Ask ordinary Republicans “Are YOU better off than you were 8 years ago?”
Democratic political junkies often try to counter Republican campaign lies and misdirection with real information. WRONG TACTIC. Most ordinary conservatives, of the “authoritarian follower” psychological type, can’t process information that hasn’t been preprocessed by the Authorities they fancy – unless that information directly affects them. So CHALLENGE them to look at their OWN lives – are the Republican campaign promises and claims about past achievement seen in their OWN lives?
Cognitive dissonance has to be extreme, and personally very uncomfortable/painful, for authoritarian followers to abandon their Authority of the Hour. Some authoritarian followers will remain loyal to their Authority despite severe personal injury (pastor schtupps follower's wife or minor daughter or son; leader loses follower's life savings – see Bakker or Bush 43 for that). Even for the less injured followers, the tendency is to defend the old leader by blaming subordinates (“the Leader is wise but was misled by evil advisors”). If the follower has finally decided that his Leader has damaged him intolerably, he will treat the situation as the breaking of an (often intimate) personal relationship – an individual moral failure of that Leader, having nothing to do with policies or competence of that Leader. Thus, the authoritarian follower can claim, without the least discomfort, that the New Leader is nothing like the (now discredited) Old Leader, even though New Leader voted with the Old Leader, continues the Old Leader's policies, and uses the same advisors.
Go read the free online booklet, “The Authoritarians”, by Robert Altemeyer, downloadable as pdf from this site:
This is a quick read, a distillation of Altemeyer's academic work in political psychology, written in straightforward lay language. The academic version is “The Authoritarian Spector”, 1996, Harvard Univ. Press. I think that it is highly useful, more useful than George Lakoff's angry father vs nurturant mother theory of political affiliation.
So the key to reaching Authoritarian Followers is to confront them with THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE.
“Are YOU better off than you were eight years ago, or one year ago? Is YOUR 401k or investment portfolio rate of return better or worse than it was 8 years ago or even 1 year ago? Is YOUR house worth more, or less, than it was worth 8 years ago, or 1 year ago? Are YOU more or less likely to retire early (and start drawing on retirement funds) than you had anticipated 8 years ago? Do YOU feel more, or less, confident about your ability to handle large medical expenses? Do you think that YOUR children will have more or less opportunity to succeed than you did?” And so on.
My idea of an effective ad: ONE “Are you better off…” message (per ad), followed by “McCain – more of the same”.
I really think that the Dems are fools for not sticking to the “It’s the economy, stupid” campaign strategy. Eight years ago we had a budget SURPLUS. Now we are looking into a large black pit without a visible bottom.