They involve the uses and tactics of rage, a topic Drew Westen has been aiming at in his rather-intellectual book.
I think Westen would have done much better with a title like "Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Lessons for Liberals." Forrest (right, from the collection of the University of North Carolina), the Confederate cavalry commander credited with the first rise of the KKK, was a brilliant tactician, and the lessons of his Civil War campaigns still hold important lessons for modern politics.
If a liberal gets mad at my using NBF or the rise of the KKK to offer object lessons to liberals, good.
This gives me an opportunity to briefly explain that rage, whether in the form of a Rebel Yell during battle or in the form of a made-up controversy in political battle, is a vital element in achieving victory. With the proper use of rage, and the tactics of rage, a smaller force can defeat a larger one every time. (It’s one of Forrest’s.)
Just as the Bushies did last week.
So, now to the lessons:
- Rage is narrowly targeted — Rage doesn’t go against a
broad front. It concentrates all your forces on a narrow front. Once
that front is taken you move on to the next.
- Rage aims mainly to divide the foe — The real victory for the Right in this lay in how front-runner Hillary Clinton caved.
This division between Washington and liberal Democrats was echoed
nationwide and caused damage which far exceeded the loss of the target.
- Rage attacks the weak point. Moveon,
which is supposed to be the left’s rage machine, attacked a strong
point in Gen. Petraeus. Big Mistake. The group basically offered its
flank to the foe, which used that flank to roll-up the field.
- Rage is sudden and massive. You don’t build rage slowly.
Everyone needs to howl at once, so people will retreat before they
really know what the brouhaha is about.
- Rage never retreats. Instead of retreating, everyone scatters and re-forms later. Don’t stop to listen to the other side. Keep attacking until the point is made, then disappear into the brush.
- Rage is about offense. Rage wears out. It
is the political equivalent of adrenaline. It can only be used
effectively when it is used to attack someone or something specific, a
target that can be cleared quickly.
- Rage scales the target to its force. Liberals will object that rage won’t work for them, because their political force is smaller than the right’s, and fragmented. Bullshit. If you don’t think you have enough allies, aim at smaller targets first.
- Rage must have continual follow-ups. Today’s attacks on the
President of Iran, ginned up by the same suspects as the Moveon
contretemps, are in fact part of the same campaign. Take out the left
on one target, use a nation united in rage to take on the next. Forrest
said it best — keep up the skeer.
Where a week ago we had a nation united in its disgust of the Bush
policy on Iraq, now we have a country baying for a war with Iran on top
of the Iraqi occupation. This has occurred despite the fact polls have
not budged one inch on the underlying questions. Most people want out of Iraq and want nothing to do with a war against Iran.
It’s clear that, even 40 years on, civil rights groups have learned
these lessons far better than the white liberals they allied with then.
Look at Jena. Notice how the rage of the whole nation is focused on
this one small town? Notice how even the right-wing blogosphere of
Louisiana has been cowed into silence?
Conservatives have long understood the value of emotions, especially
rage, in taking points and keeping people in line. You haven’t heard
much about immigration lately, have you? As liberals surmised, the tide
began falling as soon as low-skill jobs in construction grew scarce.
That’s effective rage. Conservatives will feel they won.
In the case of Moveon, the organization’s ad should have showed Bush
hiding behind the General, and focused attention not on Petraeus but on
Bush. They did this in later ads. But by then it was too late — they
were already on the defensive.
I would hope this could be seen as a learning moment for liberals,
especially those at Moveon and in the Netroots. There is now enough
infrastructure in place for small, simple, targeted offensive campaigns
to be effective, assuming everyone is willing to participate.
If these lessons are learned, and used, the last advantage of the
Republican Confederates will have been taken. We can destroy those people. We
have the infrastructure, we have the numbers, we have the issues, we
have right on our side. What we lack are good Generals who will wield
all the weapons of political battle ruthlessly.