The Supreme Court's blessing of Ohio's move to remove a half million voters from the rolls because they missed two elections should scare you. But dig this: At least 100,000 of those voters, mostly in ...more
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Many long treatises have been written on the need to move America in a new direction- few have ever written on how to do that though. Now someone finally has. Air America host Thom Hartmann has sent us an excerpt from his new book Cracking the Codeand we can’t put it down.
Hartmann using his experience as a psychotherapist tells progressives how to use communication to effectively to get the message across.
Someone coming to America during one of our national elections might think politics was a kind of sporting event. They’d see a red team facing off against a blue team and hear that a team would win or lose based on how many votes it got.
That kind of thinking got a friend of mine into trouble. Once an outspoken and proud “dittohead,” a few years ago he decided he was going to instead become a liberal (his wife actually decided it for him, but that’s another story). But this guy tripped up because he thought that politics was a sporting event with teams that are just as interchangeable as if a baseball team were to move from Kansas City to Oakland. He thought it was a matchup with a playlist of issues like Social Security, national health care, and the “War on Terror.” On one side of each issue were conservatives and their talking points, and on the other side were liberals and their talking points. He figured all he had to do to switch sides was memorize a new set of talking points, the way a sports team would simply change its venue.
But then over lunch, one of us would bring up an issue that wasn’t one of the issues for which he’d memorized a new set of talking points. Sometimes it was an issue that didn’t even seem obviously political, like why so many coal miners are getting killed in mining accidents or why we’re paying to teach kids how to take tests but not paying for music classes. The guy who thought he had gone from being a conservative to a liberal didn’t know what to say. Those issues just weren’t in his playbook.
A true liberal or conservative, with a grounding in the philosophy and the history of the liberal or conservative worldview, would instantly know how to respond to such issues.
A liberal would put the miners’ story inside a bigger story about how corporations are now required by law to care more about profits than people and how the evisceration of the labor movement by Reagan’s “War on Labor” and later conservative probusiness efforts have stripped workers of the democratic and balancing power in the workplace (known as unions!) to emphasize things like safety.
A liberal might answer the music issue by talking about a child who learned how to read and write after he started playing a musical instrument””how that shows there are different intelligences we all have and can express””and conclude by stressing how important it is that we create an opportunity for every child to realize his or her potential.
There is a story behind every political issue, a story that is either liberal or conservative. Politics is no more and no less than the sum of those stories.
To be an effective communicator, we learn how to tell a story, to whom to tell that story, and why.
Everyone is a communicator, and we all communicate constantly. Some of us, like Bill Clinton, Ralph Nader, and Ronald Reagan, are born storytellers and natural communicators. Folks like that are unconsciously competent at communicating. Most of us, however, are not very competent at communicating; what’s more, we don’t know we’re not competent. We are unconsciously incompetent. The challenge we face when we want to communicate effectively is to go from being unconsciously incompetent to being unconsciously competent. This involves four stages.
Learning to communicate well is like learning to ride a bike. At first you don’t know what it’s like to ride a bike (unconsciously incompetent); then, when you start learning, you fall off a lot (consciously incompetent).
After a while you get the hang of bike riding, but you have to concentrate on pedaling, turning, shifting, and so forth (consciously competent).
Then, one day, you are riding around with a friend and you suddenly realize you haven’t even thought about being on a bike for the past ten minutes. You know how to ride the bike so well that you can now focus on other things you want to do while you are riding it (unconsciously competent). This is true of everything we learn, from walking to talking to typing to reading. And you can’ll learn the communication code in just the same way:
Combining a competent use of that tool with a good ethical base and a positive vision produces a powerful and useful force. When people combine competent communication with a desire to dominate others or to rule through fear, it oft en becomes a corrosive force that strikes at the very heart of our democratic republic.
Frank Luntz, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and others like them””the manipulators of Madison Avenue, Wall Street, and the Bush White House””figured out how to crack the communication code to become masters of political persuasion.
Some politicians’ efforts at persuasion are conscious, intentional, systematic, and, of necessity, deceptive because they don’t share the worldview held by the majority of Americans. To respond, the rest of us must learn to communicate more effectively.
We’re not asking for much: a Social Security check that won’t bounce, schools for our kids that won’t make them dumber, a fighting chance for a job that will let us take the tykes to Disney World, health insurance, and, when the waters rise, a government that will have some kind of plan to pluck us from the flood.
Since Thom first wrote this alarm-ringing book, the war has turned severely, senselessly brutal. I’m talking about the Class War — and if you’re in the middle zone, No Man’s Land, well, Good luck, Jack!
Since Thom’s book hit the street, 38,000 workers at Ford Motor lost their jobs. Add that to the Delco Auto Parts bankruptcy and all of Michigan is busted. In the Bush years, the average annual income in that state declined by $9,000 per family.
You didn’t have to move to Michigan to get it in the neck. Average income in the U.S has fallen $2,000 per household since the last days of Bill Clinton.
Hartmann once told me that Thomas Jefferson said his greatest accomplishment was the founding of the University of Virginia — establishing the right of Mr. and Ms. Average Income to a decent, free education. “Universal education.” That’s what made this nation King of the Planet — a conquest of ideas, ideals and inventions that no imperial army could have accomplished.
Jefferson thought free universal education so important he had his university presidency, not the U.S. presidency, carved on his tombstone.
But I think that behind Jefferson’s seemingly over-the-top enthusiasm for educating the country was an unstated fear that, unless Americans stayed continually informed, knowledgeable and alert, we’d end up a nation of knuckleheads and pea-brains ruled by dangerous, pompous pinheads who would take away our rights on the way to taking our wealth.
Jefferson was right: education’s the key. I had feared that the 2004 presidential election, recording a Republican plurality, was an intelligence test that America flunked. But, by the end of 2006, the Great American Middle rose up in revolt and voted the scoundrels out.
Generally, we’ve done OK. FDR expanded our Bill of Rights with the Four Freedoms, including a New Deal guaranteeing our economic security. They don’t dare take that away — in the open. I know our nation has sometimes fallen into the Bushes, but we always seem to get back up on our hind legs and follow our populist scent back to the True Path.
Of course, the story’s not over. Whichever party is in the majority in Congress, it remains a millionaire’s club where Average Americans, plucked of their vote, are soon carved into chewable pieces for the corporate carnivores.
Like I say, we aren’t asking for much: Hartmann’s prescriptions to cure America can be summarized on a photo of Laura Bush’s fake smile. That’s the point. Ultimately, it’s not up to the new congressional Democratic majority to save the Great American Middle — it’s up to us, to hold them to their promises.
I want you to photocopy Thom’s conclusion, The Road to Victory, and check off each task as you complete it, from joining a union to calling into a radio talk show.
Then, years from now, when your kids ask you, “What did you do in the Class War, daddy?” you can point to the list and say, “My share.”
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans – Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone WILD. For more info, or to hear Brad Friedman, Ed Asner and other troublemakers read from Armed Madhouse, go to www.GregPalast.com
Labor goes back a long way in U.S. history. In 1874 unemployed workers were demonstrating in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park. Riot police moved in and began beating men, women, and children with billy clubs, leaving hundreds of casualties in their wake. The police commissioner said: “It was the most glorious sight I ever saw.”
Three years later, on June 18, 1877, ten coal-mining activists were hanged. That same year a general strike in Chicago — called the Battle of the Viaduct — halted the movement of U.S. railroads across the states. Federal troops were called up, and they killed thirty workers and wounded more than a hundred. …more