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The Fear Card and the Guilt Card

A little while ago I did a piece on tweeting the fear card, and the attempts of certain supporters of the Democrats in this year’s elections to persuade dissatisfied and angry progressives that severe damage will be done to the country if the Republicans take over the House, the implication being that severe damage will not also be done if the Democrats retain control of the House. As the election has approached the fear card is being supplemented by the guilt card.

The guilt card asks whether angry progressives won’t feel guilty If Republican neanderthals like Bachmann, O’Donnell, Angle, Paul, Joe Miller, Johnson, Webster, etc. beat fine Democrats like Russ Feingold and others. And then it suggests that if you don’t want to feel guilty you have to get out there and work for the Democrats, so that the great evil of a Republican victory will be averted and we can have two more wonderful years of Democratic rule.

I really have the same answer to both the fear card and the guilt card, and they are my own fear and guilt cards for Democratic Congresscritters and a Democratic President. First, aren’t you afraid of turning the country over to the neanderthals again and going back to the Bush policies? Won’t you feel guilty if you lose to the knuckle-draggers, and completely blow the golden opportunity for change the American people gave you in 2008?

If you are afraid, and you do will feel guilty, then don’t berate me or other angry progressives for whining. Just stop whining yourself and do what it takes to get our votes. It’s easy.

First, in the Senate, get your lazy butts in gear and use the nuclear option to get rid of the filibuster. Second, pass the economic program I’ve written about here. Third, pass a bill defining legal persons incorporated by States and operating in Interstate commerce in such a way that they cannot fund political messaging. Fourth, pass HR 676 Medicare for All. Fifth, pass EFCA. Sixth, dissolve the Catfood Commission. There is no long-term deficit problem. It’s a myth. Forget about it!

Next, for us angry progressives let’s keep two things in mind. First, hctomorrow’s post of September 14th. He places our voting decision in the November elections in the context of experimental research on Game Theory, and likens our situation to an iterated prisoner’s dilemma game in which the best immediate tactic is to defect against a cooperating partner. He points out that the Democratic Party’s game against us progressives is to ask us to cooperate, indeed to use any sort of appeal to get us to support them, while they defect from any promises they make to us and act to please the interests that fund their campaigns. He also points out that in an iterated prisoner dilemma situation, such as the one we find ourselves in, it is self-defeating for us to continue to support the Democrats, however persuasive their fear and guilt cards may be.

Continued cooperation with them by us will not secure cooperative behavior on their part, but according to a vast amount of experimental evidence will only result in further defections of Democrats from our interests. To get their cooperation we have to engage in defecting behavior too. That is we have to stay home, or vote for third parties, or even vote Republican, because only then is it possible for them to learn that their strategy of continuous defection won’t work. Prisoners Dilemma research has shown that defection will bring occasional cooperative behavior on the Democrats’ part. When that occurs the indicated response by us should be cooperation. But not until then.

To these notions, I want to add my own view that if we accept that we need to defect from the Democrats to show that if they don’t cooperate, we won’t either, then this election is a better time to do it than in the election of 2012. Then, both the Presidency and the Congress will be up for grabs. In 2010 however, the most likely result of elections where we defect is that the Democrats will lose only the House.

Today, Jim Moss makes the case that the 2010 elections won’t give the Republicans so much power that they can repeal anything they want too, and also that control of the House doesn’t mean very much, since with the filibuster still intact in the Senate, most legislation gets blocked or watered down anyway. He’s right! This is not that critical an election. If we defect from the Democrats now, we can see how they behave over the next two years, do our best to develop the framework of a real third party, then, If they continue to defect, we can decide whether to go back to them again or pull the trigger, and end the Democratic Party, as we know it, for good.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

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Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D. is Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director and co-Instructor of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program, as well as Director of KMCI’s synchronous, real-time Distance Learning Program. He is also CKO of Executive Information Systems, Inc. a Knowledge and Information Management Consultancy.

Joe is author or co-author of more than 150 articles, white papers, and reports, as well as the following book-length publications: Knowledge Management and Risk Management; A Business Fable, UK: Ark Group, 2008, Risk Intelligence Metrics: An Adaptive Metrics Center Industry Report, Wilmington, DE: KMCI Online Press, 2006, “Has Knowledge management been Done,” Special Issue of The Learning Organization: An International Journal, 12, no. 2, April, 2005, Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management, Burlington, MA: KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003; Key Issues in The New Knowledge Management, Burlington, MA: KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003, and Excerpt # 1 from The Open Enterprise, Wilmington, DE: KMCI Online Press, 2003.

Joe is also developer of the web sites,,, and the blog “All Life is Problem Solving” at, and He has taught Political Science at the Graduate and Undergraduate Levels, and has a BA from Cornell University in Government, and MA and Ph.D. degrees in Comparative Politics and International Relations from Michigan State University.