead, they need to win over all 57 percent of conservatives.

Even you argue that those 57 percent are unequally distributed, you can’t argue that they all voted in 2012. If they had—and if they had all voted Republican—Romney would have captured a popular vote landslide. But he didn’t.

If the Republican Party were authentically pro-liberty, pro-freedom, and pro-people, it would wipe out the Democrats election after election. But its inconsistency has the GOP on the verge of extinction.

The Best Grilling Of Bernanke Came From Senator Elizabeth Warren And Republicans Should Be Ashamed

I agree with Republican Senator Corker that inflation is a danger in the future. But inflation doesn’t win the hearts and minds of most Americans right now. No one’s worried about it except economists and economics geeks.

The death of the community and regional bank, however, does bother people. As does the printing of money that goes straight into the 5 biggest banks in history . . . and stays there.

The US Government bailed out those 5 “too big to fail” banks in 2008 and it’s been propping them up with our money ever since. That was one of the driving forces behind the birth of the Tea Party movement in February 2009.

Four years later, the Fed, Congress, and the White House still support banks whose managers cannot operate at a profit. And the only Senator to point out the lunacy of this practice is a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts?

I realize that the Democrats are far worse practitioners of crony capitalism than the Republicans. That doesn’t excuse the GOP.

If the Republicans want people to see them as in-touch with the mood of the country, they should attack crony capitalism relentlessly. Republicans must advance sound macro economics, but they must also stress cases that win over voters. Future inflation won’t do that, but crony capitalism will.

By failing to gage what messages will work, the GOP is in the odd position of standing for nothing while being perceived as too extreme.