05 Mar 2012

The Left Wins by Framing the Narrative

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Dan Greenfield explains how the left turns a political vulnerability into an electoral asset: they frame the narrative.

A debate on the availability of contraception, no matter how well handled, only served the narrative of one side. No matter how well the debate was conducted, it meant that the right was now fighting on the battlefield that had been chosen by the left. All it took was a few sexual insults lobbed Fluke’s way for the diversion to be complete. The right was now either retreating from sexism charges or engaging in it. The social issue was framed in exactly the terms that fit the left’s narrative.

Limbaugh’s apology was nearly as bad of an idea as his original statement. The only time you advance into an enemy’s choice of terrain is when you are confident of being able to fight there and win. You do not give up the high ground just to take a few potshots at the enemy. After a temporary satisfaction, you end up losing the battlefield and being drawn into a battle that you never meant to fight. When that happens, you circle around and take back the high ground, you do not surrender because then there is nothing left to fight for.

The left’s coalitions depend on portraying the other side as engaging in a war on their protected groups. Without that war, their whole feudal lordships suddenly become unnecessary. That means it is in their vital interest to define each policy conflict as a Republican war on a protected class. While it’s advantageous at times to confront them on this when their position is weakest and ridicule it, it wasn’t worth surrendering the coalition of religious freedom to take a few potshots at the absurdity of Fluke’s testimony. Fluke, like every organizer from a protected class, is there to represent an entire group. Attacking her quickly becomes a diversion into the left’s narrative of a war on women.

Religious institutions imposed the terms of the battle by rebelling against the mandate. That forced Obama and his cronies to try and dismiss the battle, refusing to fight on that terrain. But Republicans and even some Democrats insisted on rallying on the field anyway, calling for a battle. So Team Obama diverted the battle to the terrain of their choice. They set new terms of battle, an effort which initially failed, until Limbaugh gave them the talking point they needed.

It is now an uphill battle to return to the original battlefield. It’s possible, but the initial skirmish has gone to the left which was successfully able to dictate the terms of the engagement. Their narrative has no life though, until the right breathes life into it. The larger lesson though is about the terms of battle. It is about the strategy of political warfare.

To win in 2012, the left needs to mobilize its coalition. To do that it doesn’t necessarily need to win battles, it needs to successfully position them on its choice of terrain. It needs to be seen as the feudal lords protecting the rainbow peasantry from the hordes of the right. The purpose of the whole thing is to convince the peasants to support King Hussein, despite the disastrous economy and the general malaise, the abuses of power and all the other problems with his rule.

Both sides exploit a sense of vulnerability in the population during troubled times. The left excels at cross-sectioning the population into specific groups, dividing them up, and making them feel vulnerable as a class, as a group, as a gender, as a race. Organizers emphasize that victimization and offer them a sense of empowerment through the coalition. Or as Obama puts it, “Better Together.”

The path to victory lies in either gathering the largest coalition or in fragmenting the coalition of the other side. The left is not very good at the former, its own habits and tactics limit its scope, but it is quite good at the second. It gains power through disruption, through terror and intimidation, it plays on fears, pits groups against each other and then steps in as the mediator.

It would not be nearly as effective at this if it did not also control the culture’s narrative through the media, popular culture and academia, giving it control of highbrow and lowbrow narratives at the same time. This makes it more difficult to counter its narrative or to choose the field of battle and makes it that much more dangerous to abandon a strategic position for a target of opportunity.

Read the whole thing.

Even a political commentator as shrewd as Rush Limbaugh can be out-maneuvered by the left.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

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